Apple invests $10 million in carbon-free aluminum production project

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 10
Apple views aluminum from a new more environmentally friendly venture with Alcoa and Rio Tinto as part of its device production in the future.

The first piece of aluminum from the new process, via Elysis


Apple on Thursday announced its involvement in a new joint venture that has established the world's first carbon-free and greenhouse gas emission-free aluminum smelting process. The venture, called Elysis, is a project of aluminum giants Alcoa and Rio Tinto, and is headquartered in Montreal with the support of the Canadian and Quebec governments. Apple helped to facilitate the venture.

The venture will "commercialize patented technology that eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process, a key step in aluminum production," according to the announcement, with a goal towards using the process to make aluminum for future consumer goods. Apple has invested in the project, and will also provide "technical support," with an eye towards using aluminum created via the process in its products.

"Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come," Tim Cook said in a statement. "We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminum produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products."

Apple's investment is $10 million (13 million CAD) in the project, with the governments of Canada and Quebec contributing just under $47 million each (60 million CAD). Alcoa and Rio Tinto will also capitalize the venture to the tune of about $43 million (55 million CAD) over the next three years.

Apple will not have an equity stake. Quebec will have 4 percent, with the two aluminum companies evenly splitting the remaining 96 percent.

The venture, which will be based in Montreal, was announced in Quebec Thursday afternoon at a ceremony including executives from the companies as well as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Apple, the company said, has been involved with the project since 2015, when Apple engineers Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko, and Katie Sassaman began looking for a better, cleaner way to mass-produce aluminum. After meeting with aluminum companies including Alcoa -- the company whose founder invented modern aluminum smelting in the late 19th century -- Apple helped bring them together with the Australian/British metals firm Rio Tinto, paving the way for the joint venture.

Elysis is eyeing 2024 as the release date of technology package that will result from the venture.

Apple gets greener

The venture's launch follows Apple's announcement a month ago that its entire global operation is now powered entirely by renewable energy.

Apple has long used aluminum in a wide variety of its products, from iPhone to MacBooks to the Apple Watch.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 828member
    It would be nice to know how much direct greenhouse gas emissions come from smelting aluminum. I'll bet that the direct amounts pale in comparison to the indirect amounts. The amount of electricity needed for most aluminium production methods (coaxing alumina from bauxite ore) is huge.
    entropys
  • Reply 2 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,294member
    And still, environmentalists continue to heap contempt on Apple every day and never say a word about Samsung or Google or Amazon or Microsoft. I wonder what brand of cellphones these people use.
    edited May 10 tallest skilaegeanAlex1N
  • Reply 3 of 17
    linkman said:
    It would be nice to know how much direct greenhouse gas emissions come from smelting aluminum. I'll bet that the direct amounts pale in comparison to the indirect amounts. The amount of electricity needed for most aluminium production methods (coaxing alumina from bauxite ore) is huge.
    If that electricity comes from hydropower it will be next to nothing.  Canada is a huge hydropower country.
    chasmminicoffeeAlex1N
  • Reply 4 of 17
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,208member
    Or nukes. Solar and wind would never cut it for Alu production.
    aluminium is solidified energy. I am not sure what the “direct greenhouse gas emissions” means, but I suspect it isn’t much in relation to the power consumption required to make aluminium.

    Edit:  I just looked up the Rio Tinto website on the process, and it looks like they are substituting an undisclosed product to act as the reducing agent for carbon based materials like black coal.  There is a lovely promotional video at the link that is a bit vague but does have lovely pictures of forests and a pretty girl lying on green, green grass. 
    edited May 10 cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,760member
    Fantastic. Glad I bought Rio Tinto stock.  :)
    aegean
  • Reply 6 of 17
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 232member
    linkman said:
    It would be nice to know how much direct greenhouse gas emissions come from smelting aluminum. I'll bet that the direct amounts pale in comparison to the indirect amounts. The amount of electricity needed for most aluminium production methods (coaxing alumina from bauxite ore) is huge.
    If that electricity comes from hydropower it will be next to nothing.  Canada is a huge hydropower country.
    And Quebec is a huge hydropower province! (Plus projects in Labrador).
  • Reply 6 of 17
    chasmchasm Posts: 770member
    Great to see Apple getting involved in this sort of thing. Wish more companies had this kind of vision and eco-friendliness.
    mac_dogminicoffee
  • Reply 8 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,760member
    mknelson said:
    linkman said:
    It would be nice to know how much direct greenhouse gas emissions come from smelting aluminum. I'll bet that the direct amounts pale in comparison to the indirect amounts. The amount of electricity needed for most aluminium production methods (coaxing alumina from bauxite ore) is huge.
    If that electricity comes from hydropower it will be next to nothing.  Canada is a huge hydropower country.
    And Quebec is a huge hydropower province! (Plus projects in Labrador).
    But think of the poutine!
  • Reply 9 of 17
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 566member
    chasm said:
    Great to see Apple getting involved in this sort of thing. Wish more companies had this kind of vision and eco-friendliness.
    Me, too. I doubt if Warren Buffett held a majority of shares, he would cease all environmental programs as a waste of time but, more importantly, a waste of money. 
    edited May 10
  • Reply 10 of 17
    anomeanome Posts: 1,093member

    Somehow, the inclusion of Rio Tinto in the article doesn't fill me with joy. They have something of a reputation, not just for the usual environmental problems inherent in the mining industry, but also their involvement in Papua New Guinea and their possible role in the Bougainville crisis. Plus there's the whole mining uranium thing they're involved in up the Top End.

    I see that the aluminium end of the business actually runs out of Canada, though, so maybe they aren't too involved in some of the less savoury parts of the company.

    minicoffeecornchipAlex1N
  • Reply 11 of 17
    christopher126christopher126 Posts: 4,021member
    Impressive. :)
    DoctorQ
  • Reply 12 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,760member
    Here's a bit more detail on the investment and technical aspects of this development:

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/alcoa-rio-tinto-announce-world-182200702.html
  • Reply 13 of 17
    entropys said:
    Or nukes. Solar and wind would never cut it for Alu production.
    aluminium is solidified energy. I am not sure what the “direct greenhouse gas emissions” means, but I suspect it isn’t much in relation to the power consumption required to make aluminium.

    Edit:  I just looked up the Rio Tinto website on the process, and it looks like they are substituting an undisclosed product to act as the reducing agent for carbon based materials like black coal.  There is a lovely promotional video at the link that is a bit vague but does have lovely pictures of forests and a pretty girl lying on green, green grass. 
    Actually, Rio Tinto has a smelters here in Scotland and it's hydro-powered. It's based at the foot of Ben Nevis and rainwater from the mountain range is channelled down through turbines. As a whole country, we often create more renewable energy than we consume. So it's possible.
    edited May 11
  • Reply 14 of 17
    asciiascii Posts: 5,816member
    I like the idea of revamping an 130 year old manufacturing process, very cool! But I was kind of hoping Jony Ive would get sick of aluminium soon, I mean how many generations of Alu products have we seen now? The Microsoft Surface are made of plastic and yet somehow they look fresher than the Macbook Pro. Everything goes in cycles, even design tastes.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,528moderator
    linkman said:
    It would be nice to know how much direct greenhouse gas emissions come from smelting aluminum. I'll bet that the direct amounts pale in comparison to the indirect amounts. The amount of electricity needed for most aluminium production methods (coaxing alumina from bauxite ore) is huge.
    If that electricity comes from hydropower it will be next to nothing.  Canada is a huge hydropower country.
    Unless that draw otherwise would have been directed to homes or other uses that are not currently serviced via hydro.  In which case you’d have to factor that secondary effect.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 16 of 17
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 828member
    ascii said:
    I like the idea of revamping an 130 year old manufacturing process, very cool! But I was kind of hoping Jony Ive would get sick of aluminium soon, I mean how many generations of Alu products have we seen now? The Microsoft Surface are made of plastic and yet somehow they look fresher than the Macbook Pro. Everything goes in cycles, even design tastes.
    Aluminum has much better heat dissipation than plastic. The Surface has serious issues with thermal regulation. Ever wonder how they can get the MacBook to work without fans? Metal chassis and body.

    The small sample size of Surface Pros I have at work has had a tremendously high failure rate. Two of the three have died within 18 months of first use. #3 is merely a replacement for #1. #2 died last week and hasn't been replaced yet. The two remaining users of them (everyone else has abandoned them in favor of Dell laptops) have frequent shutdowns. Consumer Reports indicates they don't do well: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/8/10/16125294/microsoft-surface-consumer-reports-hardware-freezing-shutdowns-problems
    SpamSandwichbadmonkfastasleep
  • Reply 17 of 17
    linkman said:
    It would be nice to know how much direct greenhouse gas emissions come from smelting aluminum. I'll bet that the direct amounts pale in comparison to the indirect amounts. The amount of electricity needed for most aluminium production methods (coaxing alumina from bauxite ore) is huge.
    If that electricity comes from hydropower it will be next to nothing.  Canada is a huge hydropower country.
    Unless that draw otherwise would have been directed to homes or other uses that are not currently serviced via hydro.  In which case you’d have to factor that secondary effect.
    In the particular context of Québec, about 98% of all electricity generated in the province is via hydro, and there have been electricity surpluses for the past few years. So the particular scenario you describe isn't a worry for this project. And in general, existing grids are too old to just configure on-the-fly to divert service from homes to new installations -- new lines are almost always created to hook new installations up to the existing grid, and overall energy generation has to increase.
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