The atmosphere was charged with excitement when President and CEO Eivind Reiten sent the signal to the rectifier to increase amperage in the new cells in the pilot plant at the Årdal Research Center on Wednesday. The amperage was raised immediately to 420 kA, the highest amperage recorded at a Norwegian smelter.
Reiten was launching Hydro’s pioneering research project involving a new technology for aluminium production: HAL4e.
The new cell technology is energy efficient, giving considerably lower climate gas emissions, and it is also cost efficient. It has been developed by Hydro’s research scientists in Årdal, with the support of Hydro’s research centers in Porsgrunn, Norway, and Neuss in Germany.
”In Hydro we are very pleased to demonstrate that we are definitely a part of the aluminium industry’s future,” said Reiten when he declared the research project, at Hydro’s Årdal Research Center, for opened.
“We are making progress here that will bring gains with regard to the environment, energy consumption and cost – demonstrating that it is fully possible to realize three good intentions at once.”
More for less
This next-generation production technology will be the company’s ace in the aluminium industry struggle for technological supremacy. It is very cost-efficient and, because the cells can be placed closely together, it creates savings in terms of building space and logistics.
“Our people at the Center her in Årdal have developed a technology that enables us to produce more for less. It is good for society at large to make the very best use of scarce resources more efficiently, and it is also good for Hydro’s competitiveness. And it is due to advances like this that it is possible to continue producing greater volumes of aluminium in a high-cost country like Norway,” said Reiten.
Six trial cells in production
The research project involves six trial cells that are now all in operation and producing metal. While the normal amperage in an aluminium reduction plant is around 300 kA, the amperage in HAL4e is all of 420 kA. And Hydro’s ambition is to exceed even this, and attain 450 kA in a few years time. The high amperage is one of the most important reasons for the cost-efficiency of the HAL4e technology.
“We have especially good grounds for being proud as we have introduced some innovative technological elements in addition to increasing amperage,” says head of the Technology Center at Årdal, Asgeir Bardal.
“These elements are vital as we take major strides in the direction of lower climate gas emissions and reduced energy consumption. HAL4e represents the technology platform of the future, constructed so as to include several new elements that are still being developed. Examples of these are energy recovery, the concentration of CO2 in process gas to enable CO2 separation, and next-generation process control.”
The research project will continue over several years and, if the results justify it, the research scientists will build a trial potroom containing 50 new cells that will be able to produce aluminium in 2011. And if all goes well then, it will be possible to base the first smelter Hydro builds after 2014 on the new generation technology.