For Hydro Aluminum North America, a unit of Oslo-based Norsk Hydro, the $8.3 million upgrade to its St. Augustine, Fla., casthouse is the latest evidence of a continuing commitment to customers, the environment and process efficiency. The company is making priorities of energy efficiency, waste reduction, bio-diversity and pollution control, says Ketil Heggestad, senior vice president, metal products. The net effect is to use less to create more. And recycling is emphasized. For example, last year $1 billion Hydro Aluminum North America recycled and remelted more than 388 million pounds of scrap aluminum. In addition, process changes at some of the company's extrusion plants led to substantial decreases in consumption and disposal of hydraulic oil and product cleaning solvents. And in painting operations, the company has reduced emissions while improving product quality. Since 1999 the company has invested nearly $100 million in new or revamped remelt capacity in North America. The latest improvements at St. Augustine will increase both the productivity and the quality of the production process, nearly doubling the plant's capacity to 60,000 metric tons per year. "The upgrade establishes the facility as the quality benchmark of our North American reprocessing network," says Heggestad, who is based at Hydro-Aluminum North America's headquarters in Linthicum, Md., just outside Baltimore. New casting technology accounts for approximately half of the $8.3 million expenditure at St. Augustine. The balance covers investments in additional metal filtering equipment and a new saw line. The upgrades will allow St. Augustine to recycle high volumes of aluminum, while still producing primary-quality aluminum for the marketplace. "We are demonstrating that Hydro's advanced technology and processes produce primary-quality billet with high recycled aluminum content," says Martin Carter, president of the North American operations of the global company. "The result is a product with both environmental benefits and assured availability. We believe that our long-term success depends not just on business criteria, but also on the success and health of the communities in which we work." The St. Augustine facility is one of six state-of-the-art casthouses Hydro Aluminum operates in the U.S. Total annual capacity exceeds 400,000 tons of primary quality billet, says Heggestad. He says proprietary technology plays an important role in producing primary quality billet with a high recycled material content. Heggestad says the upgrades are part of a strategy to enhance a market position as a leading North American extruder, fabricator and drawn-tubing producer. Hydro's Extruded Products unit operates 11 facilities in North America. Annual output of extrusions: 300 million pounds. The company has four dedicated contract manufacturing facilities and over 500,000 square feet of fabrication space. Heggestad says the upgraded St. Augustine facility will expand Hydro's ability to supply to other extruders, including the nearby Hydro Aluminum Automotive plant in Rockledge, Fla.