Aurubis already produces copper with less than half of the global CO2 footprint. The company has also committed itself to an ambitious CO2 reduction target of 50 percent for Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions as part of the Science Based Targets initiative for 2030. Aurubis is consistently preparing for the age of hydrogen: As one of the first copper smelters in the world, the Hamburg plant of the multi-metal and recycling specialist will be able to use hydrogen instead of natural gas for reduction in anode furnaces. With the investment of around €40 million, Aurubis is taking another important step in the transformation to climate neutrality: The new technology means potential savings of around 5,000 tons of CO2 per year if hydrogen is used entirely.
Modification in the Hamburg plant
At the Hamburg plant, the conversion will be carried out as part of the plant’s scheduled maintenance shutdown scheduled for spring 2024. In addition to the decarbonization of production, the new furnaces also improve the flexibility of the process control: Compared to today's plants, the new furnace technology enables the processing of more complex metal-bearing copper concentrates. In this way, Aurubis will be able to extract more valuable raw materials in Germany even more efficiently in the future in order to meet the increasing demand from electromobility, for example.
The new anode furnaces play a central role in the Hamburg copper production process. Until now, raw copper has been processed using natural gas, which produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Thanks to the future use of hydrogen (H2) as a reducing agent, the Hamburg plant will emit a good 5,000 tons less CO2 per year.
“With the replacement of the anode furnaces, we are realizing another milestone in our decarbonization strategy. There is still hardly any green hydrogen to cover the enormous demand of German industry at competitive prices. With this step we are leading the way and showing that we are ready!” explains Roland Harings, CEO of Aurubis AG.
Anode furnaces for decarbonization
The new anode furnaces are already contributing to the decarbonization of Aurubis production before there is enough hydrogen on the market: The new plants work more efficiently and consume around 30 percent less natural gas, which means a savings potential of almost 1,200 tons of CO2 per year. In addition to a clear plus in terms of climate protection, the replacement of the anode furnaces makes a technological contribution to the more efficient extraction of valuable metals from metal concentrates and recycling materials. These include nickel, an important raw material in batteries for electromobility. When designing the ambitious anode furnace project, the company relied heavily on internal know-how.
"The H2 readiness of the new furnace area is 100 percent 'Made by Aurubis'. With the new anode furnaces, we are demonstrating our motivation and our courage to implement real innovations in our processes and, as a company with almost 160 years of history at the Hamburg location, to constantly face new challenges,” says Harings.
Aurubis had already proven in May 2021 that hydrogen can be used successfully in production: In a pilot project at the Hamburg plant, copper anodes were produced with hydrogen instead of natural gas - it was the premiere for the use of hydrogen on an industrial scale.
Aurubis has long been pursuing the strategic goal of consistently minimizing the impact of production on the environment and climate. The clear focus on sustainability is paying off: Aurubis produces many metals with less than half the CO2 emissions compared to the average of global competitors. The CO2 footprint of the main product, copper cathodes, has fallen by 36 percent since 2013. At the same time, the footprint of the plants is more than 60 percent below the global industry average. The values are even better for tin: Here, Aurubis is 76 percent below the global average. The company's goal is to produce climate-neutral well before 2050.