Aluminum is the second most used metal in the world and its production is expected to continue to increase. According to the IEA, aluminum production is responsible for around 3% of direct industrial CO₂ emissions. This amounts to roughly 1% (275 Mt) of total global CO₂ emissions.
The majority of direct aluminum CO₂ emissions are due to the Hall-Heroult process where alumina is smelted into aluminum. In this process, carbon anodes are dissolved while electrolyzing alumina, releasing CO₂ into the atmosphere.
Aluminum producers are looking into ways to decarbonize smelting, which would be an important contribution in the reduction of humanity’s carbon emissions. One promising green smelting technology comes from a collaboration between Alcoa and Rio Tinto, two of the world’s largest producers of aluminum. In 2018 they announced Elysis — a technology for smelting alumina using inert, rather than carbon, anodes. Because the anodes are inert, pure oxygen is produced, instead of carbon dioxide.
In March of 2022, Apple claimed to have purchased carbon-free aluminum created using the Elysis process using hydropower. According to Rio Tinto’s press release “[w]ith the current development pathway, ELYSIS aims to have its technology available for installation from 2024 and the production of larger volumes of carbon-free aluminum approximately two years later.”
In addition to the difficulty of rolling out a new technology on such a wide scale scale (65 million tonnes of primary aluminum produced in 2020), this task is made more difficult by rising geopolitical tensions between China, the world's largest producer of primary aluminum, and the New World nations which are both large consumers of aluminum and the location where initiatives such as Alcoa and Rio Tinto's Elysis are based.
By January 1st, 2030, will >1% of global primary aluminum be produced by carbon free technology?
This question will resolve Yes if credible sources report that 1% of global primary aluminum production has been produced by inert anodes such as Alcoa’s ELYSIS, or a similar modification to the Hall-Heroult process that results in no production of CO₂ in the process of electrolyzing alumina.
Question credit to @not_an_oracle