American aluminium pioneer Alcoa Corporation opened a new processing facility in Brazil earlier this month that utilizes water and land conservation techniques it originally mastered at its operations in Australia.
The new Poços de Caldas alumina refinery utilizes press filtration technology to reprocess bauxite residue generated at the plant, saving the plant from the necessity of storing the hazardous residue in massive storage ponds at the site.
The press filtration system, which is Brazil’s first such operation, pumps the residue into a filter where it is compacted. The compaction removes about 70 percent of the water in the mix, which is returned to the plant for reuse in the refining process. The compacted dry waste is taken from the site by truck to a dry disposal area elsewhere.
Fabio Martins, Poços Plant manager, elaborated upon the new technology in a related press release.
“We’re so proud of our team and the work to achieve our corporate vision to reinvent the aluminum industry for a more sustainable future. As we bring this technology online, we’re marking a new era of innovation and sustainability for Alcoa in Brazil. In addition to the innovation in the process, the installation of the filtration plant will reduce carbon emissions, due to the lower use of disposal area, lower water accumulation and, consequently, lower energy consumption in the process.”
The process newly instituted in Brazil was first pioneered at the Kwinana and Pinjarra refineries in Western Australia. Between the two facilities, the process has cut freshwater use by 581 million gallons per year, or roughly the equivalent of 880 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Ultimately, Alcoa’s goal is to reduce bauxite residue land storage by 15 percent by the end of the decade. The firm hopes to utilize such technology in combination with other residue filtration technology and solar drying techniques.