Century Aluminum Company started construction of a new low-carbon billet casthouse at its Norðurál Grundartangi smelter in Iceland. The new $120 million value-added casthouse will be able to produce low-carbon Natur-Al™ billet, as well as increase production of primary foundry alloys.
“We are very excited to bring billet production to Grundartangi and, beginning in 2024, to bring low-carbon Natur-Al™ billet to the European market,” said Jesse Gary, president and CEO of Century Aluminum. “Once complete, the new casthouse will enable Grundartangi to produce over 80% of its production as value-added products, further strengthening this world-class asset.”
The Grundartangi smelter has a total production capacity of approximately 320,000 tonnes of aluminum per year. The new casthouse will allow the site to allow for the production of 150,000 tonnes per year of low-carbon billet. In addition, the casthouse will be able to increase the smelter’s annual capacity of primary foundry alloys, from its current 60,000 tonnes per year to 120,000 tonnes. This incremental billet and primary foundry alloy capacity will replace standard-grade ingot production at the plant.
Increasing its capacity of Natur-Al products will enable the Grundartangi plant to meet the high demand for low-carbon aluminum billet in Europe, where environmentally conscious consumers are looking to use aluminum as a key element in the production of electric cars, solar panels, aircraft, and sustainable buildings.
Construction on a new building, which will house the new casting area, has already begun. Once the casthouse starts production in the first quarter of 2024, around 40 permanent jobs will be created.
Impact of Renewable Energy
Century Aluminum’s Natur-Al brand of billet and foundry products feature emission levels as low as 4 t CO₂/t Al, which is one-fourth lower than the industry average and among the lowest CO₂ footprints in the world. Such low emissions are achieved through the use of 100% renewable energy sources, such as hydropower and wind power.
Recently, Century Aluminum expanded its access to renewable power at its Grundartangi smelter. The company signed a letter of intent with Qair, an independent renewable power producer, for the supply of electricity originating from two wind farms that are currently under development. Once completed, the wind farms will have a total installed capacity of 200 MW.
In addition, the two companies have agreed to join forces in the development of a solution to capture CO2 from the Grundartangi smelter. If successful, the captured CO2 would be used for the production of eFuel in connection with Qair’s hydrogen plant, which is planned for construction on a site next to the smelter.
Due to the degree of positive environmental impact of the casthouse project, it has received green financing from Arion Bank, which provides favorable terms for environmentally friendly projects.
“We are delighted to be able to take this step toward billet production at Norðurál,” said Sigrún Helgadóttir, plant manager at Norðurál. “By utilizing renewable electricity to process the aluminum further in Iceland, we are not only creating a more valuable product, but we are also strengthening the Natur-Al brand. By this, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint of the aluminum production.”