Magontec Ltd has announced startup of magnesium alloys production at its Qinghai, China cast house facility in the third quarter of this year, according to Executive Chairman Nicholas Andrews.
"We will take a pour of liquid magnesium from the Golmud plant in [China’s] Qinghai Province to produce alloys so no re-melting is required," Mr. Andrews said.
The Sydney, Australia firm has exclusive rights to manufacture magnesium alloys at this location, which has a production capacity of 60,000 tons.
Magontec has a ten-year lease for the alloy cast house at Qinghai Salt Lake Magnesium Co Ltd’s (QSLM’s) smelter complex, with an option to extend the contract for an additional ten years.
Magontec will receive 56% of the production from the 100,000/tons per year smelter which will convert, after alloying, into about 60,000/tpy of magnesium alloy at full production.
The magnesium industry has seen massive disruption in the last 10-20 years, Andrews said in an interview.
"China started using cheap labor and coal power using the Pidgeon process for magnesium metal and nearly all the big international companies died and billions of dollars were written off."
"The Qinghai facility is 85% supplied by renewable energy which reduces the environmental footprint to 6 tons of CO2 for each ton of magnesium produced," Mr. Andrews said of the green magnesium complex that he
compared with other producers in China’s magnesium industry that use the high- labor and energy-intensive Pidgeon process. That process is "highly polluting at up to 25 tons of CO2 for every one ton of magnesium metal produced," he said.
"We will be producing magnesium alloys in Qinghai but these will be environment friendly products."
Besides the 60,000-ton magnesium alloy capacity in Qinghai, Magontec has 25,000 tons of capacity across its plants in Romania and Germany, and a further 30,000 tons of capacity at its plant in China’s Shaanxi province.
Magontec is a primary manufacturer of Mg alloys, a magnesium alloys recycling specialist, and a leading manufacturer of magnesium and electronic anodes for cathodic corrosion protection.
Mr. Andrews stated, "The Qinghai plant will transform our business. We will be the largest magnesium alloys producer in the world. We are already number two or three in terms of (magnesium alloys) exports from China, and the leading global magnesium alloy producer when the European operations are included."
Demand for increased production and application of magnesium alloys will come from China’s automotive sector and the increasing move from gasoline-powered and diesel-powered vehicles in favor of electric vehicles worldwide.
"China has 25 million new cars every year and those cars manufactured by Chinese automakers use very little magnesium, so if the Chinese used the same amount of magnesium as European auto manufacturers, then there is big scope for this light metal," the executive said.
A European-made car uses on average around five kg of magnesium, while cars made in China have less than one kg, according to Mr. Andrews.
"New electric vehicles have the potential to use 45kgs of magnesium each by 2030 according to some projections," he said.
"An electric car will have the same problems with weight as a gasoline-powered vehicle," Andrews pointed out, noting, "a Tesla weighs 2.5 tons, of which one ton is battery and engine, the rest being parts of the frame. So the lighter you can make everything, the more fuel efficient the car would be." Mr. Andrews projects that within the next 10-15 years 50% of the world’s automobiles will be hybrid or electric vehicles.
Andrews says automakers subscribe to the “lighter is better” philosophy. “Magnesium is two-thirds the weight of aluminum so using magnesium as a weight saving device, for example in an engine block, means the car is lighter, makes it more fuel efficient, and therefore produces less carbon,” he says.
Specialized magnesium alloys produced by Magontec are being used in parts found in Porsche and Audi vehicles, Andrews says.
China produces approximately 743,000 tons of the annual global production of 878,000 tons of magnesium metal (Russia being second on the list), and Magontec estimates around 40%, or 300,000 tons of that volume is exported (China exported 116,000 tons of primary alloys in 2016, up 8% year-on-year, a figure close to 45% of the total magnesium alloys produced in the country).
According to Andrews, approximately 281,000 tons of magnesium alloys is produced worldwide, and assuming a 40% scrap rate, the total magnesium alloys produced globally including recycling is close to 400,000 tons.
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