Rio Tinto invests in the expansion of AP60 smelting cells

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Rio Tinto plans to invest USD87m to increase its low-carbon aluminium production in Canada with 16 new smelting cells using AP60 technology.

The investment in new AP60 smelting cells will increase production at the smelter in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec by around 45% or 26,500 tpy of primary aluminium. Total capacity of the melter will be 86,500 tpy, once the expansion is completed. Rio Tinto projects that the global aluminium market will grow at an average rate of 3.3% per year over the next decade with strong demand driven by the energy transition and decarbonization.

Investment in AP60 technology supports low-carbon production of aluminium

Rio Tinto Aluminium CEO Ivan Vella said: “Rio Tinto is committed to strengthening its position as a leader in low-carbon, hydro-powered aluminium production to meet the clear demand from our customers in North America and Europe. Our AP60 technology is one of the most energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective systems in commercial production today. It produces some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium with renewable hydropower here in Quebec. We are assessing options for further investments, as we progress development of the Elysis zero carbon smelting technology with our partners.”

Further expansion of AP60 smelting cells under consideration

The new pots will be built in the existing building of the Complexe Jonquière’s AP60 technology centre, which currently has 38 pots. Work will begin in the spring of 2022 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. At the same time, Rio Tinto will study the potential to add more AP60 cells at the site.

The AP60 technology was developed by Rio Tinto’s research and development teams, including the Arvida R&D Centre, and generates seven times less greenhouse gases than the industry average. Since their commissioning in Saguenay in 2013, the initial AP60 technology pots have produced more than 465,000 tonnes of aluminium.

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