The TRIMET aluminium smelter in Voerde is 50 years old. Operations began at the smelting works with adjoining anode factory and foundry in the Lower Rhine region on May 11, 1971. Today, 320 employees produce around 95,000 tons of aluminium and 65,000 tons of carbon anodes here each year. The aluminium smelter is an integral part of the group of Trimet locations in Germany and meets the growing demand for the light metal in vehicle manufacturing, the packaging industry, and the building sector. “With its technical equipment and convenient geographical location, the aluminium smelter in Voerde is well positioned for the future,” says Dr. Andreas Lützerath, executive board member at TRIMET Aluminium SE. “Above all else, however, it is the experience, expertise, and commitment of the employees that play a key role in the location’s success and they will continue to secure its future.”
The aluminium smelter was planned and built by Kaiser-Preussag Aluminium GmbH, which had been founded by the US aluminium manufacturer Kaiser Aluminium Corporation with the involvement of the German conglomerate Preussag AG. The available space, the neighboring base load power plant, and the nearby Rhine as a waterway for the delivery of raw materials all spoke in favor of the location away from the traditional industrial heartlands of the Ruhr region. With its 188 electrolytic furnaces, the aluminium smelter had been designed for an annual capacity of 64,000 tons of aluminium, but had already achieved an output of 72,000 tons within a few years. Ownership of the aluminium plant has changed hands several times since the 1980s. In 2009, it was taken over by a private equity firm, which then gave up the location in 2012. Aleris took over the foundry, which is now operated by Novelis. The smelting works with anode factory had to file for bankruptcy and then continued to operate the plant on its own for two years.
In May 2014, TRIMET Aluminium SE acquired the site along with the 280 employees at the time. Following this acquisition, the materials specialist, which operates another two aluminium smelters in Germany along with recycling plants, expanded its production capacity for primary aluminium and continued on its growth course. The family-run company has hired additional staff and invested in the modernization of the facilities.
TRIMET is spending a figure in the double-digit million range to renew the 188 electrolytic cells. In the past year, work has already begun on converting the busbar system for the electrolytic furnaces. This will make more efficient use of the energy, while also further cutting carbon dioxide emissions associated with primary aluminium production. “Energy efficiency is a key issue for us. We are continuously working on making sure that the plants and work processes are as easy on resources as possible. This also includes digitally networking all production processes,” says site manager Christian Krupp, who has been working at the aluminium smelter for 23 years.
TRIMET also takes advantage of opportunities to save energy beyond the area of metal production. In the future, the aluminium smelter will conduct the hot air extracted from the smelting furnaces to the Rhine-Lippe Port in Wesel, where it will be used as energy to power a logistics center. The effective use of this waste heat will prevent the production of around 27,000 tons of carbon emissions annually.
By: Wolfgang Nübold