Our Clayton testing facility can test full-scale components from industry.

The Australian aluminium smelting industry consumes about 12 per cent of the nation’s electricity and is responsible five to six per cent of greenhouse gases emitted.

Internationally, the industry faces several challenges. Over the past few decades, demand for electricity has increased and with some plants almost 50 years old they are being run at more than twice their original design capacity and consuming significantly more electricity.

The price of electricity has become an increasingly large cost as well – up to 40 per cent of operating costs for some primary metal producers. In a world-leading research effort, CSIRO is exploring how to make the aluminium industry and other metal production industries cleaner and less reliant on electricity.

Reducing power losses is the most cost-effective way of decreasing CO2 emissions associated with electricity use, especially in countries that are highly reliant on coal-fired electricity plants, such as Australia, South Africa, China and the United States.

Installing client industrial samples into the CSIRO High Amperage Testing Facility. © Mark Fergus

Energy loss through high amp electrical connections

Industrial high current electrical conductors and connections are sources of energy loss – in aluminium smelting power losses of approximately 10 per cent occur through bus bar and associated electrical connections.

Significant cost savings can be achieved by improving energy efficiency of these electrical contacts. A 20 millivolt saving across all five Australasian aluminium smelters would save enough electricity to power all the houses in a city the size of Gladstone in Queensland or Mildura in Victoria and could deliver cost savings of more than A$4 million per year.

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