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Elysis Completes Construction of Industrial R&D Center in Canada

Elysis low carbon aluminum ingot

Elysis, the joint venture between Alcoa and Rio Tinto, completed the construction of its Industrial Research and Development Center in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Québec, Canada.

“We’re proud to have reached this milestone with completing the Industrial Research and Development Center, despite the challenges of 2020 with the global pandemic,” said Vincent Christ, CEO of Elysis. “Commissioning the center will be a significant step forward for Elysis in its journey towards the large-scale commercialization of its technology. We are seeing strong results on metal purity and electrode durability as we continue to develop the Elysis technology, and are extremely encouraged by the interest in the market.”

The proprietary technology being studied at the new R&D center essentially replaces carbon-based anodes (which produce CO2 and other harmful emissions) with proprietary materials that produce only oxygen as a byproduct. According to Elysis, this technology is capable of eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from the aluminum smelting process, thus producing oxygen instead. Able to be implemented on either new or old smelters, the technology is also expected to reduce operating costs while increasing production capacity.

Elysis successfully produced its first commercial batch of aluminum using this technology at the Alcoa Technical Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh, PA in late 2019. The first purchase of the aluminum was made by Apple, which is investing in the development of the new technology

Elysis continues to work closely with Alcoa and Rio Tinto’s technology teams. The team at the ATC provides support to Elysis, especially in the manufacture of proprietary materials that are used to produce the new, proprietary anodes essential to the carbon-free process. The Rio Tinto technology team is leading scientific research and the development of the commercial scale designs for the Elysis technology to be used in existing smelters and new smelters.

“It’s exciting to see Alcoa’s technology advance through this partnership, and I congratulate the team for reaching this milestone — they are carrying forward a spirit of innovation that aligns well with Alcoa’s history and our goal to advance sustainably,” noted Ben Kahrs, executive vice president of Alcoa.

The completion of the R&D facility is the next step towards ramping up the breakthrough technology to industrial scale. The new center will produce metal at a scale similar to smaller, industrial-sized smelting cells that are in operation by some producers today.

“We look forward to seeing the Elysis technology scaled up for commercial use here in Québec, where Rio Tinto already makes some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminum using clean hydropower,” said Alf Barrios, chief executive of Rio Tinto Aluminium. “Elysis is the next step to deliver zero carbon aluminum smelting for the industry and reduce the carbon footprint of items we use every day, from cars to smartphones and food and beverage packaging.”

Commissioning of the Industrial Research and Development Center, in a space leased at Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière, is now underway. The new, 25-member operations team at the center will complete technical training over the next few months, along with equipment tests and commissioning activities for the full start-up. Full-scale research and development work is expected to begin in the first half of 2021.

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