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China looks at coal ash to serve as raw material for alumina

China’s bauxite imports are expected to remain stable but a future raw material for alumina could be coal ash, according to Sandy Kong, senior analyst at BGRIMM said.

“Coal ash is forecast to be an important raw material in the future. Four tonnes of coal generates one tonne of coal ash,” she told delegates at the 3rd Asian bauxite and alumina conference in Singapore.

About 2.4 tonnes of coal ash is needed to make one tonne of alumina and the energy consumed is about 1.35 tonnes of standard coal, Kong said.

“The energy cost is relatively higher [in alumina produced using coal ash] and we need to try to reduce the energy cost,” she said.

Coal ash is used to produce cement, concrete, bricks and alumina.

Alumina can be produced from high alumina-content coal ash of 40-55%, Kong said.

There are five new coal ash projects in the pipeline in China, she said and gave the example of the 200,000 tpa Datang International alumina project using coal ash in Inner Mongolia that started commercial output last year.

In 2013, domestic bauxite will account for 59% while bauxite imports will be about 41%.

The raw material landscape will change over time, she pointed.

By 2020, domestic bauxite will make up for 56% of the total raw material, coal ash will account for 13% and bauxite imports will fall to 31% of the total Chinese bauxite needs, Kong said.

About 36 projects with 23.4 million tpa alumina capacity might be commissioned in the next 5-10 years, Kong said.

From this 23.4 million tonnes, only 2.4 milllion tpa of new capacities will be fed by imported bauxite, while coal ash project will account for 22% of new projects, she said.

China’s bauxite imports have increased from 2.2 million tonnes in 2005 to 39.9 million tonnes in 2012, Kong said adding that in the first eight months of 2013, bauxite imports reached record high.

In 2005, 93% of total bauxite imported into China came from Indonesia but in the first eight months of 2013 the share has fallen to 66%.

China is developing alternative sources of bauxite in Australia, Ghana, Guinea and Fiji with the impending Indonesian ban in 2014.

Alumina

China’s alumina production might increase by 16% in 2013 Kong said, adding that in the period 2014-2020, China’s alumina production will see a stable growth rate of 5%.

By 2020, China’s alumina production is forecast to be over 60 million tonnes.

“There are 26 projects with 18.2 million tpa of capacity under construction [in China] and will be commissioned in the next few years,” Kong said.

Alumina production in Shanxi province will grow rapidly in the next few years, she said adding there were nine project with a total capacity of 7.1 million tonnes in the pipeline.

China, the largest alumina producer in the world, produced about 37.7 million tonnes of alumina in 2012, which is over 40% of the total world production.


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