Strategic cooperation: hydrogen in copper production
Aurubis AG has signed a letter of intent with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for further cooperation. ADNOC had previously supplied ammonia for a series of tests at the Aurubis plant in Hamburg. The metal manufacturer investigated the use of ammonia for copper production.
According to the metal manufacturer and copper recycler, the ammonia was successfully used as an energy source in the production plant for copper wire rod during the test series, which lasted several months. At temperatures of more than 1,100 °C, the plant processes copper cathodes into copper wire rod. The wire is the starting material for products such as power and telecommunications cables.
According to Aurubis, the original target of around 20 % ammonia admixture could not be achieved within the legal environmental requirements and the high demands on product quality. The metal manufacturer therefore does not intend to pursue the direct use of ammonia as a fuel for this area of application.
The Hamburg Ministry of Economics and Innovation supported the German metal manufacturer's test series. The ammonia used there had come to Hamburg as part of a cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and Germany. Last October, ADNOC delivered ammonia produced with natural gas to the Hanseatic city. According to Aurubis, green ammonia is not yet available on the market in sufficient quantities for use in industry.
Use of hydrogen for copper production
Instead, the company is now focusing on the direct use of hydrogen as part of a research collaboration. Aurubis has already tested the use of hydrogen in other areas of copper production such as the copper wire plant.
Aurubis conducted its first tests using hydrogen in copper production in 2021. In a pilot project, which also took place at the Hamburg plant, hydrogen was used instead of natural gas in the production of copper anodes. According to the company, it was the first time hydrogen was used on an industrial scale. Aurubis invested € 40 million in new anode furnaces that can be operated with green hydrogen. The Hamburg plant is one of the first copper smelters in the world to be able to use hydrogen instead of natural gas for reduction in the anode furnace.
The 2021 tests were carried out as part of the joint North German Real Laboratory project with the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences as a scientific partner.