The Aluminium industry is facing challenges to decrease energy consumption and increase the rate of recycling
Context and challenges of the industry
The situation in terms of global climate change and greenhouse emissions represents a big challenge for our modern society – which requires both real actions and new solutions. More and more socially responsible groups and companies participate in this worldwide effort that also generates new opportunities.
Aluminium recycling is one piece of the puzzle to achieve the goal of ensuring a greener economy. Some materials are more difficult to recycle than others. It is the case for some post consumer parts from the automotive industry, which contains specific alloys less compatible with current recycling practices. Therefore, complementary solutions are required.
Meanwhile, the industry is facing higher energy costs and this leads to increasing efforts towards energy saving initiatives. As a side benefit, this also comes with a reduction of greenhouse emissions.
Recycling and closed loop economy
The availability of scrap has always been a challenge. In some regions, this type of scrap was shipped to recycling facilities equipped for the task but the current trend is to minimize transportation and therefore CO2 emissions by having local recycling facilities.
In many processes, an efficient way to recycle is to recover scrap generated in the same value chain. For example, an aluminum slab supplier can recover scraps from its own customers and sub customers to cast new slabs. The advantage of this is the compatibility of the products in terms of alloys and other characteristics. The required equipment is simpler, and the constant supply of scrap is easier to guarantee.
For post consumer scrap, the challenges are much greater. The material can contain contaminants, such as paints and/or other unwanted elements. For scrap handling, charging, treatment and melting, many options are possible depending on the type of material to be recycled. Some require sorting and pre-treatment; others can be directly loaded. Many melting solutions are to be considered such as a rotating or multi‑chamber furnaces, post combustion fume treatment, preheating requirements, etc.
Specific alloys for specific applications will complicate the integration in the remelting process. Important quantities of metal is currently not being recycled because of this contamination. The potential to recycle more scrap requires new solutions. Dynamic Concept has developed in alliance with Nature Alu, a state of the art technology to purify aluminium. The main purpose of this technology is to produce super high purity aluminum. However, the same technology can be used to purify contaminated aluminium.
Also, metal transfer is a key factor in the recycling process. In some existing plants, crucibles are already being used for molten metal transfer. Many options are possible and Dynamic Concept has direct experience with most of them.
Energy saving opportunities
Energy costs have increased significantly in the last year. Aluminium producers and foundries are looking for solutions to save energy and those potential savings are huge, most particularly in Casthouses.
Many gas powered components are required to run a Casthouse. Dynamic Concept proposes and supplies a series of solutions specifically designed to save energy:
- Improved control of burner systems
- Optimized furnace process control
- Accurate & more efficient molten metal temperature monitoring
- Regenerative burners
- Furnace heat recovery
For example, the DYNAPROBE: Intelligent Thermocouple Mechanism is a smart temperature reading system allowing accurate molten metal temperature readings at various depths into the metal bath. The collected data is used by the furnace control system to allow predictive burner control therefore avoids overshooting the required process energy for every cycle.
The aluminum industry is facing new challenges that can be turned into opportunities. The increase of recycling activities helps decrease overall greenhouse emissions as well as production costs. Working to save energy actually serves a dual purpose to achieve the same goals. Dynamic Concept is positioned to support aluminum producers by bringing both technical support and solutions for those new challenges.