Project Synopsis

Perform preliminary process design, cost estimating, and vendor identification for a novel clay to aluminum metal production process.

Project Summary


The client has developed a new approach for the production of aluminum that is expected to significantly reduce energy usage and asked Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) to develop cost estimates for a portion of a proposed pilot system and to help identify qualified vendors for certain equipment items and raw materials.  The majority of the work involved identifying vendors and getting budgetary price information for unit operations related to the electrolytic cell used to produce aluminum.

Among the tasks completed by PROCESS include:

  • Identified vendors that could provide a high temperature salt furnace capable of producing molten chloride salts.
  • Investigated materials of compatibility for high temperature operation.  Of particular interest were metals that were compatible with dry chlorine gas at high temperature and electrically insulating gasket materials.
  • Identified vendors capable of supplying a high temperature crucible and heating station for transferring molten salts and metals.
  • Identified vendors capable of producing a custom designed filter housing capable of operation while submerged in a molten salt.
  • Identified vendors capable of producing a custom electrolytic cell for the production of aluminum.  The reduction cell was designed with multiple layers, including graphite, brick, foam glass, and steel.
  • Identified vendors for producing custom components of quartz and graphite.
  • Design of a system for recovery of vapor components escaping the electrolytic cell.  This included:
    • A shell and tube heat exchanger capable of condensing (to a liquid) vaporized salts by cooling.
    • A direct cooling scraped wall heat exchanger for condensing solid salts from a vapor while preventing buildup of solids within the heat exchanger.
    • A condenser skid with chillers and compressors for liquefying +95% of the chlorine vapor evolved from the electrolytic cell.
  • Performed a preliminary mass and energy balance using CHEMCAD process simulation model software. This included adding new components to the CHEMCAD database and fitting existing data in the existing thermodynamic model.
  • Identified vendors and toll processors capable of delivering specific raw materials required for the process.
  • Investigated electric delivery and a rectifier capable of powering the electrolytic cell.
  • Generated an equipment list for the major operations needed in the electrolytic cell operation.
  • Obtained budgetary quotes for both equipment and raw materials for the pilot system.
  • Preliminary Capital Cost and Operating Cost estimates preparation – Involved the development of an estimate for completing design, procurement, and construction of the pilot facility.


Based on the findings in this project, the client is able to move forward with investor presentations to obtain funding for building and operating a pilot system.

Industry Type

  • Aluminum Manufacturing

Utilized Skills

  • Preliminary process design (FEL-1)
  • Specialty process equipment vendor identification

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