Decarbonizing the aluminum industry

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France produces 0.9 Mt of aluminum per year, 55% of which comes from recycling. The main consumer sectors are construction, transport and packaging.

The two primary aluminum production sites represent 5% of the electrical energy consumption of French industry. On top of indirect greenhouse gas emissions linked to electricity consumption, nearly two thirds of emissions are linked to the process: aluminum is produced by electrolysis of alumina and the anode consumed during production emits carbon. To decarbonise, primary aluminum will have to innovate to modify the process, for example through an “inert” anode, or will have to study technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration. Note that the low-carbon French electricity mix is ​​an asset for the sector and that primary aluminum imports are generally more carbon-intensive than national production.

The production of secondary aluminum consists in waste remelting and takes place in about fifteen factories in France. The main issue of decarbonising recycling aluminum is the use of natural gas as heat source for temperatures that can be reached by electrical processes or by the use of energy from biomass.

In addition, since secondary aluminum is less emissive and consumes less resources than primary aluminum, increasing the share of recycled aluminum in national production is a lever for decarbonising the sector. This requires, in particular, transparency on the origin of the materials and the strengthening of the sorting, collection and recyclin of aluminum waste to allow efficient recovery of waste and avoid “downcycling”.

Find the PTS Aluminum Memo in the Publications.

Further information on the Sectorial Transition Plans.