INTERVIEW: Norsk Hydro’s Michigan plant poised to grow US aluminum PCS recycling: CEO – S&P Global
Product quality to rival primary aluminum
Technology unlocks more sources of PCS
PCS use lowers carbon footprint of products for end-users
Norway-based aluminum producer Norsk Hydro plans to advance the recycling of post-consumer aluminum scrap (PCS) in the US market with its forthcoming plant in Cassopolis, Michigan, to align with demand trends in the region and further decarbonize its products for customers, CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim said April 21.
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“The plant in Cassopolis will be the first in the US that has our new state-of-the-art technology to handle larger volumes of post-consumer scrap, so this is now how we will develop the market in the US,” Aasheim said in an interview with S&P Global Commodity Insights.
PCS is obtained from end-of-life aluminum-bearing products such as automobile parts, cans, consumer durables, and building and construction materials. This differs from pre-consumer industrial scrap sourced from the manufacturing of downstream products.
Industrial scrap and certain types of PCS are generally cleaner and easier to recycle into new products. However, Aasheim said the Michigan plant’s innovative technology will be able to process “dirtier” PCS more readily, which will unlock greater volumes of low-carbon scrap supply.
“The furnace will be installed with a delacquering system and fume treatment systems that can handle the difficult chemical compositions of the scrap,” Aasheim said.
The technology, which Hydro first developed and implemented at some of its European facilities, will also allow the plant to convert PCS into high-quality aluminum alloy products that can compete with those produced from industrial scrap and more energy-intensive primary aluminum, she added.
The Michigan recycling plant will begin operations in late 2023 and produce 120,000 mt/year of aluminum extrusion ingot for the automotive, transportation, and building and construction industries. It will be Hydro’s first location in North America capable of producing its CIRCAL brand at a large commercial scale.
The CIRCAL aluminum extrusion ingot contains at least 75% PCS and has a carbon emission footprint of about 2.3 kg CO2e/kg of aluminum.
Hydro already operates an extensive network of aluminum facilities in the US that focus on recycling, remelting, billet production and extrusions.
Michigan plant to support US automaker initiatives
Aasheim said Cassopolis was strategically selected as the location for its new recycling facility because of its proximity to the US’ automotive industry, which it collaborates with to develop lightweight, low-carbon aluminum materials that support automaker initiatives.
“The demand for aluminum is growing particularly in the automotive sector, driven not only by lightweighting but also by electric vehicles,” she said. “The US market has been somewhat behind Europe, but we have seen more and more automakers in the US starting to produce electric vehicles and looking for more aluminum in their cars, but also looking at how the aluminum is produced and with what carbon footprint.”
“It’s coming at a rather fast pace now than what we have seen in the past.”
Lower carbon footprint than primary
Aasheim said aluminum produced from scrap has a much lower carbon footprint than primary aluminum, as recycling requires only 5% of the energy used by primary smelters. This attribute has become much more critical for end-users such as automakers, which are looking to decarbonize their supply …….