April 2022
Record pricing levels for primary aluminium metal were not helped by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, however, with predominately individuals facing sanction, as opposed to companies’, commodity movements have continued, though uncertainty on future measures certainly remains.

A price run up in early March from initial fears eased as retaliatory economic measures became clearer. The realised average March Quarter price was US$3,280/t, significantly above forecast as Europe’s energy struggles and their impact on supply were exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Reflecting a 3.6% increase over March, the price finished the month at US$3,567/t.

With no clear conclusion to the situation in Europe, AME’s June Quarter price forecast has been raised to US$3,400/t. Increased supply out of China and impacts on its domestic demand caused by its Covid-zero strategy should see improved metal availability ex-China but will take time. AME’s full year forecast has been raised to US$3,180/t.

Production constraints in China, and events in Eastern Europe, saw the Australia FOB Alumina price rise through March, averaging US$493/t, up ~25% from the February average. Alumina prices were unsettled by events in Ukraine—including the loss of 1.7Mtpa of supply from the Nikolaev refinery—but production is returning in China as energy efficiency measures are eased and new capacity in India is ramping up. The aluminium supply issues in Europe are also crimping some demand for alumina which is expected to see prices start easing. AME’s June Quarter Australia FOB Alumina price is currently forecast at US$420/t.

In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Glencore announced it is reviewing its business dealings with Russian firms. Glencore currently owns a 10.5% stake in En+ Group, the parent company of Russian aluminium producer, Rusal. Glencore has stated it has no operational footprint in Russia and that its trading exposure is immaterial. The company had already been easing ties with Russian businesses under its current leadership. There has been a wave of Western companies severing ties with Russia following the Ukraine invasion, largely in response to pressure from both governments and shareholders, as well as a response to sanctions imposed so far.

In one of the latest developments in efforts to decarbonise the aluminium production process, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group have begun assessing the feasibility of applying CO2 capture technologies at the 1.5Mtpa Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) smelter. The study follows the signing of an MOU between the two companies in January. MHI Engineering will provide the Alba smelter with its KM CDR Process and represents the first application of CO2 capture technology in the aluminium industry.

While aluminium is expected to play a significant role in transitioning to a decarbonised world, primarily due to its light-weighting applications in electric vehicles and use in the required infrastructure development, concerns are raised for the emissions associated with the materials production—both to generate the electricity required and direct emissions from the reduction process. Successful carbon capture process tailored to the industry will help alleviate these concerns.