Apple and Partners Invest $144 Million in Carbon-Free Aluminum Smelting

Carbon-Free Aluminum Smelting

(Photo: The new aluminum production method releases oxygen during the smelting process. Credit: Apple)

by | May 14, 2018

Carbon-Free Aluminum Smelting

(Photo: The new aluminum production method releases oxygen during the smelting process. Credit: Apple)

Apple along with major metals companies Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminum as well as the governments of Canada and Quebec announced that they are collectively investing $144 million to eliminate greenhouse gases from the aluminum smelting process.

The tech giant uses a lot of aluminum in its products, and the material has key environmental advantages for the company, including recyclability. Back in 2011, aluminum cases helped Apple surpass its recycling goals. Last year Apple reported diverting 71% of its waste from landfills through recycling and composting efforts.

One of the challenges for Apple and other manufacturers is that traditional aluminum smelting used for more than 130 years relies on a carbon material that burns during the process, producing greenhouse gases, the company says.

When Apple engineers Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko, and Katie Sassaman sought a better, cleaner way to produce aluminum, they learned about a new process being developed at Alcoa Corporation that replaces that carbon with an advanced conductive material, releasing oxygen instead of carbon dioxide, according to Apple.

Subsequently, Alcoa, and Rio Tinto formed a joint venture called Elysis to develop the smelting technology for larger-scale production and commercialization. Apple put in $10 million and is offering technical support but won’t have a stake in the venture, Fortune’s David Meyer reported.

“The Canadian and Quebec government are each investing $47 million, and Alcoa and Rio Tinto are together putting in $43 million, together with intellectual property,” he wrote. “Quebec will get a 3.5% equity stake, and Alcoa and Rio Tinto will evenly split the rest.”

As Meyer pointed out, the announcement comes at a time when the Trump administration is still considering imposing tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel. The new technology is expected to be ready for licensing to retrofit smelters or build new facilities by 2024, PhysOrg reported.

“If fully developed and implemented, this new method has the potential to eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process around the world, strengthening the closely integrated Canada-United States aluminum and manufacturing industries,” Apple’s statement read.

Getting It Done: Mentioned in This Article…


Alcoa Corporation

Rio Tinto Aluminum

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