Alcoa's development of its ASTRAEA metal scrap purification process will allow the primary aluminum producer to consider increasing its stake in the growing secondary aluminum market, CFO William Oplinger said Dec. 1.
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"The demand for primary [aluminum] continues to grow over the next decade, but given the fact that aluminum is infinitely recyclable, the supply of secondary [aluminum] continues to grow and the demand for secondary will actually grow at a faster rate than the demand for primary over the next ten years," Oplinger said during a presentation at Citi's Basic Materials Conference.
"What that means for us is that we have spent a lot of time looking at how Alcoa plays in the secondary market."
Oplinger said Alcoa already uses some volumes of higher-value post-industrial aluminum scrap at certain smelting and casthouse locations across its global operations. However, the ASTRAEA technology could increase the company's involvement in the post-consumer scrap market, he added.
Post-consumer aluminum scrap, such as zorba auto shred, typically represents lower-grade material with high levels of impurities that can only be used for certain applications. If successfully developed, ASTRAEA would be the first process that can sort and purify post-consumer scrap into a high-purity aluminum products.
"We're working with some of the best sorting companies in the world to be able to sort the scrap out and then put it into the ASTRAEA process," Oplinger said. "ASTRAEA is still an R&D project that will need to be ramped up over time and prove out the economics, but that would be Alcoa's ability to play successfully in the recycled scrap market."
Pittsburgh-based Alcoa has previously said that ASTRAEA may be capable of yielding P0101 grade aluminum, which is more pure than typical P1020 commodity-grade primary aluminum.