Via Metal Miner
Aluminum supply remains a major topic of discussion among metal buyers. Traditional smelting and metal manufacturing remain the most widely used metal manufacturing methods worldwide. However, “green” metal initiatives have witnessed growth in recent years. Recently, I interviewed representatives from Norsk Hydro, a recycled and green aluminum company based out of Norway, to gain insight into the company’s green aluminum initiatives.
Hydro exclusively produces green aluminum, and recently, I spoke with Hydro’s own Duncan Pitchford, the head of strategy and business development for Hydro North America and Mexico. The main point of discussion was a brand new plant Hydro opened on November 16 in Cassopolis, Michigan. Duncan explained to me the functions of this new U.S.-based facility and what type of semi-finished green aluminum products the Cassopolis plant produces. He also offered insight into where the green aluminum market is heading in 2024 and what type of technology Hydro utilizes in this new plant.
Introduction and Information About Cassopolis Plant
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for Hydro.
“I’m in the strategy and business development department for Hydro for the aluminum business unit in North America and in Mexico. I’ve been with Hydro five to ten years. I am responsible for placement of products from locale joint ventures.”
What is the primary function of this new facility?
“The production of aluminum billets and aluminum ingots. Hydro is currently the largest producer of recycled billet of aluminum. This new facility opens the doors for Hydro to expand to the aluminum extrusion market within the U.S. The market is rapidly growing, particularly in regards to automotive applications. This new facility, in particular, sells largely to the automotive industry.”
What makes this new plant unique?
“There is technology in this plant that is not present in many other Hydro facilities and aluminum smelting facilities, like low-pressure casting technology, for example. This technology Hydro developed which is unique to the aluminum industry. It allows us to produce more highly alloyed billets to serve the automotive market. The facility also has a laser-marking system, which is a huge QR code system that places a QR code on the final product so that customers can track where their material is coming from down to the individual billet.”
Low-Carbon Aluminum Supply Initiatives
Is this facility a low-carbon facility?
“Recycling-based production is already energy efficient compared to ordinary casting, using about 5% of the typical energy. We have also taken steps in the design process to lower carbon output. For example, we have a rail spur at this plant, so Hydro can take a lot of this material by rail rather than by truck. We’ve also electrified some of the equipment. So, yes, the overall carbon footprint is low. Also, being brand-new, this facility possesses the best technology in the market, even over other Hydro facilities.”
How is the green aluminum industry doing at the moment?
“Green aluminum is witnessing growth. In Europe, current policies angle toward green energy initiatives such as this. But, in the end, customers drive the transition.”
Are you seeing people looking for aluminum supply options outside of China?
“All of the shore trends are just that – trends. You witness a lot of geopolitical risk everywhere, especially in the past couple of years, and this impacts most global logistics. It also exposes supply chain fragility. However, manufacturers do look to bring sources of materials closer to their customers. So, yes, we see it in U.S., Canada, and Mexico. They also favor materials produced in the U.S.”
By Jennifer Kary
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