UC RUSAL Sustainability report 2015


Research and technological development

Approach

The strategic goal of UC RUSAL is to become the world’s most effective and ecologically clean aluminium producer. In order to achieve this goal the Company invests in developing its own engineering and technological base, innovative solutions and products, as well as modernizing its enterprises. These investments contribute to:

·         increasing the share of high-value-added products (HVP);

·         improving the quality of manufactured products;

·         improving the energy efficiency of production;

·         improving the environmental safety of production.

Engineering and Technology Centre (ETC) is the principle subdivision within RUSAL which specializes in the research and technological development of the Company. The Engineering and Technology Centre is responsible for research and development (R&D) and the successful development and introduction of new technologies. The Centre is a member of the Skolkovo Fund. The two design institutes are responsible for the construction and modernisation of facilities. The construction of the KhAZ and BoAZ aluminium smelters using proprietary technologies of UC RUSAL is an example of this type of successful, full-cycle innovation.

The ETC cooperates with the leading Russian and foreign core higher education and research institutions, which helps to develop new approaches and technologies for production processes and equipment improvement. In 2015 the number of higher education institutions RUSAL had partnered with reached 28. New partners of the Centre include the following:

·         Saint-Petersburg Mining University,

·         The Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

·         N.E. Bauman Moscow State Technical University,

·         Research and Engineering Corporation "Mekhanobr-tekhnika" (manufacturer of fundamentally new crushing and screening and mineral processing equipment), etc.

A number of R&D projects are implemented using co-financing from the Russian Government. In 2015 UC RUSAL obtained assistance for its projects totaling an amount of more than RUB 1.2 billion in the form of subsides, grants and preferential loans from the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia. G4-ЕС4

The ETC implemented 492 R&D projects between the period 2002 - 2015, 81% of which were successfully implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

The Company managed to accomplish the majority of its R&D projects and production modernization targets which were planned for 2015.

Results of R&D: major projects

R&D projects contribute not only to improving the efficiency of production, but also to a more rational and effective use of natural resources, increases in the yield of useful products and improvements in the quality of metals and alloys. Many projects have a positive environmental impact.

Production of aluminium

Electrolysis cell with inert anodes

One of the branch-specific objectives in aluminium production through electrolysis is the creation of new materials, technologies and designs. UC RUSALs main innovation project to date, which is unprecedented in its positive environmental impact, is the production of aluminium using an inert anode.

Under the conventional technology (Soderberg technology which appeared more than 100 years ago), electrolysis cells with carbon anodes are used to produce aluminium, which leads to the emission of carbon dioxide, tarry and poly-aromatic substances into the atmosphere. Moreover, the production of raw materials for anode paste (coke, pitch) and of the anodes themselves comes with certain emissions.

When producing aluminium using inert anodes that do not require carbon-based materials, the by-product is oxygen, not carbon dioxide. This completely eliminates emissions of greenhouse gases and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons. Besides, an inert anode is consumed much more slowly than a carbon anode, and only needs to be replaced once per year on average, which significantly reduces materials consumption and operating costs (the cost of carbon anodes is about 16% of the aluminium cost).

Project status

Laboratory testing was successfully completed in 2014 and the Company put a trial unit into production at its KrAZ smelter. In 2015 the Company initiated commercial testing of the inert anode technology on one electrolysis cell, selected optimal process parameters and made preparations for the next stage of optimization.

Line of aluminium alloys were developed which can be produced with the use of inert anodes, characterized by improved mechanical and performance properties. Together with its customers the Company conducted early research and testing of its unique "green" aluminium.

Commercial testing will continue up to 2017, and, if successful, UC RUSAL intends to convert its new production facilities to inert anode technology (replacing the EcoSoderberg technology).

EcoSoderberg

Along with the testing of new technology, the Company carries out the second stage of modernization in aluminium smelters, where a new technology "Ecological Soderberg" (modification of the conventional technology for aluminium production) is introduced.

This modernization project was initiated at KrAZ in 2015. It is expected to convert 1,510 electrolysis cells over to the new EcoSoderberg technology, thus reducing the total emissions of gaseous compounds to 2,806 tons per year. During the first year of the project, 339 electrolysis bathes were modernized, emissions were reduced to 313 tons and energy consumption lowered to ~ 100 kWh per tonne of aluminum as compared to 2014. Thus an additional 2.7 thousand tonnes of aluminum was produced by reducing the level of metal in electrolysis cells.

The next stage will be the conversion to EcoSoderberg technology of electrolysis cells at BrAZ, NkAZ and IrkAZ. BrAZ has already initiated the project as part of its implementation within the one building, NkAZ and IrkAZ have initiated works at test sites. Modernization of 298 electrolysis cells at KrAz and 19 electrolysis cells at BrAZ are scheduled for 2016 году. In the future, this technology will be implemented on all of the equipment of these enterprises.

High-amperage cells

Design studies and site preparation for testing of one of the most powerful electrolysis cells, PA-550 were completed. SAZ scheduled its launch for 2016. According to estimates, performance of the new equipment will improve when compared to the previous versions of electrolysis cells by 50-80% (up to four tonnes of metal per 24 hours). New technical solutions for the elimination of gases from electrolysis cells will contribute to greater ecological effectiveness and will reduce waste during capital repairs by more than 30%. The technology will be implemented initially at the Sayanogorsk and Krasnoyarsk plants.

Waste

The Company continues to test the processing technology for red mudthe waste product of alumina production which contains valuable metal oxides, including scandium oxide. Use of this technology will eliminate the need for its expensive disposal, which has a negative impact on the environment due to the high alkaline content. Adding scandium to aluminium helps to create a material with unique properties (light, malleable and as durable as steel).

In 2015 the first high margin batch of scandium oxide separated from mud was obtained at UAZ (pilot production started here). The improved technology of scandium oxide concentrate production facilitates the extraction of the useful component from 11% up to 25%, increasing the content of scandium oxide in the concentrate - from 0.5% up to 43%. The pilot production site managed to increase its production capacity from 52 up to 100 kg per year.

Products

The development of projects and products from aluminium-scandium alloys have a great future due to the attractive properties of materials for potential consumers. The Company implements two key projects in this area.

One of these involves the production of such alloys for application in the field of electronics.

The second one is accomplished with the support of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia – the contract has been signed to finance the project for production of aluminium-scandium ligatures[20]. Currently, testing of the technology is carried out to produce ligatures for the manufacture of pilot batches of high-strength and corrosion-resistant alloys. Such materials can be used in the automobile, aviation and shipbuilding industries. The alloys will be tested in cooperation with potential overseas and Russian consumers.

Materials and processes

Alumina production

The new technology required for the production of alumina from non-bauxite ores is developed in Siberia. During the course of engineering works held in 2015 a large laboratory facility was developed to obtain a complete cycle of metallurgical quality alumina. The project opens possibilities to the development of large Siberian ore reserves. A team partnering with leading Russian universities has been created for the testing and development of this technology.

Ecofriendly coal pitch

The new technology for producing an ecofriendly carbon pitch for manufacturing carbon and anode electrodes reduces the impact of aluminium production on the environment. The content of benzopyrene in carbon pitch is 2-3 times lower than in coal-mining technology, which is conventionally used for electrodes production. Carbon pitch is expected to replace the deficient coal tar pitch thus increasing the efficiency of production.

Ore beneficiation

The new method of beneficiation for low-metal content Goryachegorsk ore proved to be technologically and economically feasible. When using the new method, the concentrate output exceedsed75% and, according to the content of useful components, its quality is superior to the quality of the Achinsk Alumina Refinery ore extracted at the Kiya-Shaltyr mine.

Equipment

Cooling apparatus

The new apparatus is intended to cool up to 60% aluminate liquor (process for producing aluminium hydroxide, which determines the quality of alumina). The cooling apparatus was placed into operation at the Achinsk Alumina Refinery. Due to the implemented technical solutions and fuel and steam economy, the estimated annual effect from the introduction of the new equipment is expected to amount to approximately RUB 6 million.

New filters

The production prototype filter unit has passed testing with the specific capacity twice as high as the performance of standard equipment. Its application will eliminate the need to purchase foreign-made filters and will reduce the specific consumption of soda ash by 0.25 kg per tonne. The economic effect of the cost reduction will be about RUB 2.8 million per year.

Modeling

The world’s first computer model in SysCAD has been made for alumina production technology at UAZ. The factory obtained a reliable functional tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing production process and the development of improvements.

Modernization and Development

Increasing the share of high-value-added products (HVP) in the production structure is one of the top strategic priorities of the Company. UC RUSAL thoroughly examines market demands and adapts the products to customers' needs. The modernization process also helps to provide energy efficiency and environmental safety improvements.

The Company continues to develop projects aimed at the expansion, reconstruction and modernization of six aluminium smelters, as well as increases in the production of the released products.

The main purposes of the modernization projects include:

·         increasing the volume of released products;

·         increasing the share of high-value-added products (HVP);

·         reducing production costs;

·         ecological efficiency.

 

 

Increasing HVP output to 55% by 2020 is one of the Companys overriding priorities.

Increase in the output of high-value-added products, %

Indicators

2013

2014

2015

HVP output

42

44

45

 

Main Projects

Aluminium smelters

One of the Company’s key projects includes construction of the new large foundry complex at KrAZ and the new horizontal continuous casting complex at KhAZ, both of which will be equipped with modern systems of metal control, degassing and filtration. See also the tables below "Examples of modernization projects". Additional information on the modernization of certain projects is given in the sections "Environmental protection" and "Occupational Health and Safety".

Aluminium powder and paste

The modernization of the Shelekhov Powder Metallurgy plant was completed in 2014. Powder output has increased from 8 up to 15 grades and the approximate output of modern powders is 85–120 tonnes per month. Two modern mixers were installed in 2015, which enables an increase in the production of aluminium powders by 1,200 t per year.

Modernization of aluminium powder production at BrAZ is underway: modern mixer and grinding machines have been installed. The new equipment will allow the production of popular grades of aluminium powders to be increased.

New types of aluminium powders are used as part of the process to produce autoclaved aerated concrete, whose consumption market in Russia and the CIS countries is the fastest growing in the world.

Foil production

The new 15 MW gas reciprocating unit has been constructed at Urals Foil. During cold season 2015–2016 the factory’s own thermal energy was enough to heat itself, thus reducing the cost of the technological process. In December 2015, the unit’s power generation value reached 4.6 thousand MWh. Part of the commissioning work is scheduled for completion in 2016.

During 2015 a total of 67 projects were being implemented, aimed at the expansion, reconstruction and modernisation of UC RUSAL enterprises.

Examples of modernization projects

Project

Plant

Results / Targets

Release of metallurgical products

Release of high-value-added products

 

Organization of prebaked wire rod production ACE (completed in 2015)

IrkAZ

The products obtained have valuable properties for production of electrical products; volume – 3,000 tonnes / year.

Modernization of Brosho-2 Line (completed in 2015)

KhAZ

Increased output of high-quality casting alloys in the form of small-size pigs by 82 thousand tonnes / year.

Properzi complex for horizontal continuous casting of automotive alloys (project completion in 2016)

KhAZ

Increased production volume of 10-kilogram bars made of automotive alloys.

Such type of products was never produced by the Company. Its main customer will be automotive industry, including the production of cast wheels.

Production increase

 

Modernization of casting plant No. 2 for the line of cutting, packaging and marking of sheet ingots (completed in 2015)

SAZ

Increased production volume of sheet ingots of alloys to 120 thousand tonnes / year.

Acquisition of HYCAST casting tooling

SAZ

Additionally produced 15 thousand tonnes of extrusion billets of alloys.

Organization of large diameter cylindrical homogenized ingots of manufacture (the beginning of the project)

KrAZ

120 thousand tonnes per year pf products produced, which are in demand at Eurasian and American markets.

Alumina production

Projects on alumina production increase (project completion in 2016)

BAZ, UAZ, NGZ

Volumes of alumina production will be increased.

Examples of projects with environmental and energy efficiency components

Energy efficiency improvement projects

Conversion of enterprises into a unified anode block

SAZ, KhAZ (projects are completed)

IrkAZ, KrAZ (completion of projects in 2016)

Specific energy consumption is reduced:

at SAZ- by 69 kWh / t,

at KhAZ – by 76 kWh / t.

 

Projects with ecological component

Expansion of the pilot area РА-167 (project continues).

In 2015 five electrolysis cells were replaced from С-3 for electrolytic cells with annealed anodes РА-167.

NkAZ

Reduced industrial emissions into the atmosphere.

Increased metal production by 305 kg per day bath.

Plans for 2016

In 2016 the Company intends to continue working on the modernization and development of the above projects.

·         Continuation of the projects on Properzi line installation at KhAZ and organization of production of extrusion billets at KrAZ.

·         Implementation of projects at IrkAZ on increase of casting alloys production and their quality improvement. The automated technological process control system of homogenizing furnaces at SAZ will be modernized, and as a result the production of extrusion ingots will increase. Rod tempering furnaces will be installed at the Kandalaksha Aluminium Smelter, which will expand the range of products released.

·         The enterprises of the Packaging Division intend to replace their old equipment in order to increase capacities for production of foil and improve product quality. 14 annealing furnaces (SAYANAL – 10 furnaces, Uralsk Foil – 1 furnace, ARMENAL – 3 furnaces) will be installed. Modernization of foil production at SAYANAL will continue with installation of new rolling mills.

·         The enterprises of Shelekhov Powder Metallurgy plan to install the new equipment for 3D printing powders production in 2016.