Alcoa tests new geothermal method of making aluminum

 Photo courtesy of Flickr.

A Wall Street Journal Energy Blog writes that Alcoa is testing a new geothermal energy powered aluminum smelter. They claim that the geothermal system will provide “almost limitless, clean, natural energy.”

“The technology we hope to develop in Iceland should be applicable wherever there is high temperature geothermal potential,” said Alcoa Executive Vice President Bernt Reitan.

Supported by Alcoa, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project consortium will collaborate on a deep drilling pilot project, which will investigate the economic feasibility of producing energy and useful chemicals from geothermal systems at what are known as “supercritical conditions.”

Essentially, these are natural systems where underground water becomes super-heated by close proximity to almost molten rocks deep beneath the earth’s surface. Pilot plant testing will be completed by 2015.

It takes an enormous amount of energy to make aluminum. A recent NY Times article about China wrote, “China’s aluminum industry alone consumes as much energy as the country’s commercial sector — all the hotels, restaurants, banks and shopping malls combined, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Houser reported.”

So let’s hope that it really works!