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Engineering & Science

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Production Processes

In North America, the metal is called aluminium, in Europe, aluminium.  In North American works – and now throughout much of the globe as a result of changes in ownership – the part of the factory in which aluminium is reduced is known as the ‘cell-room’.  In Britain, this was traditionally referred to as the ‘furnace room’.

The following simple diagram explains the order of the production process:

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To produce one ton of 99.3% - 99.8% pure aluminium, the following approximate quantities of raw materials were needed: four tons of bauxite; around two tons of coal; close on one-fifth of a ton of caustic soda; half a ton of carbon; and between 18,000 and 20,000 kWh of electricity.  The need, in particular, for cheap electricity is what attracted British Aluminium to those regions of the continent which offered the waterpower resources necessary for generating cheap electricity.  In BACo’s case, the Highlands offered the best possible prospects in the UK [see hydro-electric schemes].  Initially, they sourced their bauxite from their mines in Glenravel (Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland) and processed into alumina at Larne before being shipped to their west Highland smelters, but they soon discovered that the quality of the bauxite was too inferior for market demands. 

Around the turn of the twentieth-century, British Aluminium acquired a controlling share in mines in the South of France (It was a small village in the area, La Baux, from which Bauxite took its name) from which much more pure bauxite was extracted.