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Alcoa patents zorba upgrade technique

Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer Alcoa Corp. says its new, patented Astraea metal purification process has been developed to convert shredded aluminum scrap into high-purity aluminum. “The process could create an entirely new value chain to economically produce aluminum of a quality that far exceeds the purity of the commercial-grade aluminum produced in a smelter,” the company says.

Alcoa says the Astraea process can “purify any postconsumer aluminum scrap into a purity level of P0101, surpassing the purity of P1020 aluminum that is produced at any commercial smelter.” The company says there is “a vast supply of aluminum scrap that can only be used for limited applications due its combination of impurities,” citing the shredded zorba grade as an example.

The P1020 designation represents aluminum that is 0.1 percent silicon and 0.2 percent iron, Alcoa says. With few exceptions, most smelters have the technical capability to produce up to P0404, depending on how they deploy technology. The market has two currently available solutions that can translate P0610 or P1020 into higher grades, according to the company.

However, Alcoa says its Astraea process “would build a robust solution that could take any postconsumer aluminum scrap, regardless of alloy combination, and beneficiate it up to P0101. This super-pure metal could then be blended with less-pure scrap to produce a metal that meets purity thresholds, vastly improving the supply of postconsumer scrap that can be used as a raw material. The purity would be high enough for most rolling mill and extrusion applications, including applications in aerospace.”

Regarding zorba, Alcoa states, because “the industry is unable to remove trace metals from this scrap, much of this metal is used to make engine blocks for gas-powered cars, which can tolerate less-pure scrap as a raw material. However, that market is slowly diminishing due to the growth of electric vehicles, which require higher purity aluminum for engines and other componentry.”

The aluminum company continues, “Today, there are no commercially available processes to [upgrade zorba] to the suitable purity for most rolling or extrusion applications. Alcoa’s Astraea process is the first and only technology that can purify this low-value scrap.”

Alcoa says zorba produced in the U.S. “often is shipped to Asia in vast quantities. The U.S. alone produces approximately 4 million tons of zorba annually, approximately 1.3 million tons of which is shipped to Asia.”

Alcoa cites a carbon emissions reduction tie-in for adopting Astraea. “According to the International Aluminium Institute, the industry needs to increase postconsumer scrap recycling by 55 percent over 2018 levels by 2030 to achieve industry decarbonization goals for the 1.5-degree scenario outlined in the Paris Agreement. Alcoa’s patented technology could help achieve those scrap recycling targets.”

Astraea was one of three concepts Alcoa introduced Nov. 9, 2021, during a virtual Investor Day technology road map presentation. The company’s road map includes the Refinery of the Future, which aims to reduce the capital cost of developing a refinery and enable decarbonization of the alumina refining process, and its Elysis joint venture technology that eliminates greenhouse gases from the smelting process by using next-generation electrode design and proprietary materials first developed at the Alcoa Technical Center.

“Our technology road map represents an array of next-generation solutions that could significantly reduce emissions across the upstream value chain and concurrently generate significant stockholder value,” says Alcoa President and CEO Roy Harvey in a news release about the company’s technology road map.

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AMG acquires Strauss Industries

Pittsburgh-based AMG Resources Corp. has acquired Strauss Industries Inc., which AMG describes as the largest and oldest scrap metal recycling company in West Virginia.

Strauss Industries operates facilities in Weirton, Benwood and Wheeling, West Virginia, and another location in West Alexander, Pennsylvania, through its subsidiaries Automatic Recycling Inc., Herman Strauss Inc. and Strauss Automotive.

AMG describes Strauss’ collective operations as including “a proprietary nuggetizer that produces the industry’s highest quality” coolant scrap, aluminum deox and other specialty scrap grades; the largest auto shredding facility in West Virginia (Automatic Recycling); a barge-loading facility on the Ohio River from which scrap is shipped to downriver markets; shearing, baling and torching operations; and a self-service recycled auto parts retail business (Strauss Automotive).

“Strauss’ existing businesses will be a great complement to AMG Resources given our focus on producing high-quality, known-chemistry scrap products and our strong existing presence in the Ohio Valley market,” says Eric Goldstein, president of AMG Resources. “Strauss’ barge-loading capabilities will also provide greater opportunities for AMG Resources to supply customers via the river and will supplement our sizable private railcar fleet.”

AMG Resources and its affiliates operate 20 scrap processing facilities and 17 commercial offices in the United States, in addition to operations in Europe. The company says it has “a particularly strong footprint” in the Ohio Valley region, with nine ferrous and nonferrous scrap processing operations in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.

February 2022
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