Aluminum Production in the Times of Climate Change: The Global Challenge to Reduce the Carbon Footprint and Prevent Carbon Leakage
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This paper addresses the global challenge of greenhouse gas emissions facing the aluminum industry. The demand, production and use of aluminum are increasing and so are the emissions. From bauxite mine to aluminum ingot, the total global average emissions vary somewhat in the literature, but most reported values are now between 12 and 17 metric tonnes of CO2-equivalents per tonne of aluminum, depending on the various estimates and assumptions made. Two-thirds of these gases are emitted because the electricity used for electrolysis is produced from fossil fuel sources, mainly coal but also natural gas. Reduction of these emissions is now the main environmental challenge for the aluminum industry. Globally, the best result is obtained by maximizing aluminum production using green electrical energy from renewable sources. Aluminum production is categorized as an activity at very high risk of carbon leakage, which occurs when there is an increase in carbon dioxide emissions by new production in one country as a result of ceased production with emissions reduction in a second country with a strict climate policy.
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