Unearthing potentials for decarbonizing the U.S. aluminium cycle

Global aluminum demand is anticipated to triple by 2050, by which time global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are advised to be cut 50-85% to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. To explore mitigation strategies systematically, a dynamic material flow model was developed to simulate the stocks and flows of the U.S. aluminum cycle and analyze the corresponding GHG emissions. Theoretical and realistic reduction potentials were identified and quantified. The total GHG emissions for the U.S. aluminum cycle in 2006 amount to 38 Mt CO2-equivalence. However, the U.S. has increasingly relied on imports of aluminum embodied in various products. The in-use stock is still growing fast in most product categories, which limits current scrap availability for recycling and emissions saving. Nevertheless, there is still large emission mitigation potential through recycling. The potentials from '100% old scrap collection' and 'low emission energy' were each calculated to be higher than all process technology potential. Total emissions will decrease dramatically and mitigation priorities will change significantly under a stock saturation situation as much more old scrap becomes available for recycling. The nature of in-use stock development over the coming decades will be decisive for the aluminum industry to reach deeper emission cuts.