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Energy Use: Aluminum

DOE estimates the aluminum industry is responsible for nearly 2% of all the energy consumed in the U.S. industrial sector. The production of primary aluminum relies on an electrolytic process and is very electricity-intensive. In fact, the aluminum industry spends more than $2 billion annually on energy, the majority of which is for electricity. One-third of the average cost of aluminum is for the energy required to make it. Major energy reductions are achieved through the recycling of scrap aluminum. Recycling aluminum by re-melting and casting requires only 5 to 8% of the original energy input of aluminum produced from bauxite ore. The current U.S. average energy consumption for aluminum reduction in an electrolytic cell is 15.2 kWh/kg (6.9 kWh/lb) of aluminum. However, the most efficient smelters operate with an energy consumption of about 13 kWh/kg (5.9 kWh/lb). Natural gas plays a role in primary aluminum manufacturing in the calcining step of alumina production, in the production (pre-baking process) of the anodes used in the final baking process, and for boilers.

The gas consumption in the U.S.A. for equipment used in producing primary aluminum is in the range of 40 BCF per year.

48 trillion Btu of gas is used for aluminum melting; about 1 trillion Btu equivalent of electricity is used for aluminum melting.

Approximately 6 trillion Btu of gas is used in aluminum holding.

NOTE: The data is weighted averages of metal melted and furnaces available.