TRIMET showcases material sustainability

ALUMINIUM 2022 trade fair

TRIMET Aluminium SE is presenting a wide range of services and material innovations for lightweight construction at the leading international trade fair ALUMINIUM 2022 in Düsseldorf.

The materials specialist is gearing its product portfolio to the sustainability requirements of the processing industry and is focusing on minimizing CO2 emissions throughout the product life cycle. With the expansion and increase in personnel at the resmelting works in its Gelsenkirchen plant, the family-owned company is scaling up its recycling business. Aluminium alloys with a high recycled content are the main focus in materials development. In the area of primary production, the company is working on emission-free furnace technology, enabling primary aluminium to be produced in a climate-neutral manner.  

As a local producer of primary materials, TRIMET reliably supplies its clients with aluminium materials in a wide variety of forms and alloys. In addition to security of supply, the favorable climate balance is a decisive factor for the production of industrial products. The family business is continuing on its path of consistently gearing production to aluminium manufactured in a climate-friendly manner. Within the framework of a circular economy, TRIMET takes the material’s entire life cycle into consideration, from primary production through refinement processes to preparing and recycling the used metal.

Expansion of recycling production capacity

TRIMET is expanding its production plant in Gelsenkirchen, thereby further scaling up its recycling operations. An additional rotary furnace and a casting carousel for aluminium sows will increase production capacity by around 20%. The expansion is scheduled for completion in 2023, and 15 new jobs will be created. With the expansion, TRIMET is continuing to modernize and escalate its recycling operations. In recent years, the family-owned company had already renewed its furnace technology in existing plants, installed a new rotary furnace and completely remodeled the storage areas. This has led to optimizations in immission control and reduced specific gas consumption, while expanding production capacity.

Preparations are also underway to enable the supply of process gas containing hydrogen from a neighboring coking plant. The gas has a hydrogen content of around 60% and will reduce the CO2 footprint from production by a further 4,000 metric tons. TRIMET is also installing an ORC system. This converts the waste heat generated during the smelting process into electricity and feeds any surplus waste heat into the public grid. This measure will lead to further significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

In 2022, the recycling plant in Gelsenkirchen was certified in accordance with the Performance Standard of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). The site now meets globally applicable requirements for ecologically and socially sustainable production and responsible corporate management in the aluminium industry. The aim is to attain the ASI CoC standard for both the Gelsenkirchen plant and the primary site in Essen by early 2023.

CO2 balance and recyclability are important in alloy development

Sustainability requirements also dictate the materials development. When developing alloys with a high recycled content, TRIMET takes various factors into account that are decisive for the material properties, along with requirements for process-reliable compounds with different materials. Some TRIMET alloys already consist of up to 95% recyclate. The company’s research laboratories are working to further increase TRIMET’s range of alloys with materials that have been produced in a climate-friendly manner. This includes the ecological upgrading of proven alloys. One objective in development work is to ensure that all sustainability aspects are maintained. In this way, along with a high recyclate content, recyclability is also an important factor.

In its research laboratories and test facilities, TRIMET produces alloy variants and scrutinizes them carefully on a laboratory and pilot scale. In the process, TRIMET researchers observe key product requirements that sustainable materials must adhere to. In addition to surface qualities, corrosion resistance and other characteristics, the costs involved must also be considered. The new die casting alloy trimal®-38 meets stringent requirements for cost and energy efficiency. With a magnesium content of no more than 0.01%, the material does not require heat treatment to attain the desired mechanical properties and withstand crash loads, for example. TRIMET has already proven that technical and ecological properties do not have to be a contradiction in terms. As a recycled variant of the proven trimal-05 primary alloy, the company has developed the trimal-04 alloy and established it successfully on the market.

Research for the materials of tomorrow

TRIMET is involved in a range of collaborative projects to conduct research on the aluminium materials of the future.The “Green-Al-Light” initiative, which is supported by renown companies, aims to establish an optimized process chain, in particular for high-strength automotive structural parts employing recycled aluminium. The project partners hope to develop cross-industry CO2-optimized, cost-efficient production processes through the use of adapted alloys and casting and forging technologies. TRIMET is taking the lead here in the development, production and assessment of iteratively developed wrought secondary aluminium alloys consisting of end-of-life aluminium scrap.

In a joint project coordinated by the industry association Aluminium Deutschland, TRIMET is involved in the  development of sustainable aluminium extruded alloys. The companies involved have set themselves the task of determining the impact of alloy elements on the mechanical and corrosive properties of a 6xxx alloy. With the data obtained, it will be possible to determine the detailed correlation of mechanical-technological properties and alloy content.

TRIMET is also working on a project aimed at enabling the manufacture of cast products which meet the technical, economic and ecological requirements of drive train manufacturers, while reducing overall CO2 emissions. The research contract includes the development of materials and the design of sorting and separation processes. In the project, TRIMET is responsible for the iterative development and comprehensive characterization of secondary casting alloys, as well as producing the aluminium for casting.

On the path to climate-neutral aluminium production

In the area of primary production, TRIMET is stepping up its activities on the way to climate-friendly metal fabrication. In a research project, the company is developing a CO2-free process to produce primary aluminium. With the support of partners, the materials specialist is working on a new furnace technology which does not release greenhouse gases in the electrolysis process. At the heart of the technology is an electrolytic cell with inert electrodes that do not emit carbon dioxide during operation, but instead release oxygen. TRIMET intends to scale up the process developed on a laboratory scale in the near future and ultimately test it in the aluminium smelter at the Essen plant.

This research project complements the company’s existing measures for transforming to climate-neutral production. For example, by making the electrolysis process in its aluminium smelters more flexible, TRIMET has created the possibility of considerably adapting its production output and current power requirements to the fluctuating generation capacities of renewable energy sources. This form of flexible load management helps to integrate green power, while also contributing to grid stability. TRIMET is also preparing to decouple process heat from the aluminium smelters as district heating. What’s more, at the Essen and Voerde plants, the company is optimizing the busbar system used in electrolysis to further reduce specific energy requirements.

TRIMET is pursuing a holistic approach: the combination of climate-friendly primary aluminium production and stepped-up recycling exploits synergy effects that will further reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium produced domestically.

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