Aluminum Update
Thursday | 07 November, 2019 | 1:45 pm


Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: The Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montreal, designed by FABG Architects, uses a laser-cut aluminum facade.

A greener future can be realized, even within heavy industry

November 2019 - There are several definitions of sustainability. Here’s the one we wish to focus upon: Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. Metals producers, processors, distributors and manufacturers that consume metals have made great strides toward creating sustainable products over the past decade. The technology and the standards are coming together to make this effort more attainable. We sample a few such efforts.

Rio Tinto said in September that it now offers independently certified responsibly produced aluminum from all its Canadian operations, with the extension of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative’s (ASI) Chain of Custody certification to include the BC Works smelter and Kemano Power Operations in Kitimat, British Columbia.

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Aluminum can recycling increases every year, according to the Aluminum Association.

“The certification reinforces Rio Tinto’s commitment to responsible mining and metals production by providing independent verification that material can be traced through a chain of custody spanning Rio Tinto’s Gove bauxite mine in Australia to its alumina refinery, aluminum smelters and casthouses in Quebec and British Columbia, Canada,” the company said in a statement.

Rio Tinto Aluminium vice president sales and marketing and ASI Board member Tolga Egrilmezer said, “This gives customers the ability to offer end consumers products made with aluminum that meets the highest sustainability standards.”

Rio Tinto, which launched a low-carbon aluminum, RenewAlTM, in 2016, is working with the ASI on audits and certifications for other production sites across the globe.

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Ball Corp. will soon begin construction on its first dedicated aluminum cups manufacturing facility to serve the growing demand for innovative, sustainable beverage packaging for U.S. customers and consumers.

In October, the ASI also certified Alcoa Corp.’s Baie-Comeau aluminum smelter in Québec, Canada. Earlier this year, Alcoa won ASI certifications for three locations that represent the full upstream aluminum value chain. The company has locations certified against ASI’s Performance Standard in Brazil, Canada and Spain.

“From mine to metal, Alcoa is a sustainability leader,” said Michelle O’Neill, Alcoa’s senior vice president of government affairs and sustainability. “This latest ASI certification demonstrates our ongoing commitment to operate in a responsible manner.”

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Downstream, Ball Corp. is a giant consumer of aluminum and other materials. Its efforts toward sustainability range from consumption of energy to design of new consumer products. In April, Ball entered two virtual power purchase agreements—one wind and one solar—for 388 megawatts of new renewable energy. These agreements will allow the company to address 100 percent of the North American electricity load used in its corporate, packaging and aerospace operations by the end of 2021.

Together, the wind and solar developments in Oklahoma and Texas will allow Ball to reduce its global Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, equivalent to the carbon reduction of removing 180,000 passenger vehicles from the road annually.

“These agreements place Ball among the leading corporate buyers of renewable energy in our industry and are a demonstration of our commitment to have the aluminum can recognized as the most sustainable package,” said John A. Hayes, chairman, president and CEO.

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Kobelco and Matalco are among the companies working to produce additional extrusion capacity.

Ball began using renewable energy in 2015, building three wind turbines to help power its Findlay, Ohio, beverage packaging plant. In 2018, Ball expanded the Findlay project to six turbines, which will generate more than 24,000 megawatt hours of energy each year.

“Utilizing renewable energy is an important lever to further enhance the sustainability credentials of our packaging, and we’re exploring similar opportunities across our global footprint,” Hayes said.

In August, Ball launched a pilot of infinitely recyclable aluminum cups in the United States. It will produce a limited supply of aluminum cups through 2020 for use in homes and at indoor and outdoor venues.

Ball rolled out several pilot programs with major venues and concessionaires across the U.S. to replace their plastic cups with aluminum cups. Ball’s research shows that 67 percent of U.S. consumers say they will visit a venue more often if it uses aluminum instead of plastic cups and that 78 percent of consumers expect beverage brands to use environmentally friendly containers in the next five years.

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Norsk Hydro ASA supplies sustainable aluminum for the battery housing of the Audi e-tron, the automaker’s first fully electric model.


This year, Norsk Hydro ASA, a global aluminum producer based in Oslo, began supplying sustainable aluminum for the battery housing of the Audi e-tron, the automaker’s first fully electric model. The material is processed and manufactured along the entire value chain—from the extraction of bauxite to the end product—in an environmentally conscious manner and under socially acceptable working conditions. Its products are certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative for chain of custody. ASI already awarded Audi a certificate for the sustainable assembly of these aluminum components in October 2018.

Audi and Hydro have said they want to jointly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the use of aluminum. By 2025, Audi aims to reduce the CO2 footprint of its products throughout their life cycle by about 30 percent compared with 2015. In late 2018, Audi started a carbon dioxide awareness program in procurement and since then has already carried out more than 20 CO2 workshops with aluminum suppliers. MM



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Last March, aluminum producer Granges laid out a set of targets to contribute to global sustainable development and to secure future competitiveness and growth. Granges expects to reach these targets by 2025.


At different levels of the supply chain, rising demand prompts expansions 

The U.S. has seen a buildup of additional aluminum recycling, sheet rolling and extrusion capacity this year, projects with a wide range of invested value.


Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. (KPEX) held a groundbreaking for additional capacity at its Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant. Established in April 2016, the Kentucky factory makes aluminum extrusions and fabricated products.

“We’re growing our business and enhancing our presence as a manufacturer of aluminum extruded parts for cars,” Yukimasa Miyashita, senior managing executive and head of the aluminum and copper division for parent company Kobe Steel, told attendees. “In this way, we continue to meet the need for lighter cars that meet fuel efficiency regulations and stronger collision safety regulations in North America.”

The demand from North American automakers for lightweight, high-strength materials is accelerating on the back of more stringent collision safety regulations and environmental regulations.

Integrated production at KPEX, from melting and casting to final processing, began in November 2018. Looking ahead to greater demand, KPEX will add a second melting furnace and a second extrusion press. Production capacity will double to 1,000 tons per month. Startup of the new equipment will begin in 2021.

JW Aluminum

JW Aluminum, which casts and rolls sheet and foil products, is expanding its Goose Creek, South Carolina, plant by 220,000 square feet and installing new equipment—including a slitter and tension leveling line—that will boost its processing capacity by 175 million pounds.

At 84 inches wide, the new slitter will accommodate increased coil widths resulting from the new melters, caster and mill that will be installed during 2020.

“The project represents the most significant capital investment in domestic continuous cast technologies and capabilities since 2001 and will make JW Aluminum’s Goose Creek plant one of the most technologically advanced continuous cast facilities in the world,” claimed Chief Commercial Officer Ryan Roush.


In February, Arconic Inc. pledged to invest $100 million to expand its hot mill capability and add downstream equipment capabilities to manufacture industrial and automotive aluminum products in its facility outside Knoxville, Tennessee. The project, which transitions the capability from foil products to industrial products, is slated for completion by fourth quarter 2020.

During an August earnings call with shareholders, Chairman and CEO John Plant said the company’s expansion projects around the world are all on track, preparing to feed industries including commercial vehicle wheels, aerospace engines and more.

The investment in Tennessee “will add capacity to meet growing demand for industrial products and automotive aluminum sheet,” said Tim Myers, president of Arconic’s Global Rolled Products business. The industrial market consists of products made with common alloy aluminum sheet, which is used in applications for commercial transportation, appliances, machinery and construction.

In the automotive market, aluminum is used in applications from bumper to bumper, and demand for automotive aluminum sheet in North America is expected to double in the next 10 years, Myers said, citing Ducker Worldwide forecasting.


Matalco Inc., based in Brampton, Ontario, broke ground Oct. 1 for an $80 million project in Wisconsin Rapids. It is building a 110,000-square-foot, remelt extrusion billet and slab manufacturing facility that will produce more than 230 million pounds of aluminum billet per year, according to Robert Roscetti, vice president of corporate development.

The new facility will produce 6xxx series extrusion-grade billet and logs, primarily from scrap aluminum, and will be able to roll slabs.

The plant represents a first-mover advantage to supply high-quality remelt aluminum billet to extruders in an underserved market in the Midwest, said Roscetti, who expects to commission the new plant by fourth quarter 2020.

Last year, Matalco expanded capacity at its billet and slab ingot casting plants in Lordstown, Ohio; Canton, Ohio; Bluffton, Indiana; and Brampton, Ontario. “The catalyst for all of the company’s investments are the needs voiced by customers in underserved market geographies, their requirements for increased product breadth, and processing services for the growing automotive flat-rolled aluminum product supply chain and the product feature needs of specialty alloy aluminum billet markets,” the company stated.

Risk potential

It remains to be seen whether North America’s growing production volume could reach overcapacity during the 2020s. Harbor Aluminum, a consultancy based in Austin, Texas, suggested that, in the short term, “manufacturing could be close to a cycle trough”—barring a full economic recession. U.S. producers purchased fewer foreign billets during the third quarter; a decline in demand is the likely driver. On the other hand, higher domestic supplies could keep imports down in the future.

Corinna Petry


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