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Air quality assessment in the surroundings of aluminium smelters


The effect of aluminium production on the environment surrounding aluminium smelters has been studied over several decades. NILU has studied their effects on air quality both in measurements and modelling studies since the early 1970s. The “Effect Study” in the beginning of the 1990s gave an overview over the effects of aluminium production on vegetation, water, farm and game animals and human health.

ESPIAL (Ensuring the Environmental Sustainability of production of PrImary Aluminium) is a multidisciplinary study initiated and sponsored by “Aluminiumindustriens Miljøsekretariat” (AMS) to update and supplement the Effect Study. The project covers data back to the early 1990s.

The main aim of the project is to advance the knowledge regarding the environmental consequences associated with emissions to air from the production of primary aluminium from the production technologies available today. The aim is achieved through the assessment of the effect of historical emissions on air quality in the past, involving a literature review of data from ten aluminium smelters in Northern Europe, (WP1) and measurement of the most relevant air pollutants emitted during aluminium production in the surroundings of two selected aluminium smelters, Hydro Sunndal (WP2) and Alcoa Lista (WP3). The outcome from these activities will contribute to knowledge creation at the Al-industries and to secure sustainability of the aluminium industry in Northern Europe.

In order to establish up-to-date knowledge on the ambient air quality status in the surroundings of aluminium plants today, field campaigns were carried out at selected smelters. The ten smelters participating in the ESPIAL project are placed at locations largely differing regarding dispersion conditions, population exposure, topography etc. This makes it difficult to conclude on the situation around other smelters based on measurements at only one distinct location. Lista and Sunndal were indicated as suitable sites, one located in a flat area at the coast, the other in a topographically complex terrain. Two separate sampling campaigns are carried out.