First new US integrated aluminium rolling mill in 40 years

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Novelis recently announced construction of a state-of-the-art, $2.5 billion recycling and aluminum rolling facility in Baldwin County, Alabama. In addition, a statement in Made in Alabama suggested that the 3,000-acre South Alabama Mega facility will create approximately 1,000 jobs.

According to the Novelis, the site will be the first fully-integrated aluminum mill built in the US in 40 years. It is to be located in Bay Minette, northeast of Mobile. In most cases, Alabamans greeted the news with celebration. After all, the plant is sure to give the area a major economic boost and may open the door for future investment.

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The aluminum rolling plant will process billions of cans per year.

OlegDoroshin/Adobe Stock

An Aluminum Rolling Mill for the Future

Over half of the facility’s 600,000 ton annual capacity will be can stock. Packaging and automotive will make up the rest. This suggests the operation will primarily serve as a direct-to-end-user business. This is important as it won’t displace imports in the distributor market for commercial products.

The plant will focus heavily on using renewable energy, recycled water, and other green programs. These sorts of zero-waste policies are largely expected of recycling plants. The decision is sure to please environmentalists. It will also boost the firm’s reputation as a low carbon, low impact producer.

Of course, Baldwin County loves the prospect of such a large number of well-paid jobs. Indeed, Alabama is one of the poorest states in the US. In 2018, the median household income was just $49,861. Compare that to the US average of $61,937. The state is sure to benefit from a world-class manufacturing facility with advanced automation. It will also expose a new generation of workers to digital technologies like AI, AR, and robotics.

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Coming to Alabama (in 2025)

Experts suggest that  state and local financial incentives influenced the site location. After all, Alabama lobbied hard for the plant and its 1000+ jobs. However, being near clients is also important to Novelis’s closed-loop supply chain model. This means that waste from the company’s can makers will be  re-processed along with the end-of-life cans. Baldwin county’s centralized location and multiple transport routes likely impacted the decision.

A company statement estimated that Novelis will soon be able to recycle 90 billion cans globally. This is a big increase from its current 74 billion capacity. Don’t hold your breath in terms of a rush of metal availability, though. They doesn’t expect to commission the plant until sometime in 2025.

The new Novelis facility will likely have a major impact on the US aluminum market. Currently, aluminum prices are seeing record highs. In March, a single metric ton cost $3,498.  And while recycled aluminum is cheaper, it can’t be used in as many applications. Experts foresee aluminum demand increasing 40% by 2030. In such a market, we will need all the sources we can get.

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