Renewables for industryProject Mechanical Vapour Recompression for Low Carbon Alumina Refining
This report was commissioned by ARENA to summarise the MVR Evaporation Feasibility Study and the MVR Retrofit and Commercialisation Report, which were originally prepared by Alcoa.
Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of alumina, and a key player in the global alumina refining industry, contributing to 15 per cent of the industry’s capacity. The country is also the world’s largest producer of bauxite ore — the naturally occurring ore that is responsible for producing alumina when refined. However, alumina refining is highly energy and emissions intensive as it relies heavily on generating steam from fossil fuels to provide the necessary process heat. Around 70 per cent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in alumina refining come from producing steam for heating in the Bayer process — the industrial process in which bauxite ore is refined to produce alumina. In 2021, alumina refining accounted for 14.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in Australia,1 representing almost a quarter of the country’s direct manufacturing emissions. It is estimated that displacing fossil-fuelled steam production with a renewable energy source would reduce alumina industry GHG emissions by approximately 10 Mt CO2-e per annum (p.a.).