Blockchain enables ‘digital filing cabinet’ for aluminium - Rio Tinto

Start, Rio Tinto’s new digital sustainability label, uses blockchain technology to encrypt key information about the company’s aluminium, functioning like a “digital filing cabinet,” vice president of sales marketing at Rio Tinto Aluminium Tolga Egrilmezer told Fastmarkets.

Egilmezer lauded the advantages of using blockchain for its Start label during Fastmarkets’ webinar “Empowering Consumers: The Future of Responsible Materials & Sustainability” on Wednesday February 3.

“We had looked into various options but with the secured encryption features, combined with flexibility that technology will provide, blockchain was a clear winner. It allows us the flexibility of the digital filing cabinet,” Egrilmezer said.

“Once you’re on it, you’ll be able to place a significant amount of information, such as provenance and sustainability, that will be at their use,” he added.

Speaking from a consumer perspective, Mark White, innovation director at DSW Automotive and an automotive industry consultant, agreed that blockchain is “essential” to trace aluminium’s carbon footprint.

“I think the blockchain technology is essential for us to be able to monitor that material regardless of where it is in the value chain from mining through raw materials into production and even toward end of life and recycling of the vehicle at the end of its life. And it’s really important as part of that to understand that CO2 equivalent per tonne,” White said. “If we are to make aluminium the choice for transport, we need these types of initiatives.”

Start will be rolled out to customers of Rio Tinto’s Canadian aluminium smelters in the coming months, and eventually to all of its aluminium customers, Egrilmezer said.

Demand for technology like blockchain to track aluminium’s carbon emission is just one facet of adding transparency to the market.

Fastmarkets has launched low-carbon aluminium P1020 and value-added product (VAP) differentials in Europe, with the first publication on Friday March 5. The launch comes after market participants throughout the supply chain demanded price discovery in the sector since demand for lower carbon aluminium has increased over the past year.

For instance, Glencore and Century Aluminum Co agreed a deal for the sale of 150,000 tonnes of low carbon Natur-Al brand aluminium to Austria-based Hammerer Aluminium Industries (HAI) on Thursday.

Fastmarkets’ low-carbon aluminium differentials aim to bring transparency into this aspect of the market. The differentials will track whether there is a premium, discount or zero difference for low-carbon units in Europe.

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