Norðurál has been successful in its efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, reduce waste, and improve our use of raw materials. As a result of efficient production methods and careful monitoring, emissions per ton from our aluminum are amongst the lowest in the world. We constantly seek ways to reduce other operational emissions, guided by a detailed action plan and clear goals.


At Norðurál, we aim to conduct our operations in harmony with the environment, minimizing our impact and practicing responsible use of energy and raw materials. The company promotes environmental awareness amongst employees and encourages staff contributions to workplace reforms. Norðurál satisfies all requirements for its operating licenses and complies with environmental laws and regulations.


Environmental objectives


  • Reduction of emissions
  • Employee awareness of environmental impacts
  • Responsible recycling and waste management


Carbon neutrality


Norðurál’s aluminum products have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. From the extraction of raw materials to delivery of consumer products, emissions per ton are under a quarter of the global average for primary aluminum production. We aspire to be the first smelter in the world to produce carbon-neutral aluminum.


The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from smelters is the CO2 released when carbon electrodes are burned through electrolytic reduction. Despite all available technology, there is no other way for smelters to extract pure aluminum from aluminum oxide. For that reason, there are two options considered viable for reducing emissions:


1. Developing a new type of anode that does not result in the binding of carbon and oxygen, which would result in negligible CO₂ emissions.


2. Carbon capture from potroom and chimney exhaust. The main challenge with this approach is that the CO2 concentration of exhaust gasses is low, approximately the same as atmospheric levels.


Through participation in innovative research and development initiatives, Norðurál aims to make its aluminum production completely carbon neutral. The following are some of the projects carried out in Iceland that depend upon the ingenuity and expertise of Norðurál’s specialists:


  • Norðurál is working with Norwegian company Ocean Geoloop to capture emissions from the production process. Hydroelectric technologies will utilize CO2 from the smelter to generate electricity, resulting in an automatic carbon-capture solution for Norðurál.

  • A collaboration with the Qair Group, a producer of renewable electricity, also seeks to develop solutions for the capture and sequestration of carbon emitted through aluminum production. Qair plans to use CO2 to produce e-fuel.


  • Students at Reykjavík University have been sponsored by Norðurál to help develop methods for achieving carbon neutrality. Support has been provided through grant applications and access to data and experts.


  • Guðrún Arnbjörg Sævarsdóttir, Professor in the Department of Engineering at Reykjavík University, has received a Research Fund grant to find ways to increase the CO2 concentration in Norðurál’s chimney exhaust. Higher concentrations would enable sequestration solutions such as CarbFix to be used.


  • Along with the Icelandic government and Reykjavík Energy, Norðurál has signed a declaration of intent to investigate whether CarbFix might be a viable option for reducing industrial CO2 emissions. As Reykjavík Energy’s biggest customer, we have been involved in the CarbFix project since its inception.


  • Norðurál has assisted Arctus Metal in their efforts to develop carbon-free anodes. 


Climate action plan


Environmental impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from Norðurál’s operations are twofold. First, there is the emissions impact of aluminum production itself, which is regulated by the EU Emissions Trading System. There is also the general emissions impact that comes with the operation of a large company. For this reason, we maintain two types of environmental accounting: one focused on production and another to track emissions from the company’s other activities.


While we have set ambitious targets for aluminum production itself, we are equally determined to minimize greenhouse gas emissions that do not fall under EU ETS regulation. This is in line with Iceland’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, which stipulates an emissions reduction of at least 40% of 2015 levels by the year 2030; it also calls for a 40% reduction of waste sent to landfill compared to 2015 amounts.


Positive results have already been achieved. Emissions of greenhouse gasses within the scope of our climate action plan have decreased by 35% and the amount of non-recyclable waste by 70%.

Our climate action plan includes ten actions for mitigating emissions from activities not under the scope of the EU ETS, or not part of aluminum production itself.

Additional information on our Climate Action Plan can be found here


Environmental monitoring


Norðurál’s immediate environment around the port of Grundartangi is one of Iceland’s most studied areas. Environmental monitoring in and around Hvalfjörður considers around 100 indicators for air quality, seawater and freshwater quality, and livestock and plant health. Such monitoring is undertaken by independent entities to ensure the company’s industrial activities at Grundartangi do not adversely impact the local environment. Monitoring of the Grundartangi site follows a plan set in accordance with requirements for operating licenses and approved by the Environment Agency of Iceland. Elkem Ísland, Norðurál Grundartangi, and Alur Álvinnsla participate in monitoring of the area.


Our latest environmental monitoring report can be found here



Monitoring locations for local emissions

Continuous monitoring in production areas


In addition to annual monitoring by independent parties, continuous measurements are taken in production areas to monitor fluoride, dust, and sulfur dioxide emissions from potrooms and scrubbers. Fluoride emissions from potrooms are assessed, on the one hand, through measurements of internal fluorine gas concentrations via diode laser absorption spectroscopy and, on the other hand, through measurements of air volume in potroom exhaust via airflow sensors.

Green accounting


We strive to use our raw materials as efficiently as possible and to accurately report how we dispose of waste. Norðurál uses an accounting system through the Green Steps Program (Græn skref) to keep detailed records of all materials going in and out of the smelter. These records clearly demonstrate our efforts have yielded significant results in a number of areas, from greater material efficiency to organic waste composting in the canteen.


Employees, raw materials and resource consumption


Emissions and waste

Norðurál no longer sends non-recyclable industrial waste to landfill. Instead, it is com- pacted into pellets and exported, primarily to Denmark, and used as refuse-derived fuel (RDF). This RDF both decreases the use of fossil fuels and reduces domestic greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills.



Emissions into the air

Use of hazardous chemicals (Xn, T, Tx, C, Xi, E, Fx, F, O, N)

Production and raw material consumption

Carbon emissions


Norðurál’s Natur-AlTM product line was developed in response to greater consumer demand for transparency, disclosure, and reduced environmental impact.

It is not enough to simply claim a product is green: such statements must be supported by data and traceability of the entire production process. Our assessment has therefore considered all aspects of the company’s aluminum production, from the excavation of bauxite to the final products we deliver to customers.


This cradle-to-gate life cycle analysis includes the production and transport of raw materials, local emissions, generation of waste, and the shipping of our finished aluminum products for sale on the European market. A model of the entire value chain was prepared with information from the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) along with data from Norðurál’s production process. Analysis was conducted in accordance with ISO standards 14040:2006 and 14044:2006 using Thinkstep’s GaBi software and additional information from international data banks. Where possible, average data across five years of Norðurál’s operations was used in order to obtain a clearer picture of the process.


As a result of these efforts, we offer our customers products under the name Natur-AlTM, a registered trademark on both sides of the Atlantic. Our entire process — from bauxite acquisition and aluminum oxide processing to the extraction of aluminum and transport to the buyer — the carbon footprint of Natur-AlTM products is less than 4 tons of CO2 equivalents per ton of aluminum. Considering the global average CO2 equivalent emissions per ton of primary aluminum is 18 tons, the carbon footprint of Natur-AlTM production is less than a quarter of the industry average around the world.


Our life-cycle assessments are carried out by an independent party. Customers can access all data necessary to analyze the carbon footprint of consumer products made from Natur-AlTM aluminum.


Norðurál is convinced that a sustainable future lies in this type of product development. Our endeavors also demonstrate the importance of continued research and innovation in sectors such as ours.


Change between years

Transport emissions


Emissions from international air travel by Norðurál employees totaled less than 11 tons of carbon equivalents in 2022, a 5% reduction since 2015.

A large proportion of Norðurál’s employees commute together in company vehicles. Carpooling significantly reduces the total number of car trips to and from work, thereby reducing indirect emissions from our operations. Thanks to the company’s purchase of 48 electric vehicles, emissions from carpooling have continued to decrease. We also emphasize the economic use of cars as well as the number of passengers per vehicle. These actions have resulted in an emissions reduction of 54 tons, or nearly 20,000 liters of fuel — a 24% reduction from 2015.



Use of materials


We choose our raw materials as carefully as possible in order to produce a value-added, environmentally friendly product. CO2 emissions from aluminum processing are lower in Iceland than anywhere else in the world as the result of outstanding employees and operational stability, as well as the use of sustainable energy sources. Environmental awareness plays a key role at every stage of production, from resource acquisition in remote corners of the world to maximum utilization and recycling of raw materials.

Better utilization


Scrubbers in the Norðurál production area ensure that fluorides in exhaust gasses can be reused. Over 99% of fluoride emitted through the aluminum extraction process is captured in the scrubbers, then used again and again. Once our anodes are spent, they are returned to the manufacturer in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where they are used to produce new anodes for Norðurál’s smelter. The slag from our production is processed in Grundartangi by our neighbors at Alur. Aluminum is recovered from the slag, then used again in Norðurál’s production.


Recycling and waste management


Since 2015, emissions from management of non-recyclable waste have decreased by 96 tons of CO2 equivalents, or about 68%.

Norðurál is deeply committed to reducing the amount of waste we produce and increasing the amount we recover. Waste from our operations can be categorized as recyclable materials, non-recyclable industrial waste sent to coastal flood pits, solid waste sent to landfill, sewage, and hazardous waste.


Our climate action plan addresses emissions due to waste disposal from other aspects of our operations, both unsorted waste from canteens and other general solid waste, as well as the composting of organic waste. As landfilling of unsorted waste from Norðurál’s operations was stopped in the spring of 2021, emissions in this category have decreased significantly. What remains is non-incinerable solid waste unsuitable for use as refuse-derived fuel, but we will continue working on solutions for minimizing waste disposal and reprocessing materials.


Waste disposal has decreased by 68% since 2015. 

Norðurál aims to increase employees’ environmental awareness and encourages staff participation in workplace reforms. The company’s environmental performance is considered when determining employee bonuses.


In 2022, over 80% of waste generated by Norðurál’s operations was recovered. Industrial waste such as cathode waste and coal dust comprised the largest share. Alongside our goal of more efficient use of raw materials, we have actively sought ways to reduce non-produc- tion waste and increase recycling rates. For instance, in 2016 we began sorting organic waste in the canteen; this is processed by Sorpa to become nutrient-rich fertilizer and methane fuel. Another major step was replacing plastic bags with reusable trays for carrying cafeteria meals to lunchrooms within the facilities. This change was instigated by employees studying at Norðurál’s School of Heavy Industry: they calculated that the switch to reusable trays would replace the use of 12,500 plastic bags each year.


Recycling in the workplace

Norðurál’s canteens and operational facilities have bins for sorting plastic, paper, general waste and, where applicable, hazardous waste. Staff in each area are responsible for emptying these bins at the reception points shown in the diagram. Designated employees then transport waste from reception points to the smelter’s main waste and recycling center, where further sorting is done as needed and the volume of materials reduced to minimize transport.


Norðurál aims to increase employees’ environmental awareness and encourages staff participation in workplace reforms. The company’s environmental performance is considered when determining employee bonuses.


We no longer have bins for unsorted waste in offices or production facilities, as these have all been replaced with sorting stations.


Energy consumption


Iceland is one of only a few countries in the world where energy is generated almost entirely from renewable sources. We use a great deal of this energy to extract pure aluminum from aluminum oxide, with Iceland contributing around 2% of the global output. In 2022, Norðurál used 4,567 GWh of clean renewable energy for production, about one quarter of the electricity generated in Iceland during the year. Electricity consumption by the smelter per ton of aluminum produced was 13.8 MWh.


Increasing energy efficiency


Norðurál uses 100% renewable energy for production. Our aluminum is then exported for fur- ther processing in Europe, relying on energy with higher carbon intensity. However, our new product line will be a step toward a more finished aluminum product: the casting of billets will not result in any additional emissions, and energy requirements will be much lower than if these billets were molded overseas. Energy savings are estimated at 40%.



Fuel consumption for vehicles and machinery is the largest share of the company’s total fuel use, and Norðurál’s climate action plan has found that the greatest opportunities lie in energy exchange upon renewal of equipment. Sixteen electric vehicles, including tractors and forklifts, have been put into use in recent years, and further replacements are scheduled for next year. Results of these measures are already visible: between 2015 and 2022, fuel consumption for vehicles and machinery decreased by a total of 157,000 liters, an emissions reduction of 429 tons.


Emissions from vehicles and machinery, with a target reduction of 40%

Water and sewerage


Water supplied to Norðurál comes from the Tunga and Hlíðarfótur springs in Svínadalur.


Approximately 163,733 m3 of water was consumed in 2022. Of this, potable water accounted for 65,493 m3, and water for production was 98,240 m3. The cooling system uses 7,884,000 m3 of seawater each year.


Monitoring of chemical concentrations in Norðurál’s sewerage is conducted in the area on a quarterly basis, and analysis of oils in cooling water from rectifiers and casting basins is car- ried out twice per year. Verkís monitors the sewerage for fluoride, aluminum, suspended sol- ids, and oil or grease. Chemical analyses of cooling water are carried out by the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Iceland.




Environmental monitoring in Hvalfjörður near the Grundartangi industrial site considers around 100 indicators. This monitoring is undertaken by different independent entities to en- sure the company’s operations do not adversely impact our local environment.


During the year, monitoring was conducted to assess the condition of air quality (atmospheric and precipitation), groundwater, seawater by coastal flood pits, vegetation (grass, leaves, and pine needles), and livestock (sheep and horses).


In 2022, around 400 samples were collected from approximately 120 sites.


The report for 2021 can be found here.

Notifications of deviations


Norðurál’s smelter in Grundartangi has an operating license to produce up to 350,000 tons of aluminum each year. This license is issued by the Environment Agency of Iceland and is valid until December 16, 2031.


The Environment Agency conducted two site inspections in 2022, carried out according to the operating license and monitoring schedule.


Reports of on-site inspections can be found on the Environment Agency’s website.


Environmental monitoring around the industrial area at Grundartangi follows a monitoring schedule approved by the Environment Agency, in effect until 2028.


In addition, Norðurál keeps environmental records according to Icelandic legislation on green accounting (Regulation no. 851/2002) and submits audited accounts to the Environment Agency by May 1 each year. Emissions accounts are also kept according to Regulation no. 990/2008 on pollutant release registers.


The Environment Agency received three notifications related to our operations in 2022:

  1. Notification of a cyberattack on Norðurál’s parent company, which caused internal en- vironmental monitoring data to be lost during input. This applied to a limited amount of data in week seven. 

  2. Notification of temporary reduction in the dry scrubber’s capacity due to maintenance. The scrubbing system was non-operational for 40 minutes and at 85% capacity for al- most 24 hours.

  3. Notification about air quality measurements at Kríuvarða from April to July 2022.

  4. Notification of planned maintenance during filter replacement in the dry scrubber. 



Environmental impact of suppliers


A life-cycle assessment of aluminum produced by Norðurál has been conducted by the engineering and consulting company Efla. This analysis is based on a cradle-to-gate life cycle, including extraction and transport of raw materials, local pollutant emissions, and generation of waste. Documenting and assessing the environmental impact of all links in the production chain provides a clear picture of where and how we can implement changes to procurement and production processes in order to minimize impact.


As we seek to conduct our business with responsible alumina producers, certain suppliers have been excluded due to concerns over quality and environmental impact. Foreign suppliers are subject to standards and requirements of Norðurál’s parent company, Century Aluminum.


Instead of importing anodes from China, we operate our own anode plant at Vlissingen in the Netherlands, which reduces our environmental impact.


Norðurál Grundartangi was the first aluminum company in Iceland to receive international ASI certification, confirming the company’s business practices and production are socially and environmentally responsible. Our ASI certification extends to 59 factors related to the company’s operations, from acquisition of raw materials from around the world to our finished products.