The Limerick-based Aughinish Alumina plant escaped the impact of EU sanctions imposed on oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who owns the plant’s parent company Rusal, but now it must battle the surging cost of energy.
Other alumina smelters are beginning to be impacted by surging energy prices as Romanian alumina producer Alum was forced to halt output for 17 months due to these costs, it has emerged.
The Romanian plant had to lay off about 70% of its staff as high energy prices make production costs unsustainable, its owner Alro Group, one of Europe's largest aluminium smelters, said.
Like most European aluminium smelters, Alro Group was struggling with rising energy costs even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"The economic crisis generated by the pandemic has been escalated by the energy crisis from 2021 as a result of the accelerated increase of electricity and natural gas prices, with a negative impact on the production costs for calcined alumina and electrolytic aluminium," Alro chief executive Gheorghe Dobra said.
The Irish Examiner reported that the Aughinish plant uses 11% of the total gas demand in Ireland on any given day, according to March 2021 figures.
Aughinish is Rusal’s single largest smelter and employs over 400 people.