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As of April 30 2007, this document is NO LONGER IN USE by the Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook

World Bank Group. The new versions of the World Bank Group WORLD BANK GROUP
Effective July 1998
Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines are available at

Aluminum Manufacturing

Industry Description and Practices tion, drying, and so on is designed to remove

undesirable substances that affect both alumi-
The production of aluminum begins with the num quality and air emissions. The prevailing
mining and beneficiation of bauxite. At the mine process for secondary aluminum production is
(usually of the surface type), bauxite ore is re- smelting in rotary kilns under a salt cover. Salt
moved to a crusher. The crushed ore is then slag can be processed and reutilized. Other pro-
screened and stockpiled, ready for delivery to an cesses (smelting in induction furnaces and hearth
alumina plant. In some cases, ore is upgraded by furnaces) need no or substantially less salt and
beneficiation (washing, size classification, and are associated with lower energy demand, but
separation of liquids and solids) to remove un- they are only suitable for high-grade scrap. De-
wanted materials such as clay and silica. pending on the desired application, additional
At the alumina plant, the bauxite ore is fur- refining may be necessary. For demagging (re-
ther crushed or ground to the correct particle size moval of magnesium from the melt), hazardous
for efficient extraction of the alumina through di- substances such as chlorine and hexachloroet-
gestion by hot sodium hydroxide liquor. After hane are often used, which may produce dioxins
removal of “red mud” (the insoluble part of the and dibenzofurans. Other, less hazardous meth-
bauxite) and fine solids from the process liquor, ods, such as adding chlorine salts, are available.
aluminum trihydrate crystals are precipitated Because it is difficult to remove alloying elements
and calcined in rotary kilns or fluidized bed such as copper and zinc from an aluminum melt,
calciners to produce alumina (Al2O3). Some alu- separate collection and separate reutilization of
mina processes include a liquor purification different grades of aluminum scrap are necessary.
step. It should be noted that secondary aluminum pro-
Primary aluminum is produced by the elec- duction uses substantially less energy than pri-
trolytic reduction of the alumina. The alumina is mary production—less than 10–20 gigajoules per
dissolved in a molten bath of fluoride compounds metric ton (GJ/t) of aluminum produced, com-
(the electrolyte), and an electric current is passed pared with 164 GJ/t for primary production
through the bath, causing the alumina to disso- (mine to aluminum metal).
ciate to form liquid aluminum and oxygen. The
oxygen reacts with carbon in the electrode to pro- Waste Characteristics
duce carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Mol-
ten aluminum collects in the bottom of the At the bauxite production facilities, dust is emit-
individual cells or pots and is removed under ted to the atmosphere from dryers and materi-
vacuum into tapping crucibles. There are two als-handling equipment, through vehicular
prominent technologies for aluminum smelting: movement, and from blasting. Although the dust
prebake and Soderberg. This document focuses is not hazardous, it can be a nuisance if contain-
on the prebake technology, with its associated ment systems are not in place, especially on the
reduced air emissions and energy efficiencies. dryers and handling equipment. Other air emis-
Raw materials for secondary aluminum pro- sions could include nitrogen oxides (NOx), sul-
duction are scrap, chips, and dross. Pretreatment fur dioxide (SO 2 ), and other products of
of scrap by shredding, sieving, magnetic separa- combustion from the bauxite dryers.


Ore washing and beneficiation may yield pro- warming. Emissions numbers that have been re-
cess wastewaters containing suspended solids. ported for uncontrolled gases from smelters are
Runoff from precipitation may also contain sus- 20–80 kilograms per ton of product (kg/t) for
pended solids. particulates, 6–12 kg/t for hydrogen fluoride, and
At the alumina plant, air emissions can in- 6–10 kg/t for fluoride particulates. Correspond-
clude bauxite dust from handling and process- ing concentrations are 200–800 milligrams per
ing; limestone dust from limestone handling, cubic meter (mg/m3); 60–120 mg/m3; and 60–100
burnt lime dust from conveyors and bins, alu- mg/m3. These values are for a prebaked-technol-
mina dust from materials handling, red mud ogy plant built in 1983.
dust and sodium salts from red mud stacks (im- An aluminum smelter produces 40–60 kg of
poundments), caustic aerosols from cooling tow- mixed solid wastes per ton of product, with spent
ers, and products of combustion such as sulfur cathodes (spent pot and cell linings) being the
dioxide and nitrogen oxides from boilers, major fraction. The linings consist of 50% refrac-
calciners, mobile equipment, and kilns. The tory material and 50% carbon. Over the useful
calciners may also emit alumina dust and the life of the linings, the carbon becomes impreg-
kilns, burnt lime dust. nated with aluminum and silicon oxides (aver-
Although alumina plants do not normally dis- aging 16% of the carbon lining), fluorides (34%
charge effluents, heavy rainfalls can result in sur- of the lining), and cyanide compounds (about 400
face runoff that exceeds what the plant can use parts per million). Contaminant levels in the re-
in the process. The excess may require treatment. fractories portion of linings that have failed are gen-
The main solid waste from the alumina plant erally low. Other by-products for disposal include
is red mud (as much as 2 tons of mud per ton of skim, dross, fluxing slags, and road sweepings.
alumina produced), which contains oxides of alu- Atmospheric emissions from secondary alu-
mina, silicon, iron, titanium, sodium, calcium, minum melting include hydrogen chloride and
and other elements. The pH is 10–12. Disposal is fluorine compounds. Demagging may lead to
to an impoundment. emissions of chlorine, hexachloroethane, chlori-
Hazardous wastes from the alumina plant in- nated benzenes, and dioxins and furans. Chlori-
clude spent sulfuric acid from descaling in tanks nated compounds may also result from the
and pipes. Salt cake may be produced from li- melting of aluminum scrap that is coated with
quor purification if this is practiced. plastic. Salt slag processing emits hydrogen and
In the aluminum smelter, air emissions include methane. Solid wastes from the production of
alumina dust from handling facilities; coke dust secondary aluminum include particulates, pot
from coke handling; gaseous and particulate fluo- lining refractory material, and salt slag. Particu-
rides; sulfur and carbon dioxides and various late emissions, possibly containing heavy met-
dusts from the electrolytic reduction cells; gas- als, are also associated with secondary aluminum
eous and particulate fluorides; sulfur dioxide; tar production.
vapor and carbon particulates from the baking
furnace; coke dust, tars, and polynuclear aro- Pollution Prevention and Control
matic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from the green car-
bon and anode-forming plant; carbon dust from Pollution prevention is always preferred to the
the rodding room; and fluxing emissions and car- use of end-of-pipe pollution control facilities.
bon oxides from smelting, anode production, Therefore every attempt should be made to in-
casting, and finishing. The electrolytic reduction corporate cleaner production processes and fa-
cells (pot line) are the major source of the air emis- cilities to limit, at source, the quantity of
sions, with the gaseous and particulate fluorides pollutants generated.
being of prime concern. The anode effect associ- In the bauxite mine, where beneficiation and
ated with electrolysis also results in emissions of ore washing are practiced, a tailings slurry of 7–
carbon tetrafluoride (CF4) and carbon hexafluo- 9% solids is produced for disposal. The preferred
ride (C2F6), which are greenhouse gases, of con- technology is to concentrate these tailings and
cern because of their potential for global dispose of them in the mined-out area. A con-
Aluminum Manufacturing 263

centration of 25–30% can be achieved through greases, and the like from raw feed materials be-
gravity settling in a tailings pond. The tailings fore they enter the melt process.
can be further concentrated, using a thickener,
to 30–50%, yielding a substantially volume- Target Pollution Loads
reduced slurry.
The alumina plant discharges red mud in a Experience in Europe has shown that red mud
slurry of 25–30% solids, and this also presents an produced at the alumina plant can be reduced
opportunity to reduce disposal volumes. Today’s from 2 t/t alumina to about 1 t /t alumina through
technology, in the form of high-efficiency deep implementation of good industrial practices.
thickeners, and large-diameter conventional
thickeners, can produce a mud of 50–60% solids Treatment Technologies
concentration. The lime used in the process forms
insoluble solids that leave the plant along with At bauxite facilities, the major sources of dust
the red mud. These lime-based solids can be mini- emissions are the dryers, and emissions are con-
mized by recycling the lime used as a filtering trolled with electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) or
aid to digestion to displace the fresh lime that is baghouse dust collectors. Removal efficiencies of
normally added at this point. Finally, effluent 99% are achievable. Dust from conveyors and
volume from the alumina plant can be minimized material transfer points is controlled by hoods
or eliminated by good design and operating prac- and enclosures. Dust from truck movement can
tices: reducing the water added to the process, be minimized by treating road surfaces and by
segregating condensates and recycling to the pro- ensuring that vehicles do not drop material as
cess, and using rainwater in the process. they travel. Dusting from stockpiled material can
Using the prebake technology rather than the be minimized by the use of water sprays or by
Soderberg technology for aluminum smelting is enclosure in a building.
a significant pollution prevention measure. In the At the alumina plant, pollution control for the
smelter, computer controls and point feeding of various production and service areas is imple-
aluminum oxide to the centerline of the cell help mented as follows:
reduce emissions, including emissions of organic
• Bauxite and limestone handling and storage: dust
fluorides such as CF4, which can be held at less
emissions are controlled by baghouses.
than 0.1 kg/t aluminum. Energy consumption is
• Lime kilns: dust emissions are controlled by
typically 14 megawatt hours per ton (MWh/t) of
baghouse systems. Kiln fuels can be selected
aluminum, with prebake technology. (Soderberg
to reduce SO2 emissions; however, this is not
technology uses 17.5 MWh/t.) Gas collection ef-
normally a problem, since most of the sulfur
ficiencies for the prebake process is better than
dioxide that is formed is absorbed in the kiln.
for the Soderberg process: 98% vs. 90%. Dry
• Calciners: alumina dust losses are controlled
scrubber systems using aluminum oxide as the
by ESPs; SO2 and NOx emissions are reduced
adsorbent for the cell gas permits the recycling
to acceptable levels by contact with the alu-
of fluorides. The use of low-sulfur tars for bak-
ing anodes helps control SO2 emissions. Spent pot
• Red mud disposal: the mud impoundment area
linings are removed after they fail, typically be-
must be lined with impervious clay prior to
cause of cracking or heaving of the lining. The
use to prevent leakage. Water spraying of the
age of the pot linings can vary from 3 to 10 years.
mud stack may be required to prevent fine
By improving the life of the lining through bet-
dust from being blown off the stack. Longer-
ter construction and operating techniques, dis-
term treatment of the mud may include recla-
charge of pollutants can be reduced. Note that
mation of the mud, neutralization, covering
part of the pot lining carbon can be recycled when
with topsoil, and planting with vegetation.
the pots are relined.
Emissions of organic compounds from second- In the smelter, primary emissions from the
ary aluminum production can be reduced by reduction cells are controlled by collection and
thoroughly removing coatings, paint, oils, treatment using dry sorbent injection; fabric fil-

ters or electrostatic precipitators are used for annualized basis): hydrogen fluoride, 0.2–0.4
controlling particulate matter. Primary emis- kg/t; total fluoride, 0.3–0.6 kg/t; particulates,
sions comprise 97.5% of total cell emissions; the 1 kg/t; sulfur dioxide, 1 kg/t; and nitrogen ox-
balance consists of secondary emissions that ides, 0.5 kg/t. CF4 emissions should be less than
escape into the potroom and leave the build- 0.1 kg/t.
ing through roof ventilators. Wet scrubbing of For secondary aluminum production, the
the primary emissions can also be used, but principal treatment technology downstream of
large volumes of toxic waste liquors will need the melting furnace is dry sorbent injection us-
to be treated or disposed of. Secondary emis- ing lime, followed by fabric filters. Waste gases
sions result from the periodic replacement of from salt slag processing should be filtered as
anodes and other operations; the fumes escape well. Waste gases from aluminum scrap pretreat-
when the cell hood panels have been tempo- ment that contain organic compounds of concern
rarily removed. While wet scrubbing can be may be treated by postcombustion.
used to control the release of secondary fumes,
the high-volume, low-concentration gases of- Emissions Guidelines
fer low scrubbing efficiencies, have high capi-
tal and operating costs, and produce large Emissions levels for the design and operation of
volumes of liquid effluents for treatment. Wet each project must be established through the en-
scrubbing is seldom used for secondary fume vironmental assessment (EA) process on the ba-
control in the prebake process. sis of country legislation and the Pollution Prevention
When anodes are baked on site, the dry scrub- and Abatement Handbook, as applied to local con-
bing system using aluminum oxide as the adsor-
ditions. The emissions levels selected must be
bent is used. It has the advantage of being free of
justified in the EA and acceptable to the World
waste products, and all enriched alumina and
Bank Group.
absorbed material are recycled directly to the re-
The guidelines given below present emissions
duction cells. Dry scrubbing may be combined
levels normally acceptable to the World Bank
with incineration for controlling emissions of tar
Group in making decisions regarding provision
and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and to
of World Bank Group assistance. Any deviations
recover energy. Wet scrubbing can also be used
from these levels must be described in the World
but is not recommended, since a liquid effluent,
Bank Group project documentation. The emis-
high in fluorides and hydrocarbons, will require
sions levels given here can be consistently
treatment and disposal.
achieved by well-designed, well-operated, and
Dry scrubber systems applied to the pot fumes
well-maintained pollution control systems. The
and to the anode baking furnace result in the cap-
guidelines are expressed as concentrations to fa-
ture of 97% of all fluorides from the process.
cilitate monitoring. Dilution of air emissions or ef-
The aluminum smelter solid wastes, in the
fluents to achieve these guidelines is unacceptable.
form of spent pot lining, are disposed of in engi-
All of the maximum levels should be achieved
neered landfills that feature clay or synthetic lin-
for at least 95% of the time that the plant or unit
ing of disposal pits, provision of soil layers for
is operating, to be calculated as a proportion of
covering and sealing, and control and treatment
annual operating hours.
of any leachate. Treatment processes are avail-
able to reduce hazards associated with spent pot
lining prior to disposal of the lining in a landfill. Air Emissions
Other solid wastes such as bath skimmings are
sold for recycling, while spalled refractories and The air emissions levels presented in Table 1
other chemically stable materials are disposed of should be achieved.
in landfill sites.
Modern smelters using good industrial prac- Liquid Effluents
tices are able to achieve the following in terms of
pollutant loads (all values are expressed on an If there is a process effluent from the aluminum
Aluminum Manufacturing 265

Table 1. Air Emissions from Aluminum Smelting Monitoring and Reporting

(milligrams per normal cubic meter)

Parameter Maximum value Frequent sampling may be required during start-

up and upset conditions. Once a record of con-
Particulate matter 30 sistent performance has been established,
Hydrogen fluoride 1 sampling for the parameters listed in this docu-
Total fluoride 2 ment should be as described below.
VOCs 20
Air emissions should be monitored regularly
for particulate matter and fluorides. Hydrocar-
Table 2. Liquid Effluents from Aluminum
bon emissions should be monitored annually on
Smelting the anode plant and baking furnaces.
(milligrams per liter, except pH and temperature) Liquid effluents should be monitored weekly
for pH, total suspended solids, fluoride, and alu-
Parameter Maximum value minum and at least monthly for other para-
pH 6–9
TSS 50 Monitoring data should be analyzed and re-
Fluoride 20 viewed at regular intervals and compared with
Aluminum 0.2 the operating standards so that any necessary
COD 150 corrective actions can be taken. Records of moni-
Hydrocarbons 5 toring results should be kept in an acceptable
Temperature increase ≤ 3°Ca format. The results should be reported to the
Note: Effluent requirements are for direct discharge to surface
responsible authorities and relevant parties, as
waters. required.
a. The effluent should result in a temperature increase of no
more than 3°C at the edge of the zone where initial mixing and
dilution take place. Where the zone is not defined, use 100
Key Issues
meters from the point of discharge.
The key production and control practices that will
lead to compliance with emissions requirements
smelter, the effluent emissions levels presented are summarized here.
in Table 2 should be achieved.
Bauxite Production
Ambient Noise
• Concentrate bauxite tailings prior to disposal.
• Control dust emissions at the bauxite mine and
Noise abatement measures should achieve either
in the alumina plant by using ESPs and
the levels given below or a maximum increase in
background levels of 3 decibels (measured on the
A scale) [dB(A)]. Measurements are to be taken Alumina Plant
at noise receptors located outside the project
• Thicken and concentrate red mud in the alu-
property boundary.
mina plant, using high-efficiency thickeners,
Maximum allowable log
and then dispose of it in engineered and man-
equivalent (hourly aged stacks.
measurements), in dB(A)
Primary Aluminum Smelting
Day Night
Receptor (07:00–22:00) (22:00–07:00) • Give preference to the prebake process for
institutional, • Use computers to control the bath and limit
educational 55 45 anode effects.
Industrial, • Incinerate baking furnace gases for energy re-
commercial 70 70 covery.

• Use dry scrubber systems with aluminum ox- Sources

ide absorbent for control of emissions from
reduction cells and from anode bake ovens. Bounicore, Anthony J., and Wayne T. Davis, eds. 1992.
Air Pollution Engineering Manual. New York: Van
• Maximize the reuse of spent pot linings.
Nostrand Reinhold.
• Dispose of nonreusable spent pot linings in
engineered landfills. Paris Commission. 1992. “Industrial Sectors: Best Avail-
able Technology—Primary Aluminium Industry.”
Secondary Aluminum Production World Bank. 1995. “Industrial Pollution Prevention and
Abatement: Aluminum Smelting.” Draft Technical
• Take advantage of processes for reusing salt Background Document. Environment Department,
slag. Washington, D.C.