Primary aluminium producer Emirates Global Aluminium, United Arab Emirates, announced on 18th March that it recycled over 96,000 tonnes of waste in 2017, up 25% compared with 2016 figures. The volume of waste that EGA recycled in 2017 is the result of reduced stockpiles from previous years for which the company has found economically viable solutions. The date of announcement was well chosen: the 18th of March is the first Global Recycling Day which is being marked worldwide to encourage the economic re-use of waste.
Salman Abdulla, EGA’s executive vice-president of Health, Safety, Security, Environment, Quality and Business Transformation, said: “At EGA our long term aspiration is that everything we produce can ultimately be a product with an economic use. We just have to work with other industries to find those uses. Economists call this system, where one industry’s by-products become another industry’s feedstock, the ‘circular economy’. This is clearly the right thing to do for business and the planet.”
EGA’s smelting operations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai produce several by-product streams for which the company has made significant progress in finding economic re-uses, particularly with the cement industry.
Spent Pot Lining (SPL), the used inner lining of the pots in which aluminium is smelted, is a useful source of fuel and refractory materials for the cement industry. EGA supplied almost twice as much SPL to UAE cement plants in 2017 than it produced.
Carbon dust is produced during the manufacture of carbon anodes, large carbon blocks which are suspended in each pot and are consumed during the smelting process. Carbon dust can be used as an alternative fuel in the cement industry. EGA recycled most of the carbon dust from its Jebel Ali smelter in 2017 and is seeking similar solutions for carbon dust from its Al Taweelah smelter.
EGA is currently building an alumina refinery at Al Taweelah, which will be the first in the UAE and only the second in the Middle East. A by-product of alumina refining is bauxite residue.
Although academic research has been conducted for decades on potential uses, most bauxite residue produced worldwide is still stored indefinitely as waste. Industry experts estimate that at least 150 million tonnes of bauxite residue are produced worldwide each year. It is thought that less than 2% of this is currently put to productive use.
EGA is currently working on research projects on the potential re-use of bauxite residue. These include a project with The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences to investigate combining bauxite residue with agricultural and domestic wastes to create a soil for greening and other uses in the UAE, and work the European research and technology organisation Vito to assess the viability of using bauxite residue, an industrial by-product, in large volume construction materials.
While new productive uses are being developed, EGA will operate a dedicated bauxite residue storage site in line with current world-class best practice, about 30 kilometres inland from the coast in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi.