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Alunorte, world’s largest alumina refinery, to shut

HOUSTON, October 5, 2018 (PCW) -- Norsk Hydro announced this week that it is completely shutting production at the world’s largest alumina refinery, Alunorte in Brazil. The plant has been running at 50% of capacity since March due to an environmental dispute. No shutdown date was specified.

The original production cut occurred after the company admitted making unlicensed emissions of untreated water during heavy rains. While Hydro said its problems have been corrected, authorities have not yet allowed the plant to resume full production.

The decision to halt production was made because the refinery's waste deposit area is close to full capacity. A conflict with authorities is preventing Hydro from using a newly created residue facility, the company said.

Hydro declared force majeure earlier this year on some alumina deliveries from Brazil, and now plans to expand this declaration.

Production at the Albras (Alumínio Brasileiro S.A.) aluminum smelter has also been reduced to 50% since March. The closure of the alumina refinery is expected to mean closure for Albras, as well. The plant produces aluminum ingots.

A US chlor-alkali producer stated that Albras imports caustic soda from OxyChem and Westlake in the US to use in its aluminum manufacturing. With the loss of this significant caustic soda customer, there was speculation that operating rates at US chlor-alkali plants could be reduced.

The reduction in co-product chlorine production could lead to reduced PVC plant operating rates at some point, one PVC supplier said. Another PVC supplier said it was unlikely that chlorine production would be reduced enough to affect US PVC production. -- Donna Todd

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