Clean aluminium from the Highlands

Rio Tinto Alcan will invest $90 million in the modernisation of its Lochaber plant, in Scotland. The project will see new hydroelectric turbo-generators installed to power the smelter, ensuring the increased use of clean renewable energy for aluminium production at the plant. The modernisation project is set to begin in 2009 and should be completed by 2012.

“The £45 million investment to power our Lochaber plant not only secures its future but shows our commitment to improving energy efficiency, increasing our usage of fully renewable energy and in turn, our levels of production,” said Jacynthe Côté, Rio Tinto Alcan Primary Metal President. “36% of our smelter energy needs are met by clean, self-generated hydroelectricity, a tremendous competitive advantage.”

The existing hydro generators at the Lochaber aluminium plant have been in use since their installation in 1929. The new modern hydroelectric generators will have an enhanced capacity to generate the electricity the plant needs, as well as the potential to generate additional power.  As a result of the increased power generation, it is expected that aluminium production at Lochaber will increase from 43,000 t to 50,000 t/y.

“Making aluminium with hydroelectricity has been a vital part of the Highlands economy for over 100 years, with generations of families having worked in the industry, so we’re delighted to confirm a long-term and sustainable future for the plant today,” said Wyn Jones, Alcan Aluminium UK Managing Director. “Today’s announcement underlines the company’s commitment to remain an integral part of the Lochaber community and to continue to produce high quality competitive products in Scotland.”

The Rio Tinto Alcan plant in Lochaber contributes over £8 million a year to the Highlands economy and employs 180 people, making it one of the Highlands’ largest private sector employers.  It also helps underpin an additional 400 jobs through indirect employment and supply chain opportunities.  This repowering project will offer much needed long-term job security in the region.