Alba’s new Line 5 potline is finished well ahead of time

alba’s line 5 potline in bahrain sets a new record by achieving safe start-up of the reduction line in just 100 days

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By  Colin Foreman Published  May 21, 2005

Alba’s new Line 5 potline is finished well ahead of time|~|ALBA-200.jpg|~|Alba’s new Bahraini potline sets a benchmark for the world’s aluminium industry.|~|ALBA’s line 5 came online last week, 103 days ahead of schedule. “The project has gone very well. We have opened the line in 77 days and nobody in the world has even got near to opening in line in such a short period of time. Each day is worth US $1.4 million in revenue, so it’s been a fantastic achievement,” says Bruce Hall, chief executive officer, Alba. The decision to build Line 5 was taken several years ago, and was based on underlying economic reasons rather than price. “Anyone who decides to build a smelter based on the price of aluminium today is a nutcase. The cyclical nature of the business means that you can be absolutely sure that if the numbers are based on a $1800/t aluminium price today, by the time the line starts up, the price will have dropped to $1200/t,” explains Hall. Expansion Alba took into account two demand factors when considering the expansion: the first was the long-term growth potential for global aluminium demand; the second factor was the demand for aluminium from local downstream users. In both cases, the argument for expanding the smelter’s capacity was a strong one. “In the case of global demand, the situation is pretty healthy. It’s higher than the background average at the moment and the background average is 2.5 to 3% year-on-year, which is a lot of aluminium,” says Hall. Locally, the situation was also good. “Unlike Dubal, Alba has a fix on local downstream industrial development, so it is not expressly an import and export smelter. There is definitely more metal required by the downstream industry, and with the four potlines, the facility was not able to satisfy the expansion aspirations of all the downstream industries,” says Hall. The next thing to consider was whether it was economically viable to build a smelter in Bahrain, and if so, what capacity was needed. “You would never build a 100 000 t capacity smelter these days, and neither would you build a 500 000 tonne smelter, so the same capacityas potline four became the obvious choice.” Once the capacity was decided upon, construction could begin. Ground was broken on 28th February 2003 with a scheduled 27 months for the construction programme. Three elements The project was essentially divided up into three parts. The first part was the power station, which was awarded as a lump sum turnkey project to Alstom of France, with Mott Macdonald fulfilling an interface role between Alba and Alstom. Construction of the power station is still ongoing, and when fully complete will add three gas turbines and two steam turbines to the existing gas turbine, generating a total capacity of 830 mW and taking the total generating capacity of the plant from 1500 mW up to 2150 mW. A second lump sum turnkey project was awarded for the power distribution network connecting the power station and the smelter itself. “This contract involved a lot of upgrade and refurbishment work on the existing interconnections and busbar systems to improve the redundancy of plant. It was quite a complicated power distribution system, much more than a greenfield or simple brownfield expansion,” explains Hall. The contract was awarded to ETA of Dubai. The third contract for the construction of the smelter went to Bechtel as a reimbursable plus bonus EPCM (engineering, procurement and construction management) contract. Steel prices As with any live project in 2004, steel prices were a very real concern, but the timing of the project meant that contractors were able to avoid the most severe spikes in price that were felt in the first half of the year. “We were lucky. We got in just before the cut. Some of the contractors did suffer a bit because they didn’t purchase steel early or they didn’t hedge their prices of steel, but most of the commodities were purchased either just before or just after the most severe price moves, so the project wasn’t hit as badly as it could have been,” adds Hall. But fortuitous timing, combined with the plant’s speedy delivery, ensured success all round.||**||

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