Constellium joins aluminium producers exploring hydrogen power to decarbonize operations

Aluminium producer and recycler Constellium announced on Tuesday March 12 that the company is moving to test hydrogen utilization at an industrial scale as a power source in its casthouses

Constellium said the move follows “successful laboratory-scale trials” at its main research and development (R&D) center C-TEC in France, where the company “was able to demonstrate that transitioning from natural gas to hydrogen has no adverse effects on energy efficiency, oxidation rate or product quality.”

Recycling and casting represent nearly 50% of Constellium’s direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the move to hydrogen utilization in its casthouses will mark a significant step in its commitment to decarbonize its operations, according to the company.

Constellium aims to reduce its emissions intensity by 30% in 2030 compared with 2021 levels.

“Green hydrogen is a promising lever to help the transition to carbon-neutral production,” Ludovic Piquier, Constellium’s senior vice president of Manufacturing Excellence and chief technical officer, said in a press release.

Constellium’s goal is to ensure that it is ready for the adoption of green hydrogen “when it becomes more accessible and cost-effective for industrial applications,” Piquier added.

To prepare for the industrial testing phase, C-TEC has equipped one of its furnaces with a burner capable of operating with oxygen and both natural gas and/or hydrogen; first results are expected by the third quarter of 2024, the company said.

Exploring hydrogen as an energy source

Constellium joins other aluminium producers exploring the utilization of hydrogen as a power source for their operations.

In November 2021, the UAE-headquartered Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) announced it was entering into a memorandum of understanding with GE Gas Power to “explore the use of hydrogen and hydrogen-blended fuels in EGA’s gas turbine fleet” to decarbonize the aluminium producer’s GHG footprint.

And in September 2022, EGA signed an agreement with UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to join the UAE Hydrogen Leadership Initiative.

In the same month, Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) started construction on its Power Station 5 (PS5) Block 4 Project that combines a cycle power plant with hydrogen-ready J-series gas turbine technology.

Alba expects construction to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Norway-based Hydro announced in June 2023 that it tested green hydrogen as a fuel for aluminium recycling at its extrusions plant in Navarra, Spain.

Also in June 2023, US-based Novelis announced that the company’s Latchford recycling plant in the UK would test the use of hydrogen on one of its recycling furnaces.

The share of low-carbon aluminium was less than 1% of the global aluminium market in 2022, but demand has been growing, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) report released last November.

Market participants in Europe has been willing to pay a premium for low-carbon units, with Fastmarkets’ aluminium low-carbon differential P1020A, Europe last assessed at $10-25 per tonne on March 1.

Launched in November, Fastmarkets’ aluminium low-carbon differential P1020A, US Midwest continues to be zero, trading on par with high-carbon units.

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