The new electric boiler, with more modern technology and greater capacity, is starting to operate at Alunorte, which is in the municipality of Barcarena, in Pará State. The nominal generation capacity is about 95 tonnes of steam per hour, consuming 60 megawatts and with the potential to reduce around 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
The BRL 42 million project was carried out in about 20 months and, initially, the boiler will operate with energy purchased from the market (the boilers have been fired by coal). Investments in renewable energy through joint ventures and long-term purchases are already being studied. In addition, the company is studying the addition of two more electric boilers, expected to start operating in 2024.
“Innovation and technology development are the main enablers of CO2-free processes. Our ambitions for the future are to reduce our own emissions globally by 10% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. This project plays an important role in the company’s global climate strategy,” says Carlos Neves, Hydro’s director of operations for Bauxite & Alumina in Brazil.
Natural gas replacing fuel oil
A greener energy mix at Alunorte is a key enabler of Hydro’s global climate strategy and targets. To this end, a project focused on replacing fuel oil with natural gas at the refinery is also underway.
In 2021, Hydro announced the decision to invest BRL 1.3 billion in a project to begin using liquefied natural gas (LNG) at Alunorte. The company has signed a 15-year contract with New Fortress Energy.
Based on this, Alunorte, which is already a benchmark in energy efficiency in the aluminium sector, is being prepared for the fuel switch, investing even more in the refinery to adapt the calcination process and part of the steam generation to switch from oil fuel to LNG as an energy source. It is expected to start operating in 2023.
Biomass for renewable energy
Another initiative that is also being carried out is the study for the use of açaí stone as biomass. The residue from the widely used fruit will be mixed with coal for use as fuel in Alunorte’s boilers. Using the açaí stone as biomass is being studied in partnership with the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). The one-year, BRL 500,000 project will analyze the technical and economic requirements for using the seed on an industrial scale, in addition to studying the social and environmental aspects of biomass as a renewable fuel.
The state of Pará leads the world in the production and export of açaí pulp and reached the production of about 1.1 million tonnes of the fruit in 2019, according to the Pará State Secretariat of Agriculture and Supply (Sedap).
Clean energy in Paragominas
In 2021, a research project was announced on the use of floating solar panels at Hydro’s bauxite mine in Paragominas, also in Pará State. UFPA will carry out studies with a floating photovoltaic system in test tanks at Mineração Paragominas. One of the main objectives is to make it possible to reduce the evaporation of water from the plant’s reservoirs, in addition to offering a new source of energy capable of meeting part of the mine’s own consumption. The initial investment in the project is around BRL 1 million and the research will last two years.