The Rusal way

Materials World magazine
,
1 Nov 2008

Climate change has presented businesses with significant challenges and opportunities. Ivan Rebrik, Head of the Health and Safety Executive Department at UC RUSAL, discusses the Russian aluminium producer’s strategy.

Producing metals has obvious environmental impacts but taking a lead in confronting climate change does not have to mean restricting growth objectives.

In May 2007, UC RUSAL, based in Moscow, Russia, launched the Paving the Way to a Safer World initiative, which set ambitious targets to reduce the harmful impact of its business on the environment. This programme commits the company to reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions from its existing aluminium smelters by 50% and to reach, in the long term, carbon neutrality over the full lifecycle of its products.

The company has introduced environmentally friendly technologies, many developed in-house and has pledged US$100m as an annual investment in R&D to optimise production and technology across the group’s aluminium smelters, alumina refineries, service centres and hydropower construction projects. Over the next five years a further investment of over US$1.4bln is planned for modernisation programmes to address climate change.

Keeping cool

UC RUSAL is working with the UN. Environmental projects have started in Siberia and initiatives on Arctic conservation are being considered. In January, the company joined the UN Caring for Climate – The Business Leadership Platform global initiative (see box, right).

It also intends to increase its capacity to generate power. The basis of this energy strategy is hydropower. Russia is home to some of the world’s largest hydropower plants and they currently meet 80% of UC RUSAL’s needs. One UC RUSAL project, the Boguchanskoye Energy and Metals Complex, is set to be the largest in the aluminium industry. The seven-year scheme will see a 17.6bln kWh hydropower plant as well as a 600ktpa aluminium smelter completed in the Krasnoyarsk region. The entire project will cost about US$4bln.

Nuclear energy is on the agenda, alongside coal and gas. Policies in these areas are leading to new partnerships. UC RUSAL has agreed to research the potential for more efficient and environmentally friendly coal use as part of a joint venture with Kazakhstan-based Samruk Holdings. This involves developing the Ekibastuzskoye coal field around the Bogatyr and Severny coal mines.

UC RUSAL is considering joining forces with energy company CPI. To create a vertically integrated energy and metal production complex.

Advancing aluminium

UC RUSAL is working with the International Aluminium Institute to develop a programme with leading universities and research centres to look into sustainable uses for aluminium. The objective of the programme is to encourage greater use of sustainable aluminium products globally. The company says that practical use of the proposed developments will provide significant reduction in gas emissions.

Under the Paving the Way to a Safer World initiative, successful investment in the mining and energy sectors will be increasingly judged on environmental grounds.

Caring for Climate – The Business Leadership Platform

This is a voluntary action platform established by a consultative group of businesses and civic society representatives that brings together the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Programme and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Its aim is to advance practical solutions to climate change and take an advocacy role in promoting early action. Other companies involved include – AIRBUS SAS, Alcan Inc, Anglo American plc, ArcelorMittal, E.ON AG, Lafarge, StatoilHydro ASA, Tata Steel, and The Linde Group.

Further information: UC RUSAL