The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is awarding Alcoa of Australia AUD 11.3 million toward testing the potential use of renewable energy in a Mechanical Vapor Recompression process for alumina refining. Total project cost is AUD 28.2 million. The development project has the potential to reduce carbon emissions in the alumina refining process significantly.
Alcoa of Australia is currently conducting technical and commercial studies to adapt MVR technology to refining. Electricity sourced from renewable energy would power compressors to turn waste vapor into steam, which would then be used to provide refinery process heat.
Electrifying steam production in the evaporation aspects of the alumina refining process could displace fossil fuel boiler steam production in the process. Demonstrating successful operation of the technology for evaporation could enable its use to be extended to other process duties, further displacing fossil fuels.
If the feasibility studies are successful, Alcoa of Australia plans to install, by the end of 2023, a three megawatt MVR module with renewable energy at the Wagerup refinery in Western Australia to test the technology at scale.
In 2019, Australian alumina refining accounted for more than 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, representing approximately 24% of Australia’s scope 1 manufacturing emissions.