Rio Tinto to expand its AP60 low-carbon smelter in Quebec
Rio Tinto will invest USD1.1bn to expand its state-of-the-art AP60 aluminium smelter equipped with low-carbon technology at Complexe Jonquière in Canada.
This expansion, which will coincide with the gradual closure of potrooms at the Arvida smelter on the same site, will enable Rio Tinto to continue meeting customers’ demand for low-carbon, high-quality aluminium for use in transportation, construction, electrical and consumer goods. The total investment includes up to USD113m of financial support from the Quebec government.
Capacity increase of 160,000 tpy
The investment will add 96 new AP60 pots, increasing capacity by approximately 160,000 t of primary aluminium per year, enough for 400,000 electric cars. As a result, there will be a total of 134 AP60 pots and a capacity of 220,000 tpy. Construction will run over two and a half years, with commissioning of the new pots expected to start in the first half of 2026 and the smelter fully ramped up by the end of 2026. Once completed, the expanded smelter is expected to be in the first quartile of the industry cost curve.
This new capacity will offset the 170,000 t of capacity lost through the gradual closure of potrooms at the Arvida smelter from 2024. In addition, Rio Tinto will add 30,000 t of new capacity through the commissioning of the previously announced recycling facility at Arvida in the first quarter of 2025. These facilities will ensure Rio Tinto’s casting facilities at Complexe Jonquière continue to provide value added products that meet customers’ needs, including integrating recycled post-consumer aluminium into primary aluminium alloys.
AP60 smelting technology with lowest carbon emissions
The AP60 smelting technology was developed by Rio Tinto's R&D teams and is amongst the most efficient and lowest carbon technology currently available at commercial scale. When combined with the hydropower used at Rio Tinto’s operations in Canada, it generates one seventh of greenhouse gases per tonne of aluminium when compared with the industry average, and half the emissions when compared to the technology currently used at the Arvida smelter. In terms of numbers: the AP60 technology generates around 1.6t of CO2e/t of aluminium produced, compared to around 3.2t of CO2e/t of aluminium for the Arvida smelter’s current technology, and over 12t of CO2e/t of aluminium for the industry average.
The project will generate up to 1,000 jobs during the peak of construction and around 100 permanent jobs will be maintained as a result of the expanded smelter.
Rio's chief executive Jakob Stausholm said: “This investment is aligned with our strategy to decarbonise our value chains and grow in materials essential for the energy transition. Our AP60 technology is already proven and producing some of the lowest carbon aluminium in the world, thanks to the expertise of our highly qualified workforce and access to renewable hydropower. This is the most significant investment in our aluminium business for more than a decade and it will further strengthen Rio Tinto’s high-quality and low-carbon offering to our customers as they also work to reduce their own carbon footprint.”
Elysis zero carbon smelting technology available in 2024
“We are also continuing to work together on the future implementation of the Elysis zero carbon smelting technology at our Quebec facilities,” he continued.
Rio Tinto is working with the Governments of Canada and Quebec towards a deployment of the Elysis zero carbon aluminium smelting technology at its Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean facilities. With the current development pathway, Elysis aims to have its technology available for installation from 2024 and the production of larger volumes of carbon-free aluminium approximately two years later.
Rio Tinto and the Government of Canada have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding that deepens their commitment to strengthen supply chains for low-carbon primary metals, critical minerals and other value-added products. The cooperation will also aim to support projects that have the potential to grow Rio Tinto’s activities in Canada, including the current and future decarbonisation of the aluminium supply chain.
Investment in state-of-the-art equipment for processing large-scale aviation components
Hydro is to deliver recycled, low-carbon aluminium extrusions for the coming commercial e-vehicle with the UK start-up company Watt Electric Vehicles (WEVC).
High aluminium purity thanks to the use of state-of-the-art sorting systems