Emirates Global Aluminium welcomed Her Excellency Dr Amna bint Abdullah Al Dahak, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, to review progress on construction of a pilot plant to convert bauxite residue into a manufactured soil.

Bauxite residue, a by-product of alumina refining, has been a global waste management challenge since the dawn of the aluminium more than a century ago. Some 150 million tonnes of the material are produced worldwide each year, according to industry experts, with less than two per cent put to productive use. EGA has developed proprietary processes to re-use bauxite residue through almost a decade of scientific research and development.

Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, Chief Executive Officer of EGA, received Her Excellency and her delegation at EGA headquarters in Al Taweelah.

EGA’s pilot plant will use proprietary technology to convert caustic bauxite residue into an environmentally benign raw material in hours, instead of undergoing decades-long, natural processes. This Optimised Bauxite Residue is the main ingredient for a manufactured soil, which EGA calls ‘Turba’ (the Arabic word for soil).

The UAE has limited naturally-occurring soil, and imports significant quantities each year for greening and agricultural purposes. Soil is considered a non-renewable resource as it takes centuries to develop naturally in even the most favourable climates.

Soil is the world’s largest terrestrial CO2 storage facility, absorbing up to 20 per cent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This role is threatened by soil erosion worldwide. Early studies and laboratory-scale trials show that EGA’s Turba may have up to 10 times better CO2 absorption properties than the UAE’s natural soil.

HE Dr Amna bint Abdullah Al Dahak, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “The health of our planet is intertwined with the health of our soil. As we confront the urgent challenge of climate change, we must take steps to support the crucial role that soil plays in reducing CO2 in our atmosphere. At MOCCAE, we welcome the work undertaken by businesses like EGA to invest in sustainable soil management practices, foster innovation and promote sustainable solutions. I was pleased to have the opportunity to review progress on the construction of EGA’s pilot plant. Innovative solutions are required for the world’s environmental challenges, and businesses like EGA are amongst the UAE champions playing a key role in finding them.”

Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Global Aluminium, said: “I was pleased to brief the Minister on EGA’s progress with Turba, our breakthrough solution to re-use bauxite residue as a manufactured soil. Our long-term goal is to send zero process waste to landfill, and we have made great progress. Bauxite residue is the most challenging waste stream in our industry and I am confident we are close to solving it. I look forward to industrial-scale production of our sustainable industrial soil for a better tomorrow.”

During the visit Her Excellency planted a tree in a Turba demonstration plot next to EGA’s headquarters.

EGA’s pilot plant is expected to be completed during 2024. Once operational, the facility will produce up to six tonnes per day of Optimised Bauxite Residue. The plant will prove the potential to industrialise EGA’s revolutionary process, and enable large-scale trials to test plant growth in Turba. Laboratory-scale trials have already shown that Turba enhances plant growth while using less water and fertiliser.

EGA’s bauxite residue research team has already developed other potential novel applications for bauxite residue, including as a raw material for the steel, cement, and construction industries.

EGA has developed re-uses for other waste streams from its industrial activities. These include spent pot lining, a by-product of aluminium smelting, which is re-used as an alternative feedstock and fuel by the UAE cement industry. Carbon dust is also used as a fuel in cement manufacturing. EGA’s dross is processed to recover aluminium. EGA’s long-term aspiration is to send zero process waste to landfill.