Novelis Inc. operates a global network of rolling and recycling facilities located in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The company is a leading supplier of aluminum sheet for various industries, including automotive, where it is used in the production of structural components and exterior body panels found in more than 225 vehicle models manufactured by automakers around the globe.
Established in 1963 (under Alcan), Novelis’ facility in Oswego, NY, represents its first U.S. operation. Today, the Oswego facility is the company’s largest, wholly owned rolling, recycling, and fabrication facility in North America. Every year, the site produces more than a billion pounds of high-quality aluminum sheet, serving the automotive and specialty markets. However, the facility is versatile enough to transition to support market demand as needed, including switching over to can sheet production.
Oswego is equipped for aluminum scrap remelting, ingot casting, hot and cold rolling, and aluminum finishing. “We have an innovative closed-loop manufacturing model that reduces energy, water, and landfill waste associated with our operations and lowers the carbon footprint of products made using our aluminum,” said Kristen Nelson (Figure 1), plant manager of Novelis Oswego. “This minimizes environmental impact, establishing a secure supply chain and helping customers achieve their sustainability goals.”
Over the last decade, Novelis has completed several successful expansions at Oswego, including the addition of significant automotive finishing capabilities and recycling capacity. These investments included the installation of state-of-the-art automotive finishing capabilities, with more than 300,000 tonnes of capacity, as well as the expansion of the recycling center, which processes roughly 25 million lbs of automotive aluminum scrap per month.
The company’s current plan involves the investment of approximately $130 million to upgrade its Oswego operations to meet the continuously growing customer demand for sustainable, aluminum flat rolled products. These investment projects began earlier this year and are expected to be completed in 2024.
“This is part of ongoing investments made at the Oswego facility, which allows us to not only sustain our existing business/operation, but also positions us for successful growth and innovation in the coming years,” explained Nelson. “The investment supports our ability to meet growing customer demand for sustainable aluminum flat rolled products. As interest in infinitely recyclable aluminum continues to grow, we are ready to grow with it.”
Novelis conducts regular testing and inspections of equipment, with scheduled maintenance windows to ensure equipment reliability and safe, efficient operation. This enables the company to know which equipment or operation may be in need of upgrades. This has the potential to increase performance and capacity output to help meet customer and market demands.
The new investment includes upgrades to Oswego’s hot reversing mill (Figure 2), including work on the motors and drive train. The team will replace the existing two 4,000 HP DC motors with two new 9,000 HP AC motors. “These upgrades will allow us to run products through the mill quicker, increasing the production capacity by 124,000 tonnes,” noted Nelson. “In addition, upgrading the drive train will improve reliability.”
With the increased capacity in the hot mill, additional downstream capacity will be needed. Therefore, another upgrade at the site involves the enhancement of batch annealing capabilities, which will be achieved by increasing the size of the cold mill building and adding three new batch annealing furnaces. This will enable the cold mill annealing process to keep pace with the increased capacity from the hot mill. There will also be additional space for coil storage.
Additional projects involve building a new coolant house, which will allow Oswego to increase the coolant capacity for its hot finishing mill, as well as modernizing various areas, such as constructing new energy-efficient locker rooms, upgrading the parking, etc. The building will also have new solar energy systems installed. These projects are inline with the company’s sustainability goal to reduce energy use by 10% by 2026.
As Novelis’ largest rolling and recycling facility in North America, Oswego is a key operation of the company’s business. With the planned investment and upgrades, the Oswego facility will continue to be a leading supplier of high quality aluminum sheet production to the automotive and other industries. This investment will also further strengthen the plant’s position for additional recycled aluminum inputs and increased recycled content across its product lines in the future.
“Novelis continues to work closely with its customers to determine how to maximize lightweight, high-strength aluminum with higher recycled content for diverse applications at the right cost to better compete against steel and other materials,” explained Nelson. “We have a number of the industry-leading technologists and engineers located right here in Oswego that innovate and collaborate to develop these solutions.”
In addition to investing in its operations, Novelis believes that, in moving toward a more sustainable future, it is equally important to invest in a diverse and inclusive workforce. The company plans to continue to support programs that strengthen recycling and environmental stewardship, overall health and safety, and STEM education, thus helping to build a pipeline of talent for the industry. “Novelis is driven by its purpose to ‘shape a sustainable world together,’ from how we operate within our company to how we partner with our stakeholders across the aluminum value chain and with the communities in which we live and work,” said Nelson. “None of this would be possible without our greatest asset — our people.”