"In some areas we need to be a world leader. This includes costs per tonne, energy efficiency, anode technology and cell design," says Hydro President and CEO Svein Richard Brandtzaeg.
The technology area in Primary Metal in Hydro has 120 highly qualified employees at units in Porsgrunn and Årdal in Norway and Neuss in Germany.
"The key to success in this industry is maintaining our technological competitive advantage," says research director Hans Erik Vatne. Among other initiatives, he and his colleagues are finalizing the HAL4e smelting technology for industrial use after a couple of years of highly successful pilot testing in Årdal. They are also developing the next generation of electrolytic cells with high ambitions for further significant reductions in energy consumption and emissions.
Old patent, steadily improved
Today's aluminium production is still based on the Hall Heroult patent from 1886. In the intervening years, however, the efficiency and productivity in aluminium production has improved tremendously. The reason is extensive research and development. Hydro's technology is among the most effective.
"Our well-established knowledge about the Hall Heroult process will still be the foundation when we plan the next phase in the development of smelting technology. The production of aluminium produces CO2 and heat as by-products. The next fundamental steps forward in electrolysis technology will include:
- Improved efficiency and productivity in each cell
- Lower energy consumption and increased heat recovery
- Reduction and capture of all CO2 emissions
Collaboration and support
Vatne says the company's strategy is to partner with leading companies and institutions worldwide and harness our combined intellectual capital to develop the next generation of aluminium technology.
The technology organization also provides operational support to wholly owned and partly owned smelters. It is very important to assist and support the metal plants in constantly improving their results.
"It is essential that the technology organization has direct and close contact with the plants to determine how operational support can be strengthened," concludes Hans Erik Vatne.