By Cameron Chai
Alcoa has declared that its Technology Delivery Group (TDG) at the Kwinana Refinery located in Western Australia has earned the inaugural Australasian Industrial Research Group (AIRG) Medal for its pioneering technology that decreases energy consumption by the company.
The AIRG presents the medal for exceptional accomplishments in technology management in industrial research and execution of the same throughout Australasia.
TDG’s technique known as continuous biological oxalate destruction utilizes naturally existing microbes to remove oxalate, a contaminant in the alumina refining process. The removal of oxalate is critical to increase the productivity of the refinery and obtain superior quality alumina. It is an inexpensive and eco-friendly method utilized for oxalate removal and also converts the impurity into a useful product, sodium carbonate. This product is then reused as input for the alumina refining process and thus eliminates the requirement for disposal of oxalate.
According to Dr. Amanda Tilbury, a research chemist at TDG, it is for the first time a continuous biological removal process has been deployed for this kind of industrial use. This innovative technology saves several million dollars for Alcoa, while also decreasing its energy consumption, Tilbury said. This discovery will form the basis for upcoming deployments in Alcoa refineries across the globe, she added.
Continuous biological oxalate destruction technology saves energy costs worth $1.6 million per year at Alcoa’s Kwinana Refinery. The company is currently deploying the technology at its Pinjarra Refinery, which is predicted to save energy costs of $1.2 million per year. The company will also install the technology at its Wagerup Refinery. For long-term, the technology could consume all of the roughly 200 metric tons of oxalate disposed every day from the company’s nine refineries across the world.