American aluminium pioneer Alcoa Corporation will begin installation of a new steam recycling technology at its Wagerup aluminium refinery in Western Australia now that the results of a study show its feasibility.
The firm will begin installation of the 4 MW Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR) system as part of the next step in its Refinery of the Future program. Alcoa is being aided in the project by the Australian government via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
In a study entitled Roadmap for Decarbonizing Australian Alumina Refining, ARENA found that MVR is one of four technologies that, once properly developed, would yield a reduction in carbon production at Australian alumina plants by up to 98 percent.
Per the report, MVR addresses the most energy intensive part of alumina refining when using the Bayer process. As steam is an integral part of the process, recycling steam by pressurizing it saves a tremendous amount of energy as compared to generating steam from water at ambient temperatures.
Not only does MVR save energy, it also saves money, as recycling steam is generally cheaper than generating it. In fact, at some refineries, the upfront costs involved in implementing MVR are less than that of using conventional steam-generating methods.
ARENA notes that the MVR installation slated for the Wagerup alumina refinery will be used to prove concepts that may be implemented in future MVR installations.
Alcoa’s Refinery of the Future Director, Darren Shanahan, said in a press release that tackling carbon release is a major priority.
“With the current alumina and aluminium industries being major fossil fuel energy users and greenhouse gas emitters, decarbonisation is a critical focus area for operators, governments and broader society.”
“Driven by renewably generated electricity, MVR could make a crucial contribution to decarbonisation of the alumina industry here in Australia and across the globe and materially reduce water consumption in alumina refinery processes,” he continued.