Alumina Technology Roadmap
|Publication Date:||1 November 2001|
This Alumina Technology Roadmap represents a unique global partnership, a partnership that may well signal the future of the aluminium industry. This roadmap partnership has involved the collaborative efforts of industry groups from the major international companies operating on four continents, government representatives from both the United States and Australia, and representatives from the academic community and industry associations (The Aluminum Association and the Australian Aluminium Council). All were drawn together under the auspices of AMIRA International, the mineral industry research association, to consider and develop technology plans for the alumina industry through the year 2020. Given the globalization of the aluminium industry, and the fact that Australia is by far the largest producer and exporter of alumina, it is most appropriate that the input for this Alumina Technology Roadmap was developed at a workshop in Fremantle, Western Australia in May 2001.
The alumina industry is facing similar issues as most other global commodity producers: social and environmental reporting, the challenge of sustainable operations, the image of a 'green' industry, and competition from substitute materials. Individually each producer is addressing these challenges. However, it is now evident that some challenges are best dealt with by an industry sector above and beyond the direct competitive environment. One key outcome of a technology roadmap is identifying these collaborative areas and the steps that must be taken to achieve the industry-wide goals.
A steering committee of international technology experts guided the development of the roadmap. An essential first step was the development of critical technology goals to which the industry should aspire. These ambitious goals establish the longterm vision and encompass the challenges for alumina as a commodity - energy efficiency, safety, environmental performance, sustainability issues, and customer expectations - as well as the product challenges of quality, consistency, and performance. The goals reflect the industry's acknowledgment of the growing impact of environmental and social issues on business practices. Improving overall performance on environment, health, and safety, for example, will push the industry beyond current best practice and enhance its long-term competitiveness. The specific industry strategic goals for the year 2020 are shown in Exhibit 1.
The resulting roadmap outlines a comprehensive long-term research and development plan that defines the industry's collective future and establishes a clear pathway forward. It emphasizes twelve high-priority R&D areas deemed most significant in addressing the strategic goals. Both continuous improvement through incremental changes as well as significant advances through innovative step changes will be essential if the industry is going to respond effectively to the challenges in the years to come.
The expected benefits of using the technology roadmap include increasing governments' capacity to build strategic research alliances and enabling industry to capitalize on emerging economic opportunities through early and improved access to leading-edge technology. It is anticipated that the development of this Alumina Technology Roadmap will serve to complement other ongoing efforts to enhance the understanding of the industry by government and other stakeholders such as the national laboratories and universities. The Australian industry and Government are currently putting in place a long-term vision for the industry in Australia, under the title of the Light Metals Action Agenda. The technology roadmap approach has been embraced as a key component of this strategy. The development of the Alumina Technology Roadmap has also been a major action item under the Government's Energy Efficiency Best Practice program. The participating government agencies of both the United States and Australia are encouraged by the willingness of alumina producers from around the world to collaborate on a strategic plan to guide the industry's growth and enhance its competitiveness in the world economy over the next several decades.