Industry Size and Geographic Distribution

The U.S. aluminum smelting industry consists of 23 smelting facilities operated by 13 firms, which employ approximately 20,000 people. The secondary smelting industry operates an estimated 68 plants, with 3600 employees. The majority of primary aluminum producers are located either in the Northwest (39.1% of U.S. capacity) or the Ohio River Valley (31.1% of U.S. capacity), while most secondary aluminum smelters are located in Southern California and the Great Lakes Region. The reason for the difference in plant locations is due to the energy-intensive nature of the primary aluminum smelting process and the cost of fuels. Primary smelters are located in the Northwest and Ohio River Valley to take advantage of the abundant supplies of hydroelectric and coal-based energy, and secondary smelters locate themselves near major industrial and consumer centers to take advantage of the large amounts of scrap generated. Secondary smelting uses 95% less energy to produce the same product as primary reduction. On average, a third of primary production costs are attributable to the cost of energy.

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