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On the way to net-zero aluminium

The road to net-zero carbon emissions in aluminium production is a long one, but Hydro has made great strides in the last three decades – cutting CO2 by 70% at the Norwegian plants. The next advancements will be driven by new technology and more recycling.

Hydro Sunndal aluminium plant
Advances in electrolysis technology achieved lower CO2 emissions at the Hydro Sunndal aluminium plant. (Photo: Hydro/Halvor Molland)

Hydro is helping pave the way in reducing climate impact, cutting carbon emissions from the primary aluminium plants in Norway by 70% between 1990 and 2020. Even taking into account increased annual production from 600,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes in the period, the overall decline is still 55%.

Geir Schefte, Hydro Aluminium Metal
Geir Schefte, Head of Sustainability in Hydro Aluminium Metal

“This performance over the last 30-plus years show Hydro is capable of making great progress, with operational excellence, innovative thinking and new technology,” says Geir Schefte, Head of Sustainability in Hydro Aluminium Metal. “When we look ahead, these same qualities will drive us to even more-sustainable solutions.

Renewable power, smart technology

In Norway, Hydro uses clean, renewable power from hydro, wind and solar, which is a great starting point when it comes to carbon emissions, but it doesn’t explain the decline in carbon emissions.

A large part of the improvement came from the closure of the so-called Søderberg production process, which was responsible for more emissions than the prebake technology exclusively used today.

Hydro has upgraded production technology and made operational improvements, reducing anode effects and other disruptions that release high concentrations of climate gasses.

Hydro’s research and development efforts, focused on driving down the electricity used per tonne of aluminium over the years, also contributed to the overall improvement.

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Way below global average

These efforts have helped Hydro drive direct CO2 emissions from the Norwegian plants to 1.5 kg CO2 per 1.0 kg aluminium. Even including raw materials, transport and other upstream emissions, the figure is 4.0 kg CO2 per 1.0 kg aluminium, much less than the global average of 16.7 kg CO2 per 1.0 kg aluminium.

“The lowest possible emissions from our aluminium is our goal,” Schefte says.

The main pathways to achieving these goals are more recycling of post-consumer scrap aluminium and technological advances in primary aluminium production, such as carbon capture and storage and proprietary HalZero technology. This is a technology where carbon and chloride are kept in closed loops, resulting in a fully decarbonized process.

Here is Hydro’s roadmap toward 2050:

  • Growing recycling capability and capacity to increase use of post-consumer scrap
  • Technology development to decarbonize the upstream primary value chain, including bauxite and alumina production, primary aluminium production, and renewable energy sourcing
  • Near-zero aluminium possible in 2022
  • 10% reduction in emissions by 2025 (compared to 2018)
  • 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2018)
  • Net-zero emissions by 2050

In addition, says President and CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim: “We have made key investment decisions in our recycling and extrusion areas, and we continue to shape and meet the increasing customer demand for our greener products.”

Media contact

halvor molland

Halvor Molland

Senior vice president, Group Communication

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