The first day of the Future Aluminium Forum, Québec, commenced on the 10th May 2023, welcoming more than 175 delegates.

A select few of these delegates were granted an insight into the complete process, from alumina to aluminium, at the Alcoa Deschambault Plant. The tour was followed by the Future Aluminium Forum Opening Event, hosted by AluQuébec. The 5th element event was opened by Mr Alain Sans Carter, Sous-Minister des Relations Internacionales te de la Francophonie. Opening the event with an introductory speech, he noted: “Aluminium is a metal of the future. It is unique and infinitely recyclable, and it’s been produced in Quebec for over 120 years… I’d like to highlight the Québec aluminium development strategy, which enables players in our industry, including the equipment manufacturers here tonight, to accelerate the 4.0 shift, focus on innovation, and showcase our green aluminium.”

Speaking next was Francois Racine, President at AluQuébec: “Québec’s aluminium ecosystem is a world-renowned industry know for its expertise and innovations. The primary sector produced 2.8 million tons of aluminium each year, with one of the lowest caro on footprints in the world… the ecosystems biggest strength has resides in its synergy where all sectors work towards a common goal of facilitating aluminium use and promoting it globally.”

The introductory day set the grounds for a two day conference focusing on the automation and advancement of the aluminium industry. The first day of the conference was opened by Nadine Bloxsome, Editor and Event Organiser for Aluminium International Today and the Future Aluminium Forum. Noting that, “Sustainability goes hand in hand with efficiency”, she set the theme for the automation of the industry, and its place in progressing the industry to a sustainability future.

Opening the event were speakers of the Keynote Session: The Future of Aluminium. With representatives from three major aluminium producers in Canada, the session was opened by Gaby Poirier, Vice President of Operations - North America, Alcoa.

The presentation discussed the “Spirit of Innovation”, felt not only by the Alcoa Organisation, but by the industry in general. This spirit is one that must continue to grow in order to progress and succeed. Gaby Poirier spoke on the investments that Alcoa have focused on, including the much awaited ELYSIS, a revolutionary concept which claims to reshape the industry, Electrified Calcination as well also its line of recycled high quality aluminium: ASTRAEA. He closed his presentation with a comment on Zorba, and sorting techniques to ensure high quality recycled scraps material, which aims to revolutionise the circularity of aluminium.

Speaking next was Marie-Eve Pomerleau, Specialist Product Advancement, Rio Tinto. Discussing the circular economy of the industry, and the latest initiatives for Quebec aluminium regarding scrap material and recycling schemes, Marie-Eve Pomerleau promoted the possibility of a closed loop cycle.

Closing the Keynote Session, Pierre Rény, Chief Engineer, Primary Metal, Technology and Operational Support, Hydro Aluminium Canada spoke about Hydro’s future plans for the production of sustainable aluminium. Following their announcement of HalZero:

HalZero is a brand new process for production of primary aluminium. Instead of carbon dioxide, only oxygen is emitted from the process. If Hydro succeeds in this development, it could revolutionize the aluminium industry.

Following on from a networking and coffee break, there was a session entitled: Status, Strategy and Capabilities. Speaking in this session were two speakers from Hatch and Qunatillion. Jean-Denis Carrier, Global Director - Aluminium, HATCH, introduced the topic on Digital Twins. Simulations on theoretical solution can be used to create scenarios without the extensive expenditures and time. The use of digital twins also enables the mapping and collection of data, which can be used fro future experiments and projects. Quantillion speaker, Hilbrand Kuiken, CEO, also noted the importance of data collection with the use of Predictive Intelligence. Quantillion aims at utilising Artificial Intelligence to find the most efficient method for a solution, as well as use the data collect to anticipate and assist in future scenarios.

The third session looked at whether Sustainability & Technology are a ‘Perfect Match’. The speakers for this session were: Adrien Berthier, Decarbonation Project Manager, Aluminium Dunkerque, Linlin Wu, Manager – Statistical Analysis, International Aluminium Institute, and Gunther Schober, Sales Manager, PSI Metals, Non Ferrous GmbH.

Technology, as mentioned by Nadine Bloxsome, goes hand in hand with sustainability. Adrien Berthier discussed the Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS), “a breakthrough carbon mitigated for smelters.” Linlin Wu spoke on the possibilities available, across heavy industries, in maximising the use of bauxite residue, in cement. The largest By-Product presents a huge opportunity for extending the circular nature of aluminium production and sustainable ethics. Finally, Gunther Schober, Sales Manager, PSI Metals, Non Ferrous GmbH, presented on utilising software to optimise efficient energy scheduling to energy availability, with the target of finding the most optimal solution. All three presenters noted the need for partnership within the industry to address each challenge we face, as well as a partnership with technology.

Closing the day was a session on the Advance of Automation. Technology extends to machinery. In his presentation, Simone Tadiello, Automation Project Engineer, BM Group - Polytec, presented the full range of automated machinery available klabel, designed to replace humans in dangerous situations. EPIQ Machinery, Malcolm Caron-Boivin, International Business Development Manager ,spoke on how their machinery has transformed from petrol to decisión to electric. Mileidy Hernandez, CPI in Automated Systems - Industrial Computing , WSP in Canada, spoke on their autonomous tool, ADE, designed to assist the industry shift to Industry 4.0, and provide autonomy to the operation team and centralises all systems in the same interface.

The second day of the conference is now underway with a Breakfast Briefing and session looking at Aluminium from the Amazon and a continuation of the topic of Advanced Automation.