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Hydro Starts Up Automotive Aluminum Sheet Line in Germany

Hydro held an inauguration ceremony for its new automotive aluminum sheet line in Grevenbroich, Germany. The €130 million state-of-the-art facility is the biggest of a series of investments Hydro has made in Germany and Norway recently to meet the increasing demand from carmakers. The line increases Hydro’s annual production of car body sheet from 50,000 tonnes to 200, 000 tonnes. In total, Hydro supplies nearly one million tonnes of aluminum to the automotive industry per year.

“While global demand for aluminum is growing by 2-3% per year, we expect demand from the automotive industry to accelerate by 14% every year, said Svein Richard Brandtzæg, president & CEO of Hydro. “This is due to rules and regulations, incentivizing car makers to build lighter cars that are more environmentally friendly. A car part in aluminum weighs about half of steel. In an uncertain world, one thing is certain – the world needs more aluminum.”


Hydro inaugurates new automotive line
Hydro inaugurates new automotive line (L-R): Angela Merkel, German chancellor; Svein Richard Brandtzæg, president & CEO of Hydro; and Erna Solberg, Norwegian Prime Minister. (Photo: Nils Vibe-Rheymer)

The ceremonial inauguration at Hydro’s automotive line was attended by approximately 500 guests from politics and civil society, the German automotive industry, key suppliers, R&D networks, and internal stakeholders — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Merkel stated that the new automotive line is “exquisite anniversary gift and a promise for the future.” She described the facility as instrumental to push automotive lightweighting — which is helping the German car industry and the climate. She also emphasized on the outstanding energy efficiency of aluminum by recycling it again and again at a fraction of the initial energy need.

Solberg emphasized the importance of Hydro’s investment in Germany, as a piece of the puzzle to help combat climate change. “It is for good reason, therefore, that aluminum is called the ‘green metal’,” said Solberg. “This lightweight metal is a material for the future, and has significant potential for increased use. With this new automotive line, Hydro will be helping the car industry to shift from steel to aluminum. This makes cars lighter. And lighter cars use less energy, and are thus more climate-friendly. This is a good example of how combating climate change and succeeding in the global market can go hand in hand.”

Solberg added, “The Norwegian company Hydro has over the last few years made several strategic investments in Norway and Germany to meet the demand for aluminum in the car industry, and at the same time secure the viability of high competence industrial jobs in both countries. The new automotive line here in Grevenbroich outside Düsseldorf is a prime example of this.”

Germany Hydro’s main market, with an overall turnover of about €1.4 billion in 2016 and more than 6,000 employees in Hamburg, Rackwitz, Neuss, and Grevenbroich. In the Neuss area, Hydro is running a powerful aluminum network in Europe consisting of the aluminum and recycling smelter in Rheinwerk, the rolling mill Alunorf joint venture, and the finishing mill in Grevenbroich. All activities are supported by the largest central research and development center in the European aluminum industry, based in Bonn, and the sorting center for used aluminum in Dormagen.

“This is where our light, strong, corrosion-resistant and infinitely recyclable aluminum really comes to life: to build the car of tomorrow, you need the metal of the future,” said Brandtzæg. “Here at Hydro’s new automotive line, we turn automotive dreams and aspirations into reality, enabling our partners among the most innovative car makers in the world to lightweight their vehicles, thereby curbing fuel-consumption and emissions in use.”

Inside Hydro's new automotive sheet line in Grevenbroich.
Inside Hydro’s new automotive sheet line in Grevenbroich.

Additional Investments in Automotive

The automotive line investment is closely linked to investments Hydro has made further upstream in the value chain in Norway. Over the past couple of years, Hydro’s casthouses in Sunndal, Høyanger, Årdal, and Karmøy in Norway have been upgraded with new innovations and equipment, specifically designed to meet the requirements of car makers. Altogether, these investments are worth close to NOK 150 million. Since 2012, Hydro has invested around NOK 7.5 billion in Norwegian primary aluminum and power production. New casting technology is under implementation in Høyanger and Årdal, where Hydro produces sheet ingot that can be rolled at the company’s plants in Germany into plates used in so-called hang-on car parts, such as doors, hoods, roofs, and trunk lids.

At Karmøy, Hydro is investing in the world’s most climate and energy-efficient production technology for primary aluminum — the Karmøy Technology Pilot — and also upgrading one of two casthouses to become a specialty products casthouse, mainly targeting the automotive industry. Metal from Karmøy is used in extruded car parts, such as bumpers, piping systems, and posts.

In Sunndal, Hydro has recently invested in so-called electromagnetic stirring equipment in one of the furnaces. The intention is to secure higher-quality aluminum ingots, a large part of which ultimately ending up as metal for cast car components, such as engine parts and wheels.

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