Elysis, the joint venture between Rio Tinto and Alcoa, marked the start of construction on its Research and Development Center in Saguenay, Canada, where the company will develop and commercialize its inert-anode smelting technology — which is said to be able to eliminate all direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the aluminum smelting process. Representatives from the governments of Québec and Canada and senior leaders from Elysis, Alcoa, and Rio Tinto attended the event.
“The launch of construction for the Elysis Research and Development Center marks a significant step towards bringing this technology to the market by 2024,” said Vincent Christ, CEO of Elysis. “We are looking forward to the work that will take place in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, a region internationally recognized for its expertise and know-how.”
The CA$50 million facility will be located within Rio Tinto’s Jonquière Complex, the site of the Arvida smelter, Vaudreuil refinery, and Arvida Research and Development Centre. It will employ 25 technical experts who will work toward the development of a new revolutionary process to make aluminum.
“The Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region is known for the exceptional leadership and expertise of its local businesses, especially those in the aluminum industry,” stated Andrée Laforest, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and mMinister Responsible for the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Region. “It is therefore with great pride that our government, in its role as an Elysis project partner, salutes the construction of this research center, through which we will continue to demonstrate the extent of our talent and ability to innovate in the field of primary aluminum production.”
The Elysis™ technology, supported in its development by Apple, essentially replaces carbon-based anodes (which produce CO2 and other harmful emissions) with proprietary inert anodes that produce only oxygen as a byproduct.
Elysis will continue to work closely with the Rio Tinto technology design team in France and Alcoa’s Technical Center (ATC), near Pittsburgh, PA, in the United States, where this patented technology was invented by Alcoa, where the company has been producing research-scale metal since 2009. The ATC will provide support to Elysis for the materials used to manufacture proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the process. The Rio Tinto team in France will create commercial-scale designs for the technology so it can be retrofitted into existing smelters or used for new ones. Elysis has the exclusive right to sell the materials used in manufacturing the new generation anodes and cathodes, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
“The work being done to further develop this breakthrough technology here in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean is at the forefront of the global aluminium industry,” said Gervais Jacques, managing director Atlantic Operations, Rio Tinto Aluminium. “It can help to drive the global transition to a low-carbon economy, create significant value and allow customers to meet the growing consumer demand for responsible products.”
The Elysis technology is disruptive process will eliminate all direct GHG emissions from the traditional aluminum process, and instead emit pure oxygen. The technology has the potential to considerably reduce the environmental footprint of the global aluminum industry. In Canada alone, it has the potential to reduce annual GHG emissions by 7 million tons, equivalent to removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
“Elysis is a source of great pride for all Alcoa employees,” said Jean-François Cyr, president, Alcoa Canada, and vice president, Operations – Americas, Alcoa Aluminum. “We look forward to seeing the technology reach the market and today’s announcement is an important step to further strengthen the sustainable value chain of the Quebec aluminum industry.”
The Elysis Research and Development Center is expected to be fully operational in the second half of 2020.