Primary aluminum production’s carbon footprint has declined 19 percent since 2005 and 37 percent since 1995, according to a peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment (LCA) report released by the Aluminum Association.
The study covers all life cycle impacts from aluminum production through semi-fabrication and finds improvements in sustainable production in the US and Canada.
According to the report, the energy needed to produce a single metric ton of primary (new) aluminum has declined 11 percent since 2005 and 26 percent since 1995.
Additionally, a voluntary effort undertaken by the industry in the early 1990s with the EPA has reduced emissions of perfluorocarbons (PFC), a greenhouse gas, by about 85 percent.
Technological advances in the aluminum production process are the primary drivers of the environmental improvements realized by the industry. These advances include:
- The increased use of computerized process controls to lower electric power usage needed to produce primary aluminum;
- The gradual phase-out of older facilities relying on more energy-intensive production processes;
- The expanded use of renewable hydroelectric power sources for aluminum production, which has risen from 63 percent in 1995 to 75 percent today.
The LCA study reviewed the 2010 production year and incorporates data from 25 companies, representing 95 percent of primary metal production and the majority of the industry in the US and Canada. A third-party expert on life-cycle assessment reviewed the report to ensure conformance with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards.
Last month aluminum rolling and recycling company Novelis said it will invest $205 million to further expand its global manufacturing operations serving the rapidly growing automotive market.