North American aluminum industry makes big sustainability gains, study says

January 14, 2014

Energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions associated with primary aluminum production in the U.S. and Canada have declined significantly in recent years, according to a new, peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment (LCA) report released by the Aluminum Association, Arlington, Va. The study found major improvements, particularly in terms of more sustainable production, in all life cycle impacts, from aluminum production through semifabrication.

According to the report, the energy needed to produce a single metric ton of primary (new) aluminum has declined 11 percent since 2005 and 26 percent since 1995. The industry's carbon footprint has fallen 19 percent since 2005 and 37 percent since 1995. A voluntary effort undertaken by the industry in the early 1990s with the U.S. EPA has reduced emissions of perfluorocarbons (PFC), a greenhouse gas, by nearly 85 percent.

The new findings are based on a multiyear LCA study examining the environmental impact of modern aluminum production. The study reviewed the 2010 production year and incorporates data from 25 companies, representing 95 percent of primary metal production and the majority of the industry in the U.S. and Canada. The report includes data on every aspect of primary and secondary aluminum production, as well as semifabrication.

Technological advances in the aluminum production process are the primary drivers of the environmental improvements realized by the industry. These advances include:

  • * The increased use of computerized process controls to lower electric power usage needed to produce primary aluminum.
  • * The gradual phaseout of older facilities relying on more energy-intensive production processes.
  • * The expanded use of renewable hydroelectric power sources for aluminum production, which has risen from 63 percent in 1995 to 75 percent today.

To learn more and read the complete report, visit