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  • Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd.

Indian aluminum producer trials biodiesel in smelter operations

Photo: Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd.

Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. (BALCO), India’s iconic aluminum producer and a subsidiary of Vedanta Aluminium, has successfully conducted trial runs for using biodiesel in smelter operations.

In the pilot test, the company used biodiesel for preheating molten metal (aluminum) carrying vehicles, called “ladles,” which transfer the hot metal in its molten state from its potlines to cast houses.

A potline is a long building, or collection of buildings, located in a smelter and contains a series of “pots,” or large electrolytic cells, in which aluminum smelting is carried out.

The preheating process is extremely crucial for removing any trace of moisture from the ladle. This is important for maintaining the purity and temperature of the metal during its transportation to cast houses, where the molten aluminum is converted into various finished products.

Biodiesel produces significantly lower greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional, nonrenewable fuels, and aids in farmers’ income. This is in line with the company’s ambitious target to become net-zero carbon by 2050 or sooner.

Towards this end, BALCO is looking at increasing the quantum of renewables in its energy mix through various sources of green fuels, such as renewable energy, biomass and biodiesel. For example, the company is currently utilizing 40 to 50 metric tons of biomass briquettes per day at its power plants and has plans to further increase the amount of biomass consumption to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy conservation and the increase in adoption of green fuels form the two most important pillars of BALCO’s journey of decarbonization. In fiscal-year 2022, through various energy-conservation initiatives, BALCO has conserved nearly 22,000 gigajoules of energy. With endeavors such as these, BALCO is taking significant strides towards contributing to Vedanta’s aim to become net-zero carbon by 2050 or sooner.

“BALCO is undertaking robust initiatives towards decarbonization, such as innovating upon existing processes to increase energy savings and reduce GHG emissions,” said Abhijit Pati, CEO and director of BALCO. “The successful pilot trial of biodiesel applications at our smelter encourages us to remain attuned to emerging technologies for reducing our carbon footprint. With excellence in environment, social and governance (ESG) central to how we operate, BALCO continues to proactively work towards bringing together business growth and environmental protection for sustainable socioeconomic development.”

BALCO was awarded the prestigious IMC RBNQ Milestone Merits Recognition 2021 award. The company has also received the distinguished National Energy Leaders Awards 2022 in the metal sector at the CII 23rd National Award for Excellence in Energy Management and has been recognized as an Excellent Energy Efficient Unit for the third time in a row by CII.

BALCO is 49 percent owned by the government of India and 51 percent by Vedanta Ltd. BALCO is part of Vedanta’s aluminum business, a division of Vedanta Ltd., which is India’s largest manufacturer of aluminum.

BALCO operates a 0.57 million ton per year aluminum smelter in Korba, Chhattisgarh.

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