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Hydro, a strong partner for aluminium
Energy efficiency and recycling are amongst the targets of the company

"We will work to strengthen the European aluminium industry. Europe is facing a number of challenges, both financial and because of its energy policies. It is important that the major players take a responsible approach and look to support the European industry in the long term".
Kjetil Ebbesberg is the head of Hydro's Metal Markets, the marketing arm of the European alu-minium leader. Hydro is the market leader for casthouse products such as extrusion ingots and foundry alloys in Europe, from its multiple production sites in seven European countries.
"In Hydro we do this by driving innovation and being in the forefront in product development. The European industry has to work smarter than our overseas competitors. We have to develop the quality products of tomorrow to meet the needs of customers facing the highest environmental standards in the world and striving to reduce their carbon footprint".
Ebbesberg, who is also member of Hydro's Corporate Management Board, explains that one of Hydro's responses is to develop recycling as a competitive source of metal. Europe, and in particu-lar Italy, have for years had some of the highest use of aluminium per capita of all regions. "These high ‘installments' of aluminium in our infrastructure is the ‘urban mine' of the future. We want as much as possible of this strategic raw material to be refined and transformed in Europe. This is why we have launched a new recycling strategy for Hydro".
"Our goal is to be the preferred partner in casthouse products and services. We will in the future include recycling in this concept".
Recent years have been tough ones for the aluminium industry, but Hydro is emerging as a stronger company - still focusing on meeting the customer needs.
"In the fall of 2008 it looked as if the customers never returned from their summer vacation. Ac-tivity in the market froze, volumes and prices caved in. In Hydro we took quick, decisive action to cut costs and preserve cash - not only to weather the storm, but also to be in an even better position when the economy rebounded".
Hydro's key actions were:
• Execution of the Qatalum project. This world-class aluminium plant is ideally located to serve all major markets. After the unfortunate power failure in August last year, the plant is now ramping up production and will be at full capacity by the end of June.
• Maintaining a high level of research and development - both focusing at product development and to improve our production processes.
• Embarking on a very ambitious cost-improvement program to ensure robust competitiveness of our fully owned primary aluminium plants.
• Developing its recycling capabilities and improving its offering of casthouse products.
• In rolled products Hydro is hi-grading its product portfolio.
• Hydro is reinforcing its European extrusion base, and strengthening its positions in the U.S. and in Brazil.
• Taking over the Vale aluminium assets in Brazil is a transformational acquisition for Hydro. When completed, the transaction will secure a high-quality resource base for many years going forward.
"Our way has for years been to combine a global strength with working closely with our local customers. We see the value in being an integrated aluminium company with activities all along the value chain. At the same, we have our distinct business models for the respective markets, addressing the markets in their own, unique way".
A leading supplier in Europe and Italy
"We see that our flexible multi-sourcing network is meeting the local needs. Our long-term policy of partnering with our customers in sharing technical and commercial services is an important part of our extended product offering. Of course, high quality is a prerequisite to be a preferred supplier. And with the efforts we are now undertaking to secure our future raw materials supply, it should be plain for all to see that Hydro is in it for the long haul - that we will always be a long-term force in the aluminium industry," says Ebbesberg.
Hydro's global offering of casthouse products
Hydro commands a network of 10 fully and partly owned primary aluminum smelters in Europe, Canada and Australia, now 11 including Qatalum. Ten of these produce tailor-made casthouse products, alloyed and dimensioned according to customer specifications - they term them metal plants. In addition, Hydro operates 9 stand-alone remelters, centrally located in the key markets in Europe, the U.S. and now also in Taiwan. These plants offer scrap conversion and produce high-quality extrusion ingots, qualified with our customers.
The company's total metal supplier concept last year allowed it to supply more than 2.7 million metric tons of casthouse products to the market, even though Hydro's own production was limited to approximately 1.4 million metric tons of primary aluminum. Unique network and technological base
This also represents a unique global network of aluminum casthouses, and Hydro is considering how to extend this further to meet the growing market demand. Hydro's more than 25 casthouses around the world provide an unrivalled competence base and opportunities to share best prac-tices.
"Our casthouses - explains Ebbesberg - are also linked to our R&D network, supported by technology centers in Europe, the U.S. and now also Qatar. Our researchers work closely with leading academic and research institutions of the world. Through this network and cooperation, we have been able to offer new developments like high-speed alloys, allowing extrusion speeds 10-20 percent faster than standard alloys".
Hydro has been in business for more than 100 years, and has developed a strong technological base. "We are market leaders for our key products in Europe. In our home markets, we also have developed the concept offering much more than 'just' the metal: We offer scrap conversion, tech-nical service and through our advanced internet-based e-portal, customers can run their business with Hydro efficiently as well as make use of important commercial services, helping them to better manage their risk".
Qatalum - building strength in Asia
Qatalum is an important part of repositioning Hydro's primary aluminium business. This joint venture, owned 50/50 with Qatar Petroleum, will be among the most competitive primary alu-minium plants in the world. Qatalum will, when in full production in second half of this year, have an annual production capacity of 585,000 metric tons. All primary aluminium can be shipped as value added products - extrusion ingots and foundry alloys.
Based on the partnership agreements, Hydro is bringing all the metal to the market. "In the years planning and constructing the Qatalum plant, we built our market presence, preparing to bring this metal to customers in the Middle East, Asia and the U.S.", Ebbesberg says. "Until the end of 2009, our main product source for the Asian market was the Kurri Kurri plant in Australia, and we had really no efficient source for primary metal to the U.S. As a part of our strategies towards new markets, we have acquired a remelter in Taiwan, which we are now bringing up to speed as a part of Hydro's services in Asia. The Taiwan casthouse will supplement the Kurri Kurri and Qatalum casthouses, allowing more of the flexibility we have had in Europe".
In 2006, Hydro had a total capacity for casthouse products, mainly extrusion ingots and foundry alloys in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, the company supplied some 400,000 metric tons of casthouse products in the region. With Qatalum operating at full capacity, Hydro aims to take about 600,000 metric tons of casthouse products to the markets, and Hydro will be one of the major suppliers of these products in this region.
Albras to be part of the Hydro system
Hydro's acquisition of Vale's aluminium business in Brazil will not only secure the raw material position for decades to come, it will represent our first primary metal production in Latin America. Albras has a total capacity of 460,000 metric tons of primary aluminium, with Hydro's share of 51 percent in the joint venture following the successful completion of the transaction. Today Albras is shipping all of its products as standard ingots. "We are currently evaluating the South American markets for value added products" says Ebbesberg.
Markets back towards normal
Less than three years after the financial downturn hit with full force, sales volumes are ap-proaching pre-crisis levels. However, the regional variations are significant, with strong growth in Asia and Latin America, while the U.S. and European markets are picking up more cautiously. In 2010, the world saw a stronger rebound in aluminium consumption than most analysts expected. This is due both to a stronger GDP development in a number of countries, and also to pipeline effects.
The global balance is also influenced by the fact that China has been buying up aluminium scrap in Western markets, forcing local metal consumers there to look for more primary aluminium. However, despite these positive movements seen from a primary aluminium perspective, a further increase in global primary aluminium stocks is expected. Parallel to the development in the metal market, power prices in Europe remain high, and combined with the cost of CO2 charged only to European producers, this places an extra strain on primary aluminum production in this region.
Stepping up in recycling
"In this context it is an even greater paradox that Europe is exporting 1 million metric tons of aluminium scrap, or the equivalent of 10 TWh of energy, to overseas recyclers," Ebbesberg says. "In Hydro, we are now stepping up our efforts in recycling, and will bring all our industrial competence into this part of the aluminium business. We are the leading supplier of casthouse products in Europe, and we want to establish a strong position in recycling, too".
Hydro will build on its metallurgical competence to expand its remelting offering via recycling of low-grade scrap back into high-quality casthouse products, all based on the best available tech-nologies. About 75 percent of all the aluminum ever produced is still in use - deposited in the aluminum energy bank.
Based on its extensive network of casthouses in Europe and in other key industrial markets, Hydro is in a strong position to be a challenger in aluminium recycling. Hydro already has a global recycling capacity of close to 500,000 metric tons. In 2010, the company recycled some 260,000 metric tons of contaminated aluminium scrap. "Our first priority is to utilize the already installed recycling capacity. To handle dross and other kinds of scrap in the Nordic region, we are preparing to build a new recycling center at Karmøy, in Norway. The liquid metal from the recycling facility will be supplied to the product casthouses, increasing Karmøy's capacity to supply the European markets," says Ebbesberg.
Energy-efficient buildings
Another focus area for Hydro's product development is energy-efficient buildings. The company is now being recognized for its efforts in this area. In January, Hydro's building systems brand, Wicona, a sister brand to Technal and Domal, won first prize in the building rehabilitation category at the world's biggest building exhibition, BAU 2011, in Munich, Germany.
Healthy outlook for aluminium
These innovative uses of aluminium to address some of the really big issues facing our modern society makes us see a healthy long-term demand for aluminium in the world.
Estimates show that world demand for aluminium will increase 76 percent from 2010 to 2020. The estimates confirm aluminum as the metal of the future. Ongoing projects and new, planned projects are not sufficient to meet those demand increases. In the short term, over the next two to three years, oversupply is likely to continue.
After that, the supply-demand situation will be more balanced. Approaching 2020, more new production capacity needs to come on stream to avoid a shortage of aluminium.
"This is part of the dilemma we are facing," Ebbesberg says. "In the short term, we are struggling with an oversupply and rising inventories. But the long-term prospects are strong. Aluminium is clearly the metal of the future".
     
 
 

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