Aughinish Alumina exploring use of hydrogen in sustainability efforts

Rusal-owned Aughinish Alumina.

ONE OF Limerick’s most energy-intensive manufacturing plants, producing about two per cent of the country’s carbon emissions, is understood to be looking at ways to go green.

It has been reported that Foynes’ Aughinish Alumina is looking at ways to become more environmentally friendly by using hydrogen and industrial heat pumps to decarbonise its operation.

According to the Business Post, the Russian-owned plant is engaging with the government to develop solutions for its gas-generated high-heat operations at the County Limerick plant, and it is understood that electric heat pumps and the use of hydrogen energy is being considered.

It is understood that Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) chief executive Willie Walsh, and Michael O’Toole, the community affairs manager with Aughinish Alumina, have all confirmed that the plant is seeking to reduce its carbon emissions.

Aughinish’s refinery in Foynes uses high-heat gas processing to turn bauxite soil into while alumina powder. This powder then goes to smelters in other regions where it is used to make aluminium metal.

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Willie Walsh, SEAI chief executive, said that the Aughinish plant is one of the most energy-intensive in the country and that the SEAI is working with the company in an attempt to reduce its carbon emissions.

“One of the biggest energy users in the country is Aughinish Alumina. At the moment they use a huge amount of gas, but they are looking at (heat pumps) now, which shows you how much improvement has been made in the technology and how high-heat intensity is starting to be addressed by heat pumps,” Mr Walsh told the Business Post.

“We are working with them to support that examination. If we can reduce emissions there, we will. About two per cent of the country’s emission come from there. They could be an exemplar, and people will say: ‘If they can do it, we can do it too’.”

Aughinish’s Michael O’Toole said that the plant had already implemented some new sustainability measures.

“Our electric boiler has been installed and we have already used it to generate zero carbon heat for a portion of our process,” he said.

“Aughinish continue to pursue electrification possibilities as part of our continuous decarbonisation improvement which includes electric heat pumps.

“As Aughinish continue our decarbonisation journey we examine all potential options, including hydrogen.”