Aluminium industry at the doorstep of tech revolution
Dec 4, 2012, 07.49AM IST TNN[ Snehlata Shrivastav ]
NAGPUR: Aluminium industry in the world is set to undergo a revolution. The industry can now hope for much cheaper and environment friendly technology. Orbite Aluminae Incorporated (OLI), a private company in Canada, has developed a new process of alumina production. Instead of using bauxite, the conventional ore for aluminium, the new process uses aluminous clay or clay rich in alumina and silica to produce extremely pure alumina that is then converted into aluminium.
It is first of its kind technology which may replace the 125-year-old 'Bayer's process' used to produce alumina. The process is a result of almost 12 years of research and has yielded good results on pilot scale. OLI has already patented the process in USA, China and a few other countries. OLI's director sales and marketing, Antoine Charbonneau, told TOI that a one tonne per day plant will start production in January 2013 at Quebec. The company has a market cap of 200 million dollars. The technology will also raise the status of Canadian industry which is already the third largest producer of aluminium in the world. This alumina will largely be used in LEDs equipment market, he said.
"The process is not just economically viable, but the cheapest one so far for alumina production. Interestingly, we won't produce alumina from just clay. The process can be used for alumina production from bauxite, red mud and fly ash in an environmentally responsible way without generating any waste and pollutant," said Charbonneau. The process also generates various rare earth elements. OLI has its own bauxite deposits and clay is available in plenty.
Charbonneau is in city for the three-day international symposium on Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium Industry of Asia being organized jointly the International Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium Society (IBAAS) and Jawaharlal Nehru Research Development and Design Centre (JNARDDC). Charbonneau says that OLI's vision is to change the face of alumina industry by building several high purity alumina (HPA) plants across North America.
OLI has signed an MOU with Russian company Rusal. The National Aluminium Company (Nalco) is in the process of negotiating transfer of technology. Canada will also start producing smelter grade alumina by 2015. Ten smelter grade alumina (SGA) plants will be serving Quebec alone. The company will also be licensing the technology to remediate red mud- the largest and most dangerous pollutant generated by aluminium industry.