When the Nobel Peace Prize is handed over in Oslo on December 10, Hydro researcher Halvor Kvande will share a small slice of the glory.
Part of his work includes trying to reduce CO2 and perfluorocarbon gas emissions to the atmosphere, and has been included in one of the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, along with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Kvande is among the many researchers from more than 130 nations who have contributed to the writing of these recent IPCC reports.
The advantages of aluminium
Kvande has also co-authored several books on aluminium electrolysis. As a scientist Kvande has seen the advantages of aluminium, just as much as he has seen that its production is contributing to increasing the level of man-made gas emissions.
“I strongly believe this prize will make a difference,” says Kvande, who is based in Oslo. “And it can also be seen in light of the ongoing debate and the need for political leadership. Some activists and scientists link next year’s presidential election in the US to the destiny of global environment.
“However, this issue is also about our ethics. Successfully handling the climate and environmental challenge is unlikely to be combined with a widespread mentality that consumption of material goods is a main road to a better life quality. Al Gore wisely commented that the climate crisis is not a political issue. It is rather a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity”, Halvor Kvande remarks.
Better control of the production process
Perfluorocarbon gases are not made naturally, Kvande points out, and their major source is primary aluminium production. They contribute to global warming, as they prevent the infrared heat loss from the earth passing through the atmosphere.
Production of one kilogram of aluminium now causes about four kilograms of CO2 emissions. Many aluminium producers around the world produce even higher emissions than this, he comments.
“About 15 to 20 years ago it was generally believed that the anode effects in the electrolytic cells were necessary for good cell operation,” he explains.
“In fact, today we may consider them to be a sign of poorly operated cells. The entire industry is now aware of this, and anode effects are now considered as a deviation, which can be prevented by more precise and controlled feeding of aluminium oxide.”
Through better control of the production process, these emissions have actually been considerably reduced, Kvande reports. In Norway, the aluminium industry has been able to reduce its specific greenhouse gas emissions by more than 55 percent over the period 1990-2005.
“We have to be honest about the dilemmas,” he says, referring to how increasing demand for materials can lead to even higher CO2 emissions, despite lower emissions per produced unit.
In recent years, the world’s aluminium industry has increased its total output considerably – as much as 31 percent from 2000-2005, while its total greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 6 percent over that period. This includes emissions for bauxite mining, alumina refining, anode production, aluminium smelting and casting.
According to the International Aluminium Institute, the 6 percent reduction is a result of 56 percent reduction in perfluorocarbon emissions and 12 percent in other direct emissions per tonne of primary aluminium produced.
“Our challenge is to continue this trend,” Kvande says.