Trimet Aluminium SE has developed a new process control system for controlling the electrolysis furnaces in its aluminium smelters. The METRICS® control and monitoring system developed in-house by the company will replace various control systems at the Essen, Hamburg, Voerde and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne sites in the future. With it, the materials specialist is implementing a consistent standard at the very highest level across the entire company, aimed at facilitating the shift to climate-neutral aluminium production.
“METRICS® enables us to tackle multiple challenges simultaneously that will arise in future aluminium production,” says Dr. Andreas Lützerath, member of the Executive Board of Trimet Aluminium SE. “We are supporting the implementation of flexible control mechanisms within the electrolysis process to adapt to fluctuating power supplies, establishing the necessary conditions for CO2-free aluminium production.”
METRICS® allows the electrolysis process to better respond to fluctuations in the power grid because the system is connected to a forecasting program that predicts process parameters. This “digital twin” rapidly illustrates how changes in the production process affect the behavior of the electrolytic cell during ongoing operation. This allows the energy requirements of the electrolysis cells to be synchronized with the fluctuating supply of renewable energies.
Trimet has developed a process that makes electrolysis more flexible, thereby supporting the integration of renewable energies in the power grid. Through load shifts, the aluminium smelter can adapt to fluctuating volumes of electricity produced from wind power and photovoltaic systems. Controllable heat exchangers at the electrolysis cells ensure a consistent energy balance in the furnaces.
In addition, Trimet is currently engaged in a research project focused on an inert anode that releases oxygen instead of carbon dioxide during aluminium production. This innovative process requires new furnace technology, which Trimet is developing with the help of METRICS®. The furnace concept is being simulated with the help of a mathematical model. In a next step, Trimet will test the concept with a demonstrator on an industrial scale.
At the Essen site, the new METRICS® control system is currently operating in 16 electrolysis furnaces, while an additional 40 furnaces have been converted and are awaiting commissioning. In Voerde, the expansion of a test group has already been completed. The aluminium smelter in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is testing the system with an initial electrolysis furnace, and a test furnace will soon be installed in Hamburg. By 2028, Trimet aims to control all 998 electrolysis furnaces at its four aluminium smelters with METRICS®.