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Yorkshire technology to cure carbon quandary for aluminium companies

Published: 25th January 2009

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SYIF’s Peter Pridham with Richard Wright, Inertius chief executive outside the AMP’s Information Technology Centre in between Rotherham and Sheffield.

Researchers in Yorkshire are developing a new technology that could help aluminium manufacturers dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Inertius Ltd, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park’s Information Technology Centre in between Rotherham and Sheffield, are developing an inert anode that will replace the currently used carbon anodes and eliminate the release of carbon dioxide during the refining of aluminium.

About 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is released into the earth’s atmosphere every year from using the current process; and a £120,000 investment from South Yorkshire Investment Fund is helping Inertius get its patented technology to market.

Current refining of aluminium, known as the Hall-Heroult process, is expensive, uses large amounts of energy and releases carbon dioxide and emissions into the atmosphere. As a result the industry is coming under increased political and legislative pressures to become more environmentally friendly.

Government-issue permits are now being auctioned off to the highest bidder in the UK in an attempt to cut carbon emissions.

The first auction, held in November this year, saw four million permits sold off at a cost of £54m to British manufacturers and a further 80 million permits are scheduled for auction over the next four years at a cost of £1bn to the industry.

The inert anode technology, devised by Professor Animesh Jha at the University of Leeds, is moving into the next stage of its development with the loan from SYIF. The money will be used to fulfil a prestigious project with professors at the University of Auckland, a world leader in electrochemical metal production processes.

Inertius Chief Executive Richard Wright, a former President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “This piece of research could be the Holy Grail to the aluminium industry.

“Not only will this process mean a huge reduction in the industry’s carbon footprint and benefit the environment but it will also save companies vast sums of money, particularly given the government’s new policy on making them pay for the right to emit greenhouse gases.

“The investment from SYIF allows us to focus on the next stage of development including work in South Yorkshire, Leeds and Auckland Universities. It also means we can pour some resources into forming industrial partnerships, which will help us get the system to market as soon as possible.”

Inertius Ltd has also received funding from Enterprise Ventures and the Carbon Trust.

Peter Pridham, Investment Manager at SYIF, said: “The far reaching implications of Inertius and its research will be felt around the world and we’re delighted to be involved.

“It is ground breaking developments such as this that have given our region its rich industrial heritage and Inertius is proving that legacy is alive and well with a system that will benefit the aluminium industry around the world”

SYIF can provide seedcorn, loan and equity linked investments, ranging from £15k to £2.5m, specifically to help small and medium businesses meet the gaps in funding they need for growth and development.

For more information about South Yorkshire Investment Fund, please visit www.syif.com or ring 01709 386377

Editor's Notes

About South Yorkshire Investment Fund

South Yorkshire Investment Fund  provided seedcorn, loan and equity linked investments, ranging from £15k to £2.5m, specifically to help small and medium businesses meet the gaps in funding they need for growth and development.

Created as part of the Objective 1 programme, the Fund is a private and public sector business finance provider. The European Regional Development Fund and Yorkshire Forward are investors in the Fund.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund also provided access to Business Angel investments from the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels and Microloans through BiG Business Loan Fund and Donbac Microloan Fund.

Finance Yorkshire has now taken on responsibility for providing gap finance in Yorkshire and the Humber.

For further details please contact Suzanne Tinkler,  on 0845 649 0000.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund Ltd is a company limited by guarantee (Registered No 3936065). South Yorkshire Investment Fund comprises three sub funds, the South Yorkshire Investment Capital Fund, the South Yorkshire Investment Development Fund, which are each managed by YFM Venture Finance Limited, and the South Yorkshire Investment Small Business Fund, which is managed by Finance South Yorkshire Ltd. YFM Venture Finance Limited (Tel 0113 294 5000) and Finance South Yorkshire Ltd (Tel 01709 386 377) are each authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. South Yorkshire Investment Fund also provides a number of services, which are not regulated by The Financial Services Authority. These include the pilot Seedcorn Fund, BiG Business Loan Fund, Mentorbank and access to the Donbac Microloan Fund. BiG Business Loan Fund is managed by Donbac Ltd (company registration No. 01925556) and Key Fund Yorkshire Ltd (Tel 0114 242 8900).