(Adds spokeswoman comments)
* Mulls 70,000 tonnes-per-year test plant at Karmoey
* First metal in 2017 at the earliest
* Investment not a change in strategy - spokeswoman
OSLO, March 7 Norwegian aluminium maker Norsk
Hydro said on Thursday it may build a new test plant at
its site in Karmoey in western Norway with a capacity of 70,000
tonnes per year.
If built, the firm plans to test new, more energy-efficient
production technology at the plant.
It said conditions for producing the metal in
hydropower-rich Norway, where Hydro has four fully-owned plants
and one part-owned, had improved in recent years, in part thanks
to a new government CO2 cost compensation scheme.
The investment would not take away Hydro's focus from its
flagship installation in Qatar, the joint-venture Qatalum plant,
where it has an option to expand capacity, Hydro spokeswoman
Inger Sethov said.
"This doesn't change our strategy, our foreign assets will
be as important as our Norwegian ones," Sethov said. "The change
is that we see there will be a power oversupply in the Nordic
region in the future."
Aluminium production depends heavily on power and the new
technology Hydro aims to test has a potential for
"substantially" reducing power consumption as well as CO2
emissions, Sethov said.
The plans are still at an early stage and there is no
estimate for how much it would cost, she added. The investment
would depend on major support from state energy agency Enova,
and no investment decision has been made yet.
If built, Hydro could tap the first metal at the plant in
2017 at the earliest, Sethov said.
"At the moment, there is overproduction and inventories of
aluminium are large. Any investment in new capacity will
obviously be an element in evaluating of profitability and
market balance," Hydro's Chief Executive Richard Brandtaeg said
in a statement.
(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by James Jukwey and Mark