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Hydro opens test pilot for new anode technology

Hydro opened a technology pilot for anode production in Årdal, Norway, on Wednesday. With potential for lower production cost and improved quality, the pilot may set a new standard in anode production.

President and CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg had the pleasure of opening the pilot line in Årdal on Wednesday.

“Innovation and technological expertise has always been a backbone of Hydro, and this project shows that the innovative spirit in Hydro is as strong today as it was more than 100 years ago when the company was founded,” he says.

Better on quality and cost

According to Head of Technology in Hydro, Hans Erik Vatne, the pilot may represent a leap in the production process for anodes, both in terms of cost and quality.

“With the new technology in place, we are able to handle more variations in raw material quality, and we see a potential to reduce the carbon consumption in the electrolytic process,” says Vatne. At the same time, the renewed production process is set to deliver anodes with higher and more consistent quality.

Important input factor

Made from carbon rich materials, anodes are an important input factor for the electrolytic process, where the oxygen from aluminium oxide (alumina) reacts with carbon and frees aluminium. Typically, a little more than 400 kg of carbon anodes are consumed per metric ton of aluminium produced in an electrolysis.

“The quality of the anode is crucial for the stability and performance of the electrolysis process, and they also represent a potential for cost improvements, so this project is at the core of our technology strategy,” says Vatne.

With a total capital expenditure of around NOK 20 million (USD 3.2 million), the project was partly founded by Innovation Norway and The Research Council of Norway.

In-house idea

Hogne Linga, one of Hydro’s experts on anode production, came up with the idea for the new anode production process back in 2009.

Since then, the idea has been simulated and further developed for introduction to a pilot line.

The production equipment was installed during spring and summer this year.

“Now, we will test the technology over a few years to make it ready for a potential industrialization project later on,” says Odd Einar Frosta who is project manager.