February 21, 2024

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Renewable Hydrogen Tech for Australian Alumina Refining

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has recently announced up to $579,786 in funding to a global mining company to support a feasibility study investigating the potential to partially decarbonise its alumina refining operations using renewable hydrogen.

Conventional alumina refining combusts natural gas to achieve the high temperatures necessary in the calcination process. Rio Tinto will investigate the technical implications of displacing natural gas with renewable hydrogen at its Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Queensland. The study would inform the viability of a potential demonstration project to validate the findings.

The $1.2 million study, funded equally by ARENA and Rio Tinto, will comprise two distinct work packages:

  • Simulating the calcination process using a lab-scale reactor at the mining company’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, Victoria.
  • Preliminary engineering and design study conducted at the mining company’s Yarwun base to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the refinery.

The study will see an improved understanding of the potential for renewable hydrogen to be used in the alumina refining process and the scope of development works required to implement hydrogen-fuelled calcination technology at an existing alumina refinery.

Australia is the world’s largest producer of bauxite and the largest exporter of alumina, accounting for 15 per cent of global alumina refining capacity. Alumina refining is an energy-intensive process that uses high-pressure steam to produce the heat required to process bauxite into alumina. Alumina can then be converted to aluminium in a smelting process.

ARENA has identified the alumina sector as a key target in its strategy to support the industry to reduce emissions due to the potential size of emissions abatement. In 2019, alumina refining accounted for over 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in Australia, which represents approximately 24 per cent of Australia’s scope 1 manufacturing emissions.

The Australian Government’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement highlights the importance of developing a low emissions steel and aluminium industry to help reduce emissions and stimulate economic activity. Innovation in metals refining can improve the competitiveness and emissions intensity of Australia’s steel and aluminium production.

Last month, ARENA announced $11.3 million in funding for Alcoa to investigate and deploy an alternative technology that uses recycled steam for process heat powered by renewable energy. The CEO of ARENA stated that the study would explore the potential for hydrogen to reduce emissions across the aluminium supply chain and would complement ARENA’s support for Alcoa’s project.

If fossil fuels can be replaced with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions-intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.

He also noted that the study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from the study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia but also internationally.

The mining company accounts for approximately a third of Australia’s total alumina production capacity. It aims to reach net-zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15 per cent reduction in absolute emissions and a 30 per cent reduction in its emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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