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Hydro team in front of the unfinished Cassopolis plant

Stories by Hydro

Looking for a job where you can make a difference? Join our new aluminium recycling plant in Cassopolis

A new USD 150 million, state of the art aluminium recycling plant is taking shape in the small, Southwest Michigan village of Cassopolis. Christopher Braathen, Operations Director, talks about the 70 jobs Hydro will look to recruit, the team he is developing, and why Hydro is investing in Cassopolis.

“We are very excited to become part of the exceptional Cassopolis community. We want to recruit a high performing team who puts safety first, embodies an improvement culture and lives the Hydro values of Care, Courage and Collaboration,” says Christopher. When completed, the plant will provide 70 new, local jobs and strengthen Hydro’s recycling capabilities in the United States. 

Who is Hydro looking to recruit? 

The project is looking for and needs people to shape a team of individuals who can help the company take the next step in Hydro’s U.S. aluminium recycling portfolio.  

“We are looking for people who want to play an important part in Hydro’s exciting recycling growth agenda – and be part of building a dream team of skilled, motivated employees who want to learn and continuously improve on the job, while having fun doing it. We are looking for the best of the best,” says Braathen. 

The 70 new jobs will cover many different categories including production operators and supervisors, maintenance technicians, casting mold maintenance, material handling, production planners, PLC specialists, process engineers, purchasing, administrative assistants, and accounting specialists. 

The project: State of the art aluminum recycling plant in Cassopolis 

Hydro, a global aluminum and energy company based in Norway, is opening its state-of-the-art aluminum recycling plant in Cassopolis and will be the first company to locate in Midwest Energy & Communication’s SMART Park. The plant will produce 120,000 tonnes of low-carbon aluminium annually and will strengthen Hydro’s ability to supply car makers and other industries in the U.S. with recycled aluminum.

Rendering of the plant at Cassopolis
A rendering of how the aluminum recycler will look like once finished.

Hydro has been involved in aluminum recycling in the U.S. for several decades, beginning with two aluminum recyclers it built in Henderson, KY and Commerce, TX. The two plants were a step change in aluminum recycling when introduced in the early 2000s. Many of the employees working in Henderson and Commerce have been with the company from the beginning.  

On track for start up during the second half of 2023 

Hydro will invest an estimated USD 150 million to complete the project. The aluminium produced in Cassopolis will include critical automotive applications as well as other transportation uses, consumer and building system applications. 

The eight key management positions for the project will be hired soon. They are important for establishing a solid foundation from day one. 

Cassopolis sitting on a bench from Vestre
Hydro’s expanding Cassopolis team sitting on a bench from Norwegian furniture company Vestre, built with recycled aluminum from Hydro.

“I am very excited that we will soon fill the key management positions. Our ambition when building this organization is that we must establish the foundation for a strong HSE and performance culture from day one. This not only applies to me and the management team, but everyone working at the plant,” Braathen says.  “We are also pleased we have been able to recruit several of these individuals locally, providing opportunities in Cassopolis for individuals who previously had to commute beyond the community for work.” 

Jobs in production and operations will be launched in March    
In March, Hydro will start recruiting for positions in production, process, administration and materials management. Vacant positions are already open for application at hydro.com.

What will a day on the job in operations and production look like? 

Production at Cassopolis will be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year, so it is important to have enough people working at all times, day and night.  

There will be four dedicated crews working 12 hour shifts. These crews will alternate every 14 days, allowing for a three day weekend from Friday to Sunday every other week. The shift schedule is 6.00 (6a)– 18.00 (6p) or 18.00 (6p) to 6.00 (6a). See example below:   

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
  6a-6p 6a-6p Off Off 6a-6p 6a-6p
6a-6p Off Off 6a-6p 6a-6p Off Off
Off 6p-6a 6p-6a Off Off 6p-6a 6p-6a
6p-6a Off Off 6p-6a 6p-6a Off Off
Off            

With this shift order, you will get a three-day weekend from Friday-Sunday every other week.   

The day will begin with the shift leader and people in each unit gathering for a start up meeting. During this meeting, everyone will review the production plan and agree on priorities for the day, which could vary from a few single tasks to contributing to long-term projects. Production work will involve several different tasks, which vary throughout the shift, utilizing state of the art, automated production equipment.   

What do Hydro colleagues say about working in production? 

One comment from those already working at Hydro in production is highlighting the high level of safety and engagement at the plant. 

“I’ve worked in Hydro for more than 20 years in various roles. I appreciate that I can come in every day to a clean and safe work environment which makes it easier to do my job. I am also part of the employee engagement team in Commerce and that keeps me motivated knowing that we are dedicated to making Commerce a great place to work,” says Dwayne Flowers, who works as a material handler for Hydro’s recycling plant in Commerce, TX.

Dwayne Flowers handling recycled aluminium
Dwayne Flowers has long experience in Hydro after working at our recycler in Commerce, TX for two decades.

Another comment is that many enjoy the work life balance Hydro provides. 

“I appreciate that Hydro stresses the importance of putting safety first and the balance of work and home life,” says Tiffany Conner who works as a process operator at the Henderson, KY plant.

Tiffany operating machinery
Tiffany enjoys the work-life balance in Hydro.

What does a day on the job look like in administration? 

The administrative staff will mostly stay in the office, but also be out in the production from time to time. The tasks will vary depending on each individual’s field of expertise and whether they work as a team lead or specialist. Regardless, they will be key in ensuring all parts of the administrative processes maintain high quality as well as driving, setting, and impacting the plant’s strategic agendas.   

It is key that both production and administration work closely together, ensuring safe operations and high quality in everything Hydro does.  

What do Hydro colleagues say about working in administration? 

“I joined Hydro almost two years ago and was attracted to the organization for a few reasons. First, it meant a lot to me to see a woman as our CEO & President, Hilde Merete Aasheim. Additionally, Hydro’s contributions to sustainability align with my core values and beliefs,” says Brooke Washabaugh, who joined Hydro in 2020 as a scrap buyer for Henderson and Commerce. 

Brooke will join the Cassopolis team as scrap procurement manager for the startup of the plant. 

Brooke Washabaugh with CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim
Brooke with Hydro CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim (l). Brooke has worked in the Hydro system for two years and will be part of the Cassopolis team.

What is the aluminium product produced at Cassopolis, and how is it made? 

Hydro makes recycled aluminium from scrap and the actual product is called aluminium extrusion billet. The aluminum scrap will be sourced from Michigan and neighboring states.  

In short, when the aluminium enters Hydro’s plant it will go through a delacquering phase to remove unwanted materials such as paint or plastic. Then, small, and clean aluminum scrap parts go into the melting furnace, before it is casted into the actual product – aluminium extrusion ingots. These extrusion ingots are shipped to the customers who turn them into final products, for example car parts.

Melting furnace in Clervaux, Luxembourg
Aluminum scrap parts go into the melting furnace before it is casted into the actual product. Photo from Hydro's largest European remelting operation in Clervaux, Luxembourg

Why is Hydro investing in Cassopolis and how is aluminum key for the automotive industry? 

The demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is growing in the United States. Even though EVs amounted to less than 3 percent of new car sales in the United States in 2021, forecasters expect big increases over the next decade. 

Aluminium plays a significant role in making electric and hybrid vehicles lighter. Less weight means lower consumption, and fewer or smaller batteries needed to travel the same distances. With the automotive industry embarking on its biggest transformation since the introduction of the assembly line, Michigan will play a fundamental role as consumers go electric. Hydro sees this as an opportunity to bring its next generation recycling technology, pioneered in Europe, to the United States. 

“With auto manufacturers switching to electric vehicles, combined with the growing need for aluminum, we see this as an opportunity to bring our next generation recycling technology to the United States, expand our offering of low-carbon aluminum, while also bringing, not just jobs, but long-term career opportunities to the Village of Cassopolis,” Braathen says. 

The Cassopolis plant will be the first large scale producer of Hydro CIRCAL® in North America 

The Hydro Cassopolis recycling plant will produce 120,000 tonnes of recycled aluminium extrusion ingot per year and will be the first large scale producer of Hydro CIRCAL®   in North America.  

Unique to Hydro, Hydro CIRCAL® aluminium extrusion ingot contains at least 75 percent post-consumer scrap, certified by third party auditors DNV GL, and has a market-leading CO2 footprint of just 2.3 kg CO2e/kg aluminium or less.  

With a growing focus on sustainably produced aluminium, several North American customers have expressed interest in Hydro CIRCAL®, setting the stage for success at Hydro Cassopolis.   

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