Work to commercialize a process that produces carbon-free aluminium has reached another significant milestone with the completion of construction on the ELYSIS Industrial Research and Development Center in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in Quebec. ELYSIS, a joint venture by Rio Tinto and Alcoa, is scaling up a breakthrough technology that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases from the aluminium smelting process, instead producing oxygen. The completion of construction on the facility is the next step towards ramping up to industrial scale the breakthrough technology, first developed at the Alcoa Technical Center near Pittsburgh in the United States. The new center will produce metal at a scale similar to smaller, industrial-sized smelting cells that are in operation by some producers today.
Commissioning of the Industrial Research and Development Center, in a space leased at the Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière, is now underway with full-scale research and development work to begin in the first half of 2021.
ELYSIS continues to work closely with Rio Tinto’s and Alcoa’s technology teams. The Rio Tinto technology team is leading scientific research and the development of the commercial scale designs for the ELYSISTM technology to be used in existing smelters and new smelters. The team at Alcoa’s Technical Center provides support to ELYSIS, especially in the manufacture of proprietary materials that are used to produce the new, proprietary anodes essential to the carbon-free process.
The new, 25-member operations team at the Industrial Research and Development Center will complete technical training over the next few months, along with equipment tests and commissioning activities for the full start-up.
The technology at a glance
The ELYSISTM technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
The new process will reduce operating costs of aluminium smelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
In Canada alone, the ELYSISTM technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.