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2 COMMENT - 2019 NEWS
Aluminium Dunkerque sale finalised
2019 Highlights Welcome to this special edition of Aluminium International Today, which is basically a ‘Best Of’ version of the magazine, wrapped up in a digital bundle for you to enjoy. It is only when I sit down to gather all of the news stories and features from the past year, that I realise what a busy year it has been. It also makes me think that I should probably turn my attention towards my Christmas shopping...which I have been putting off until December. As you can see from the selection of news stories on the following pages, 2019 has been a progressive year, with a focus on sustainable products and technologies. As protestors lined our streets and fires raged across the Amazon Rainforest, the world finally had to pay attention to the damage that has already been done. Thankfully, the aluminium industry is working considerably to lessen the manufacturing impact and close the recycling loop. And there is even more to come, with the development of technologies like ELYSIS and continued investment into lightweighting applications. As we start to plan 2020, you can find a full events diary at www.aluminiumtoday.com which will help you pick out the best industry events to take part in. Make sure the Future Aluminium Forum is high on your list in Québec City to learn about the ways aluminium is moving into the digital age. I hope you enjoy the issue and wish you all the best for 2020! 2019 Highlights
Sanjeev Gupta’s global GFG Alliance has completed its purchase of Aluminium Dunkerque, Europe’s largest aluminium smelter. The London-headquartered Alliance said the acquisition of the plant – to be renamed Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque – now paves the way for a downstream investment programme at the plant in order to maximise the value of the aluminium currently made there. GFG aims to make the Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque 570-worker smelter, bought from Rio Tinto for around US$500m, a foundation for a wider integrated manufacturing business serving the French and European markets. To this end, GFG is carrying out feasibility studies on developing from Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque a wider integrated manufacturing business, producing components for the automotive and other growing industries in
France centred around the existing 285,000-tonne-a-year smelting operations at Dunkerque. Today’s completion follows GFG’s acquisition earlier this year of France’s only remaining producer of aluminium vehicle wheels, AR Industries - now called Liberty Wheels France – which was already a key customer of the Dunkerque smelter. The deal marked a significant move into the French downstream manufacturing sector and saved over 90 percent of the jobs at the Chateauroux plant. The acquisition of Aluminium Dunkerque adds to GFG’s credentials as a significant foreign direct investor in France. The company has moved into new offices on Avenue Kleber in central Paris and the business development team is targeting several other development opportunities in the French industrial, energy and financial sectors.
Liberty has been supported by a syndicate of international banks with a US$350m term loan facility. The banking syndicate was led by Bank of America Merril Lynch with participation from BNP Paribas, ICBC, ICBC Standard Bank, Morgan Stanley, Natixis, Barclays Bank PLC, Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank of Canada. Liberty was advised on the transaction by Clyde & Co and Norton Rose with regards to legal matters and Grant Thornton UK LLP in regards to accounting matters. GFG Executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said: “This is a real milestone in our European investment journey and the fulfilment of our promise to establish a firm foundation for a new vibrant and integrated industrial business in France that will create high-value products that sustain high-value jobs.”
Reclosable can Texas-based SNSTech has developed a 100% aluminium reclosable beverage can as it aims to offer a more sustainable packaging alternative to plastic bottles. Called SipNShut, the packaging is designed to run on existing canning lines at high speed and is said to pour as smoothly as a standard beverage can.
ALBA: Line 6 ramp-up Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba), soon to be the largest aluminium smelter in the world, is pleased to state that its flagship Line 6 Expansion Project is progressing as per schedule with the successful testing of 40 pots which are now fully operational. The Chairman of Alba’s Board of Directors, Shaikh Daij Bin Salman Bin Daij Al Khalifa, said: “We are delighted to have started Potline 6 ahead of schedule on 13 December 2018 and to have successfully started the first 40 pots.
Alba is targeting Line 6 full rampup within Q3 2019 which will further position us to take advantage of the growing demand in global aluminium consumption. We also look forward to finish 2019 strong as Alba’s total production will top 1,350,000 metric tonnes with Potline 6. With 2019 Production Target, we will make a big step forward on the cost side which will bring us closer to achieve US$40 Million savings (Phase IV of Project Titan) in 2019.” One of the most remarkable
achievements for Alba on this landmark Project is the Extreme Ownership on Safety by Alba employees and contractors. It is noteworthy that Line 6 Smelter clocked more than 32 million working-hours without Lost Time Injury (LTI), while Power Station 5 recorded more than 7 million working-hours without LTI and Power Distribution System achieved more than 2 million working-hours without LTI as of January 31, 2019.
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European Aluminium new Chair European Aluminium has appointed Emilio Braghi, Senior Vice President and President at Novelis Europe, as the association’s new chairman. Braghi replaces Kjetil Ebbesberg (Hydro) and has been appointed for a two-year term, which began on 1st January 2019. Furthermore, at the 2018 General Assembly of the association, members elected Roberta Niboli (Raffmetal) as Vice Chair and Peter Basten (Constellium) as Treasurer. Emilio Braghi is Senior Vice President and President at Novelis
Europe, overseeing 10 European facilities for recycling aluminium and manufacturing aluminium rolled products for a number of sectors, including automotive, building, packaging and transportation. Previously, Braghi was Vice President Operations at Novelis North America and served as Vice President, Sales and Operations for Novelis Asia, with responsibility for all commercial and manufacturing activities in the region. An Italian national, he holds a degree in engineering and industrial pro-
Picture (L-R): Kjetil Ebbesberg, Emilio Braghi Gerd Gotz
duction technologies from the Politecnico di Milano. “I am delighted to be appointed the new Chairman of European Aluminium at a crucial time for our industry. During my chairmanship, ensuring a long-term vision of industrial competitiveness, sustainability and innovation while addressing global trade challenges will remain key priorities. To real-
Potline reopens Aldel located in Delfzijl, the Netherlands, has announced the reopening of potline one following the purchase of the business by York Capital in 2017. This is part of the on-going capital investment in both equipment and people as the plant moves towards full production by the end of 2019. Aldel’s return to the European aluminium industry has been very well received and reflected by the strong support the business has received from customers and suppliers alike. As a result of the significant
investment, Aldel is looking for employees. The main focus is in production and technical support roles, however further job opportunities are also available in the commercial and IT departments too. Aldel currently has approximately 500 people on-site of whom 270 are employees, this is up from 175 when the business was acquired. Once at full production capacity, it is expected that more than 300 people will be directly employed.
EGA: First bauxite train Emirates Global Aluminium has announced a milestone at its under-construction Guinea bauxite mining project as the first loaded train travelled from its subsidiary Guinea Alumina Corporation’s mine to the coast. The 80-wagon train carried some 6,800 tonnes of bauxite ore from GAC’s mine to the company’s facilities at Kamsar. The ore will be used to begin building a base-layer of bauxite at GAC’s new stockyard. First bauxite exports are expected during the second half of 2019. GAC has a total budgeted project cost of approximately $1.4 billion and is the largest greenfield investment in Guinea in the last four decades.
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ise this vision, we will continue to work with policymakers and other stakeholders to deliver on circular economy, recycling, energy, and climate. Looking ahead, I am confident the future for our industry is bright. Our permanent material is not only experiencing a growing global demand, but it is also essential to Europe’s strategic value chainss,” says Braghi.
Nespresso commits to improve aluminium capsule recycling Nespresso has made a US$1.2 million commitment to better enable the recovery of its aluminium coffee capsules through New York City’s recycling programme. “Nespresso is deeply committed to the circular use of our products, choosing aluminium packaging because it both protects the quality of our exceptional coffees and can be recycled and reused again and again,” says Guillaume Le Cunff, President and CEO of Nespresso USA. “This collaboration will provide New York City-based consumers with another convenient way to recycle used capsules and other aluminium products at home, allowing these items to be given
4 INDUSTRY NEWS
TRIMET: New recycling furnace in operation With a capacity of around 40 tons, the new furnace will be replacing two of the three existing systems. The TRIMET Executive Board, headed by Chairman Philipp Schlüter, Plant Manager Jens Meinecke and the employees of TRIMET’s Gelsenkirchen plant ceremoniously put the new system into operation on 15th February 2019. “Around 90 percent of the aluminium in circulation is recycled, and the total quantity of recycled light metal continues to increase as a result of increasing
demand. So it is only logical for us to consistently invest in expanding our capacities and modernising our plants,” said Philipp Schlüter, Chairman of the Executive Board of TRIMET Aluminium SE. The new rotary furnace significantly increases remelting capacities at the TRIMET plant in Gelsenkirchen. Along with its installation, the infrastructure and exhaust system of the secondary smelter were modernised and expanded. “The employees have put their heart and soul into the planning
and remodelling with a great deal of flexibility. We are proud of this, because only in this way could everything be carried out smoothly without interrupting operations. At the same time, we are all happy that we can now concentrate fully on remelting aluminium scrap into high-quality products,” said Jens Meinecke, head of TRIMET’s Gelsenkirchen plant. The furnace has a self-controlling burner system that switches between oxygen and air during the production of the fuel mixture,
depending on requirements. This not only significantly reduces energy consumption, it also increases the proportion of recycled metal. In addition, the furnace is equipped with intelligent charging technology, which enables faster filling and can process larger quantities of material per smelting process.
EGA starts production at UAE’s first alumina refinery
Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), recently announced the start-up of the Al Taweelah alumina refinery, a strategic growth project that expands the industrial giant’s business upstream in the aluminium value chain. Once full ramp up is achieved, Al Taweelah alumina refinery is expected to produce some two million tonnes of alumina per year, re-
placing some imports and securing EGA’s competitive supply of this vital raw material. The UAE currently imports all the alumina it needs. Al Taweelah alumina refinery cost approximately $3.3 billion to develop and is located in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. It is the first alumina refinery in the UAE and its start-up marks the beginning of alumina refining as a new
industrial activity in the country. Abdulla Kalban, EGA’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer said: “The start-up of Al Taweelah alumina refinery is transformative for EGA and the first of two major milestones this year as we complete our strategic growth projects upstream in the aluminium value chain. Al Taweelah alumina refinery, and our bauxite
mining project in Guinea where construction continues, secure our supply of raw materials at competitive prices and will strengthen EGA’s business for decades ahead. I want to thank every colleague who played a role in the safe and efficient completion of this important project.”
Rio Tinto launches Revolution-Al™ Continuing its leadership in the growing market for specialised high-performance alloys, Rio Tinto has launched Revolution-Al™, a new aluminium alloy developed to make lighter car wheels. Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said: “As we part2019 Highlights
ner with customers we’re seeing an increasing demand for specialised alloys and other products to meet their specific needs. Developing these products is at the heart of our business, from research and development, to offering technical expertise and marketing as well as
collaborating with OEMs.” Rio Tinto’s Revolution-Al™, the latest addition to Rio Tinto’s High Strength 3xx Series Alloys, is a new aluminium alloy for automotive wheel weight reduction.
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ELYSIS R&D Centre to open ELYSIS has announced the location for its new research and development facility in the Saguenay– Lac-Saint-Jean region in Québec, which will directly employ more than 25 experts when it is fully operational.
The new ELYSIS Research and Development Center will be located at Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière, the site of the Arvida smelter, Vaudreuil refinery and Arvida Research and Development Centre. It is expected to be fully
operational in the second half of 2020. Vincent Christ, Chief Executive Officer Elysis, said: “With the development of this research centre, we can proudly root our company in Québec, and in Saguenay–Lac-
Saint-Jean in particular. Our team is enthusiastic about working collaboratively to refine our technology so we can help bring the aluminium industry to new levels and make it even more sustainable.”
RUSAL and Braidy Industries to construct US aluminium rolling mill Rusal is making its first investment in the United States since Washington lifted sanctions against the Russian aluminium giant, teaming up with U.S. manufacturer Braidy Industries to build a mill in Kentucky, which will produce flat rolled aluminium products for the US automotive industry. The design capacity of the rolling mill will amount to 500 thousand tons of hot rolled band and 300 thousand tons of fully finished cold rolled products on an annual basis. It will be the widest US-based cold rolling mill with a width of 104 inches. The output from the mill will aid towards re-
balancing the anticipated deficit of the auto body sheet in the US market. According to reports, the Braidy Atlas project will have the lowest CO2 emissions facility for endto-end manufacturing in North America. It will be the world’s largest low-carbon rolled aluminium producer, as well as the first new greenfield aluminium mill in 37 years to be constructed in the United States. RUSAL will supply aluminium (both in slab alloys and as a primary metal) for the new rolling mill from its new Taishet aluminium smelter that is currently under
construction in Siberia. Delivering value added products (VAP) to the new Kentucky mill is consistent with RUSAL’s commitment to increase the share of its VAP offerings as part of the Company’s total production and sales. Historically, RUSAL has been the number two non-domestic supplier of prime aluminium to the United States. The Braidy Atlas project will be the first North American mill to contract for RUSAL’s third-party certified ALLOW-brand of low-carbon aluminium. The demand for flat rolled products in North America has demonstrated the robust growth over the
past five years and this will continue above average rates all over the world, especially in the automotive sector. The key driver of this demand growth is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations (CAFE) that cause an increase and immediate switch from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to aluminium-based components. The chosen location of the mill that will be in close proximity to a large number of automotive supply manufacturers will ensure efficient transportation of the finished products.
FjordAl plant start-up The governments of Canada and Quebec are providing a total of $2,780,000 in financial assistance to the company FjordAl Aluminium for the start-up of an aluminium rod manufacturing plant in the Jonquière sector of Saguenay. The project, valued at $6,590,000, will create 20 jobs.
JW Aluminum expansion underway According to reports, one of the top economic development investments in Berkeley County is inching closer to fully operating its $300 million expansion initiative it first announced in 2018. By spring 2020, JW Aluminum is anticipated to have its two newest buildings - a total of 220,000 square feet of additional space within the Mt. Holly Commerce Park - fully operational, accordAluminium International Today
ing to company officials, who last month updated the county’s business community about the largescale project. The expansion is expected to add 50 new jobs to the 388-member workface currently employed at the local plant - its largest U.S.based plant. As a whole, JW Aluminum boasts at least 800 employees across sites in four states. 2019 Highlights
Hydro CEO on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list After taking the helm as CEO of Hydro earlier this year, Hilde Merete Aasheim was recently named number 13 on Fortune’s list, containing the 50 most powerful women leading large global businesses. “It is bit surprising, but at the same time flattering to be named
on a list together with so many talented and successful women,” says Aasheim. Fortune accentuate that the Hydro CEO has used the opportunity to champion sustainability, with ambitions to make Hydro a leader in reducing the environmental impacts
of metals. “There are far too few female leaders in business and our industry. If I can help inspire others and thus contribute to both business in general and our industry attracting more female leaders, then it feels both right and important,” Aasheim says.
Hydro & Audi: Joint commitment to sustainable aluminium
Hydro now supplies sustainable aluminium for the battery housing of the first fully electric model of the company. The material is processed and manufactured along the entire value chain in an environmentally conscious manner and under socially acceptable working conditions. This has been confirmed by the Aluminium Stewardship
Initiative (ASI) with a “chain of custody” certificate. The ASI already awarded Audi a certificate for the sustainable assembly of these aluminium components in October 2018. This means that the aluminium sheets processed in the battery housing of the Audi e-tron are now demonstrably produced in a responsible manner along the entire value chain, from the extraction of the bauxite raw material to the end product. The two partners pursue sustainability as an important goal in their corporate strategy and together want to reduce CO2 emissions from the use of aluminium. By 2025, Audi aims to reduce the CO2 footprint of its products throughout their lifecycle by about 30 percent compared with 2015. There is great potential in the use
Eco-Friendly aluminium bottled water brand launched
of sustainable and responsibly extracted resources. Certification by the ASI is the result of various workshops in which Audi and Hydro exchanged their expertise on effective measures for CO2 reduction. “We want to offer our customers completely CO2 neutral mobility by 2050 at the latest. To do that, we need a sustainable supply chain,” says Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement and IT. “We therefore seek dialogue with our partners and, together with them, want to significantly reduce CO2 emissions along the entire value chain.” In late 2018, Audi started a CO2 program in procurement and since then has already carried out more than 20 CO2 workshops with aluminium suppliers.
Every bottle counts; at least that’s the idea behind Ever & Ever, a new line of purified water packaged in resealable 16 oz. aluminium bottles. Launched by Vita Coco parent company All Market, the product is now available in still and sparkling varieties at select retailers in New York City – via distribution by Big Geyser – on Amazon and at drinkeverandever.com for a suggested retail price of $1.99 per bottle or $23.99 for a 12-pack. The launch of Ever & Ever comes as public concern over plastic waste, particularly from single-use products such as straws and bottles, has grown in recent years. According to market research group Euromonitor, 500 billion plastic bottles are used around the globe each year. In response, brands in the category have adopted various changes – from committing to using recycled plastic to selling water in paper cartons – and, in recent months, the movement behind aluminium packaging in particular seems to have accelerated.
Alunorte embargo lifted On 26th September, the final embargo on Alunorte’s new bauxite residue disposal (DRS2) under a criminal lawsuit was lifted, allowing the alumina refinery to resume activities of installation and commissioning at DRS2 and ending a 19-month embargo period which 2019 Highlights
has restricted activities at the plant. “We are happy and eager to resume installation and commissioning activities at the state-of-art bauxite residue deposit DRS2, which is the only longterm solution for sustainable and robust operations at Alunorte.
This is good news for our hardworking employees, for customers and for all local stakeholders who have contributed to this positive outcome,” says John Thuestad, EVP of the Bauxite & Alumina business area.
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8 MINING & REFINING
Global bauxite resources are estimated to run to 55–75Bnt, distributed among Africa (32%), Oceania (23%), South America and the Caribbean (21%), Asia (18%) and elsewhere (6%). Any discussion of bauxite processing is centred on the USA, by way of the sheer volume involved and the dominant fact that domestic bauxite resources cannot meet longterm USA demand. Unsurprisingly, it is a US-based institution, the US Geological Survey (USGS), which provides crucial information on prevailing trends. One such statistic is for last year’s consumption of bauxite, stated by USGS to have been 3.9 Mt at an estimated value of US$120 million. On a countrywide basis, the USA’s bauxite imports came from Jamaica (77%) and Brazil (19%). Imports of alumina told a different story, with Brazil achieving pre-eminence at 56%. The next country was Australia (19%): Jamaica generated a mere 9%. This article will look at certain worldwide trends in the bauxite sector. It will then look at the sector as it is unraveling within key individual bauxite-mining countries. Where is bauxite found? Lee Bray, mineral commodity specialist with the USGS, comments, “Most bauxite deposits are found at or near the surface. Bauxite forms as a result of chemical weathering of minerals that contain aluminium. Slightly acidic water produced by the reaction of carbon dioxide with rainwater breaks down bonds in the minerals and leaches silicon dioxide, potassium, calcium and other elements away. This leaves behind aluminium hydroxide and iron oxide as well as trace amounts of titanium dioxide and some other elements.” A consequence of this process is that the bauxite is found at the surface: hence mining usually takes place as a surface operation along the many miles over which the deposits extend. Lee Bray points out that underground extraction of bauxite is uncommon - comprising around 10% of all bauxite mined - and occurs when sedimentary rocks or lava flows have gone on to cover the deposits. That is even before the cost factor which means that deep deposits are financially overshadowed by surface operations. (One aspect of alumina production is that at present bauxite is the only raw material used to produce alumina on a commercial scale in the USA. While not commercially competitive, massive resources of clay are technically feasible sources of alumina. Such potential sources include alunite, anorthosite, coal wastes and oil shales; silicon carbide and alumina-zirconia can substitute for alumina-based and bauxitebased abrasives but cost more). 2019 Highlights
Australia,Guinea power bauxite surge
Michael Schwartz reviews the last twelve months of bauxite production.
The Bayer process Still the primary process 132 years after its discovery for extracting alumina from bauxite, the Bayer process enables the realisation of the final aluminium product. The alumina is smelted using the Hall– Héroult electrolytic process; in the case of the USA two refineries based on the Bayer process generated an estimated 1.5 Mt. Understandably, some 65% of the alumina generated went to primary aluminium smelters, the rest to non-metallurgical products, eg, abrasives, cement, chemicals, ceramics and refractories. There are also many more specialised uses. They include use as a fuel component for solid rocket boosters, on superconducting devices such as quantum interference devices and electron transistors and even as a dosimeter for radiation protection. Lee Bray summarises: “Some bauxite still has a high level of silica that inhibits the reagents used to extract aluminium hydroxide. This bauxite is used for other uses such as abrasives, in certain
types of cement, as a slag adjuster in the steel industry, or to produce aluminium sulphate. Some bauxite has extremely low levels of iron and silica, so is suitable for use as a refractory material. These uses account for the 10% of bauxite that does not go into alumina production.” Indonesia’s change of policy The influence of Indonesia on bauxite worldwide has been substantial since January 2014. That is when the government of Indonesia banned exports of bauxite. The ban did not apply to certain projects within Indonesia, as export permits were issued in 2014 for five years to companies constructing refineries in Indonesia. Two have been completed, with another to be completed in 2019. Answering questions from Materials World, Lee Bray stated that, “The easing of the export ban by Indonesia has resulted in more bauxite available to certain consumers, mainly in China…This has had a minimal impact on the overall supply and Aluminium International Today
PROFILE: AUSTRALIAN BAUXITE LTD The reasons for Australia’s predominance in the bauxite sector are many; a portrait of one such company, Australian Bauxite Ltd (ABx, listed on ASX since 2009), conveys the strengths this national industry possesses and offers. ABX does not conform to the traditional role of being a supplier to the aluminium sector, as it also supplies into the fertiliser and high-specification cement industries. ABx commenced production in 2004 from its Bald Hill site in Tasmania. More recently, the company announced a tripartite MoU with Tianshan Aluminium and Rawmin to generate 0.5-1.5 Mt/y from its Binjour project in Queensland. This project experienced 51% growth last year to 37 Mt, meaning company resources now stand at 137 Mt. Binjour is conveniently located for the Bundaberg Port 115 km away; flagship status within ABx is predicted for five years time. A review of ABx over the last year is telling, not because the company has achieved the successes expected of a “normal” bauxite miner but also because there are achievements which are leading edge. They include: � the granting of a global exclusive licence for a bauxite refining technology that produces aluminium fluoride as its main product and to be used in aluminium production, lithium-ion batteries, and by-products from Tasmanian-type bauxite. This product yields over ten times its unrefined value per tonne;
pricing.” On the question as to whether a policy or price change is good or bad, he says that he never characterises them as good or bad: “A consumer is happy with increased availability and decreased price and a producer is less happy when the price decreases. Therefore, I stay neutral on what is good or bad.” In contrast, Malaysia is still banning bauxite mining although allowing exports of stockpiled bauxite. This ban was imposed in January 2016 because of concerns about pollution from mines and uncovered stockpiles at ports. Guinea Aluminium Corporation Guinea Alumina Corporation (GAC), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Emirates Global Aluminium, is currently developing a bauxite mine and associated export facilities in the Boké region of the north-western Republic of Guinea. GAC’s decision falls in with other mines already operating in the Boké region, thereby reinforcing that area’s high reputation Aluminium International Today
among bauxite miners. GAC is licenced to mine for 25 years initially, then for another 25 years automatically, with conditions applicable for a further ten years. Once production is stabilised, GAC anticipates an annual output of roughly 12 Mt, all of which is destined for export. Reflecting the comment earlier in this article that bauxite deposits lie at surface or very shallow level, GAC’s Boké concession area mostly comprises low hills. Currently under construction infrastructure will support open-pit drill-and-blast operations. The resulting broken material will be loaded onto trucks and then crushed. In fact, rail transport is the key to transport, with GAC’s mine close to a railway operated by Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée; this facility is shared by other companies transporting their bauxite ore to the port at Kamsar some 75 km southwest (the latter is a $49 million investment yielding even greater value as general trade makes its own use of the
� product development of the TasTech innovation, which produces a spectrum of bauxite grades and handling characteristics, along with increased yields at low cost. Multiproduct shipments are possible to different customers, reflecting different quality requirements; � ABx’s wholly-owned subsidiary ALCORE Ltd has secured the minimum funding needed to commence stage 1 of the ALCORE Project aimed at generating Aluminium Fluoride (AlF3) test samples via a pilot plant in New South Wales. Simultaneously, the local ALCORE research centre is structurally complete. It intends to set up a routine production line to produce onspecification AlF3 samples for three potential customers to evaluate. � Up to four more production modules will be constructed, tested and added into the production plant each year as demand grows year-byyear for the ALCORE AlF3. ALCORE and ABx are encouraged by the simplicity of the ALCORE refining process and cost-efficiency to date, well within budget; and � a letter of intent negotiated between ABx and Aziz Group of Bangladesh whereby ABx will develop and supply chemical- grade bauxite to manufacture PAC (Polyaluminium Chloride) for the treatment of industrial waste water. Aziz Group will be market ABx cement-grade bauxite in Bangladesh.
port facilities). A spur to link up with the main railway is now under construction, part of a modernisation strategy which will both utilise GAC’s own rail loops and facilities to load ore onto barges at Kamsar, from where specially deepened changes will carry the ore to ocean-going vessels. Economic opportunities will increase for GAC and its local communities as the Boké project advances. Most directly, the government of Guinea will receive revenue from output, but the project’s policy of reducing the amounts of imported equipment and expertise will lean substantially in Guinea’s favour. To enhance the quality of goods and services - and the efficiency of tendering for the same - a training programme has been developed. In the last five years, GAC has trained nearly 1,000 young people in the appropriate skills, eg, maintenance, welding and electrical services. Forty micro-projects, including small start-up businesses have been awarded. 2019 Highlights
10 MINING & REFINING
The bottom line is that since 2016 more than 56% of the total number of supply contracts GAC has awarded have been won by Guinean companies. The total value of these contracts is over US$37 million. Australia While Guinea is emerging as a very strong player in international bauxite production, the long-term leader Australia is itself enjoying growth. The joint importance of these two countries is brought home in a review by consultancy group Fitch Solutions. The consultancy predicts strong production growth in 2019. While there will be a “ramp up in Indian and Indonesian production,” new projects coming online in Australia and Guinea will be the principal driving force. This is predominantly due to Australia owning 12 of the 29 new bauxite projects in the Finch Solutions Mines Database, this number being the largest for any individual country. Finch Solutions forecasts Australian bauxite production growth to average 15% year-on-year in 2019, up from 4.0% in 2018. It singles out Rio Tinto’s expansion at its Amrun project as driving
bauxite production growth in Australia over the coming quarters: first production started there in December 2018, with 22.8 Mt the target for 2019. In another project, Metallica Minerals is currently waiting to finish a haul road from its Urquhart deposit to Cape York Peninsula in order to start production, while the Urquhart deposit is expected to produce 6.5 Mt of saleable bauxite. By comparison, Guinea boasts the second highest number of new projects – seven. According to Fitch, Guinea’s bauxite production is likely to grow from 59 Mt in 2018 to 82.3 Mt by 2028, supported by demand from China. Fitch also highlighted several key projects (including the GAC project). In 2017 France’s Alliance Minière Responsable (AMR) signed a deal with Société Minière de Boké (SMB) to exploit bauxite near the Boké region. The deposit in question offers an estimated 430 Mt of bauxite, planned annual production running between 6 Mt and 10 Mt.
In addition, August 2018 saw Alufer Mining start production at the Bel Air project. The plan here is to produce 5.5 Mt/y, reaching 10 Mt/y over 15 years. Conclusions Lee Bray summarised for Materials World some highly varied price developments in the bauxite sector. In 2018, the average price Free Alongside Ship (FAS) for USA imports for consumption of metallurgicalgrade alumina in 2018 was US$590/t, 20% higher than that in 2017, while it ranged between US$450/t and US$930/t. World alumina production in 2018 decreased slightly (1.5%) compared with that in 2017. In 2018, the estimated average price (FAS) for USA imports for consumption of crude-dry bauxite was US$31/t, 3% less that that of the same period in 2017. In brief, successful operations in several varied countries testify to the stability and financial viability of bauxite. �
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How we can achieve zero-emission aluminium smelters By Hans Erik Vatne*
Using renewable energy as the source of the electricity used in aluminium smelters is the best way to improve the carbon footprint of the primary aluminium the smelters produce. By far. But eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions from this aluminium production would bring us closer to zero-emission smelters. I think this is possible. Power generation represents the biggest way of improving the sustainability profile of aluminium. Best for the environment are hydropower-based aluminium smelters. Coal-based plants are the worst, and unfortunately, these outnumber the good ones. Still, all can improve, because all these smelters have the electrolysis process in common. Granted, direct emissions from electrolysis are on average only about onetenth of those from the energy source, but they are significant. So how can we eliminate these direct emissions and get closer to the zeroemission aluminium smelter? Using inert anodes and aluminium chloride process Lately, there has been a renewed interest in inert anodes. It is almost ironic that even back in Hall’s original patent for the HallHeroult electrolysis process from 1886, it is mentioned that inert anodes should be possible to use in the process within a rather short time. That “short” time has proven to be rather long. The industry has spent billions on research and development and the testing of inert anodes over the last decades, but no solution exists. It is still regarded as one of the options though, toward lowering emissions from production. Another is a chloride process in which the alumina is converted to an aluminium chloride that can readily be processed by electrolysis. The chlorination needs carbon, but the carbon and the chlorine might be recycled in a closed loop.
New technologies including biocarbon use and carbon dioxide capture Those are the most obvious new technologies. At the same time, we need to be open to the possibility that there may be other ground-breaking technologies still not identified, that can reduce the direct emissions from aluminium production and help us achieve our sustainability goals. Other alternatives are to use biocarbon in the anodes or to capture the CO2 and either utilise it for products or store it safely. The advantage of these two solutions is that existing Hall-Heroult smelters can still be used. More collaboration in aluminium industry is a key factor As long as the solutions are so unclear, it is important that the aluminium industry follows several paths to reduce or eliminate its direct CO2 emissions. There might not be a single “one size fits all solution” but a variety of solutions depending on local conditions of each smelter. I strongly support and promote the trend of more collaboration within the aluminium industry. Tech development is so fast that it is difficult to be in the front in all areas, and we need to remember that other materials are our main competitors and not our peers. If we can develop technology and solutions together with good suppliers, then the costs of these will come down and ensure implementation. The competing
factor in the aluminium world will then be how good we are at implementing and using these new technology elements for the production of low-carbon metal. Zero-emission aluminium smelters in future How soon will we see a zero-emission aluminium smelter? This is hard to say, but it will likely require years of research, followed by a demonstrator (typically a handful of production cells) and a proper pilot working under industrial conditions (comparable to Hydro’s Karmøy technology pilot) before anyone is ready to accept the risk of being the first to invest in a full-scale plant. Interested in learning more? If you are interested in learning more about using aluminium solutions and lowcarbon products for your product designs, then contact Hydro and we will put you in touch with the right expert. � Contact www.shapesbyhydro.com
*Hans Erik is a civil engineer (physics) and has a PhD in metallurgy from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. He has spent his entire working career with Hydro, now serving as the company’s chief technology officer. Aluminium International Today
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Alumina refining 4.0: What digital transformation looks like By Jonas Berge* To improve reliability, safety, productivity and throughput, many alumina refineries have begun digital transformation of how the plant is run and maintained, changing from manual and paper-based tasks to new ways of working based more on digital automation and software. To enable these new ways of working, successful alumina refineries are deploying digital operational infrastructure, with wireless sensors, purpose-built data analytics, industrially hardened tablet computers for digital document and software forms, location awareness for personnel and assets, and connected services using cloud computing technology and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
by increasing or unstable energy price. Again, plants canâ€™t hire more people to help energy conservation. Safety and compliance challenges Plant safety record has improved but incidents still occur, there are near misses, and the response time is sometimes too long. It is hard to keep up with inspection and verification requirements in new HS&E directives. There are fines for noncompliance. Again, manpower cannot be added to perform these tasks.
efficient turnarounds thanks to advances in areas like predictive analytics. Maintenance and reliability tasks A digitally transformed plant is able to minimise routine manual collection of maintenance, reliability, and integrity data from equipment like pumps that require portable testers or time-consuming interpretation. Instead vibration, acoustic, corrosion, erosion, and other data is collected automatically by sensors to detect early signs of problems ahead, Fig 1. Digital transformation of work processes
Industry challenges Alumina refineries face challenges with reliability, maintenance and energy cost, safety and compliance, and production. The workforce may already be stretched. Many of these challenges stem from manual and paper-based work practices. Reliability and maintenance challenges A plant may struggle with unscheduled downtime due to unexpected equipment failures or too long scheduled downtime for turnarounds losing several days of production every year. Personnel struggle to keep up with the preventive maintenance schedule and may not be able to complete required tasks within turnaround window. The plant may have escalating maintenance costs due to repair, and opportunity cost for lost production. Some process equipment may see premature end of life. This may be due to a reactive maintenance culture. Loss of containment due to eroding and corroding piping and vessels is another challenge. Moreover, plants are expected to improve without increasing headcount. Energy and emissions challenges: Plants see energy consumption going up, but not knowing why, compounded
Production challenges Manual operation causes production bottlenecks. Operating cost may be escalating. As staff retire, the remaining personnel are left with more to do. Digital transformation Even some of the most technologysavvy plants still have many manual and paper-based tasks. To achieve operational excellence, top-performing alumina refineries are transforming everything about how their plants are run and maintained. Plants are now switching to new automatic, digital, software-based and data driven ways of working. In a more digital, paperless plant, personnel can carry out their daily duties more effectively. A digital plant also enables faster, more
transmitted digitally, and analysed by software to predict and distinguish between various equipment failure modes. This prediction capability enables maintenance and asset management along the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 55000 guidelines. Notifications of developing issues can be sent to smartphones or tablets anywhere. Any remaining manual inspection rounds are not by clipboard, paper forms, and pencil, but instead a tablet computer and software. A central pool of domain experts, in-house or external, can use the information to support plant personnel. Delays waiting for an expert to mobilise to site or trying to explain a problem in the field from the phone in the office or via email are now avoided. Instead two-
*Senior Director Applied Technology, Emerson Automation Solutions Aluminium International Today
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Fig 2. Digital Operational Infrastructure (DOI) is a second layer of automation on the side of the existing automation pyramid
way digital video and audio between field technician with wearable camera at site, and subject matter expert seeing the problem up close and live in software from another location. Carrying of papers or returning to the office to pick up additional documents is a thing of the past. Instead open up any procedures, drawings, and manuals etc. in software on a tablet or browse information from the company Intranet or the Internet on-the-go in the plant. Energy management and loss control tasks Manual collection of energy meter readings or tallying of consumption report is no more. Instead consumption data is collected automatically, with finer granularity for areas and units, transmitted digitally, and overconsumption alarmed by software also generating the ISO 50001 reports. Finding causes of energy loss no longer relies on manual inspection of steam traps and relief valves. Instead, these issues are detected automatically using steam trap health monitoring and relief valve monitoring. Similarly, the root cause troubleshooting of energy overconsumption in equipment and machines does not rely on labourintensive data collection or manual number crunching. Instead the efficiency is monitored by equipment performance analytics software. Health, safety, and environment management tasks Getting on the walkie-talkie to make a distress call is not always possible. Instead automatic detection, digital transmission, and alarm on safety shower activation, in operator software and location awareness software. No ad-hoc visits to the plant to check if a manual valve was closed, dipping to see if a tank is nearly full, or inspect for leaks and spills, etc. Instead automatic detection, digital transmission, and indication in 2019 Highlights
control room software of issues such as these. There are also interlocks using these signals to prevent many issues. For instance, to detect leaks of caustic sodium hydroxide used in the extraction process, and time stamping on manual sampling valves. No mustering cards, visitor log sheets, and walkie-talkie for headcount during emergency evacuation mustering and no search parties required to find missing personnel. Instead the location of every person is sensed digitally in real-time and automatically tallied in software. Contractors are managed and with geofencing alarm issued if personnel stray beyond permitted work areas or into a high-risk area. Man-down is also detected and alarmed enabling faster response. Production process tasks Routine manual collection of operations data on clipboard and paper forms is going away in many plants. Instead data is collected automatically and transmitted digitally to historian and operator software etc. Any remaining manual rounds are instead by tablet with software. Paper notebooks for jotting down near misses, incidents, hazards, and maintenance needs etc. is no more. Instead notes and digital photos of incidents, hazards, leaks, and damaged equipment is captured digitally on tablets with software and shared with relevant parties. Tagging along with experienced staff is not the only way for newcomers to learn how to perform manual tasks. Field operators can now also learn new tasks in a very immersive 3D virtual plant environment with virtual reality (VR) technology. Digital operational infrastructure Alumina refineries are deploying additional digital operational infrastructure as the enabler for digital transformation of work practices for many tasks around the plant to achieve operational excellence. Existing operational infrastructure in
plants typically includes a plant historian, the control system, underlying field instruments like temperature transmitters and flow meters, and final control valves. In digital transformation, the digital operational infrastructure is expanded upon and enhanced to streamline how work is carried out in the plant. There is no need to replace the existing control system since the operational infrastructure is compatible with existing automation (Fig 2). There is no need to add another analytics platform layer; the existing historian can be used as a platform. The principal building blocks for expanding the digital operational infrastructure are: � Mobility � Predictive analytics � Pervasive networking � Pervasive sensing � Connected services Mobility In a digitally transformed plant, work by everyone from the plant manager down is data-driven. Each person gets data relevant to their responsibility to do their job better. For instance, the reliability manager has a dashboard very different from the safety manager and they don’t receive the same notifications. A key success factor for digital transformation is that the information must be easily accessible in a timely manner. In the infancy of digital transformation of instrument and valve maintenance practices more than 20 years ago, the software was usually installed on a computer located in the control room or an equipment room where instrument technicians could not easily access it. It often quickly fell into disuse. Instead the data should always get to the desk and pocket of the person responsible. For instance, predictive instrument alarms and information goes to the laptop and smartphone of the instrument technician. Dashboards and alarms are generated by mobility software using information from underlying analytics apps like equipment condition monitoring. Dashboards contain KPIs specific to the person's responsibilities displayed on tablet computers or smartphones, making information immediately available wherever you are, be it in a meeting in the admin building, in the canteen, or on your way to or from work. Tablets and smartphones are available in industrially hardened models for use in the plant. Predictive analytics Many digital transformation solutions monitor simple process variables, such as corrosion and erosion (metal loss), temperatures and pressures, etc., that Aluminium International Today
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scientist to use purpose-built analytics (Fig 3). Apps for steam trap, pump and heat exchanger analytics help drive better maintenance management. The analytics uses verifiable first principle models, failure mode effect analysis (FMEA), and statistical algorithms to detect signs of developing equipment issues, predicting failure and providing early warnings based on these leading indicators so breakdown can be prevented. These apps are preengineered so no long algorithm learning periods are required; it’s only necessary to capture the baseline.
Fig 3. Intuitive equipment analytics apps for use by maintenance and reliability engineers
need no additional analytics. Predictive equipment analytics apps which encode subject matter expertise are used for performance and condition monitoring of complex process equipment with multiple measurements such as for compressors, blowers, fans, pumps, heat exchangers, cooling towers and air-cooled heat exchangers to anticipate problems, allowing failures to be predicted and averted. Raw data from sensors is distilled into actionable information. When a problem arises the technician already knows what to do and what to bring before going to the field. And it is not just vibration, the fault models also uncover early signs of trouble and distinguishes between many types of equipmentspecific failures. The disruptive learning periods associated with machine learning are not required. Equipment analytics can feed into plant-wide dashboards, business intelligence software, and ERP workorder management systems. Software provides predictive analytics to predict failure in advance, as well as prescriptive analytics recommended action. The analytics software can be installed on servers onpremises or on virtual machines in the cloud. A layered open architecture has real-time analytics at the sensor level, edge analytics done in higher level devices and servers, feeding up to business intelligence at the enterprise level 4. Web-based analytics apps are “platform agnostic” since they do not depend on 2019 Highlights
any particular brand of control system or historian. The plant’s existing historian remains in place for big data storage, it need not be replaced by another middleware platform, and there is no need to add another middleware platform thus protecting the plant’s investment and keeping the administration cost low. The analytics uses data aggregated from multiple sources, including new and existing sensors, wired and wireless, package unit PLCs, control systems, safety systems, machinery protection systems, intelligent device management (IDM) software, and any historian or future platform through the OPC Foundation’s Unified Architecture (OPC-UA) application programming interface (API) technology, which works regardless of vendor. Conversely, analytics from equipment apps can feed into analytics and dashboards for the whole unit or plant. Similarly, information can be integrated in augmented reality (AR) visualisation solutions. Use apps purpose-built for real-time equipment monitoring and that are designed to be easy for maintenance and reliability professionals (including managers, engineers, and technicians) to use. The best apps come with overview dashboards, alarm summary with simple health index, priority, plain text problem description, and the ability to zoom into detail and see history trends to spot accelerated degradation and estimate remaining life. You need not be a data
Pervasive networking Data-driven practices requires sensors to collect the missing data. It would be impractical to hardwire hundreds or thousands of sensors point-to-point using the 4-20 mA or on-off signals. Plants built with FOUNDATION® Fieldbus networking can simply add instrumentation to existing field junction boxes with minimal wiring to the sensors. All plants should deploy wireless infrastructure for sensors. One method is to deploy a plant-wide wireless sensor network and optionally also a wireless local area network (WLAN) infrastructure depending on which operations tasks will be digitized. The wireless network infrastructure consists of wireless gateways for the wireless sensor networks, and optionally wireless access points for the Wi-Fi network as the central nervous system of the plant. The wireless gateways can be embedded inside the wireless access points when WirelessHART® and Wi-Fi are deployed together. Since these networks are used for operational functions, both wireless networks are managed by the instrumentation and control (I&C) department and integrate with the control system, historian, machinery protection system, safety system, and other operations systems. Location awareness is technology used to locate people and assets in the plant. This is used for automatic emergency mustering headcount and rescue locating. Location awareness is also used for geofencing of restricted or high-risk areas, meaning if unauthorised persons stray into the area an alarm will be generated. The wearable ID tags used for location detection include a panic button for distress call and senses if there is no movement (man-down). Wearable video collaboration, tablet computers in the field to assist in various tasks such as retrieving maintenance history or documents, data collection and reporting, are examples of functionality which make use of industrial Wi-Fi in the field. Pervasive Sensing Data-driven work practices start with Aluminium International Today
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the raw data from sensors. Sensors bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. Without sensors there is no analytics and no Big Data. Process equipment like pumps, compressors, heat exchangers, blowers, cooling towers, air cooled heat exchangers, manual valves, and tanks – even steam traps usually have no transmitters for condition monitoring; missing measurements. This equipment is now being instrumented with additional sensors to cover these missing measurements thus yielding smart connected equipment. Automatic data collection is much faster than manual data collection, providing early detection of markers of developing problems, thereby making the asset management more predictive, and far more productive. Wireless sensors often take the place of mechanical instruments, portable testers, and clipboards. Wireless sensors include pressure, flow, level, position, on-off contact, vibration, temperature, corrosion, erosion, acoustic noise, and electric power as well as level switch, which are installed as needed to feed data to analytics and other software for reliability, energy efficiency, personnel safety, and production. Wireless sensors are deployed without having to lay more cable and installing more I/O for 4-20 mA and on-off signals. Control valves and flow meters not already digitally integrated are fitted with wireless adapters. Many of these new sensors are non-intrusive or reuse existing process connections meaning they can be installed while the plant is running without shutting down the process. Wireless sensors can be deployed without opening cable trays or junction boxes avoiding the risk of damaging existing cable. Some transmitters such as for vibration include edge analytics preprocessing the raw data. Connected services Often there are not enough experts onsite. Some plants opt for an IIoT-based solution with subject matter experts in a central location monitoring equipment across multiple sites. It can be the company’s own fleet management center to manage process equipment in the company’s fleet of plants around the world, or it can be a third-party connected service provider monitoring process equipment in multiple companies’ sites globally. The service provider’s IIoT center has a pool of experts in the areas of rotating machinery vibration, control valves, analysers, corrosion/erosion, static process equipment, and steam traps, etc., to guide on-site personnel with real-time advice. In the cloud, analytics software monitors the equipment in the plants. Staff extract reports listing equipment condition and what actions are required. Aluminium International Today
Fig 4. EGA Dubai wireless sensors for digital transformation energy efficiency
The reports are reviewed by domain experts before sending to plant personnel. The report format has been created specifically for each kind of equipment including the relevant information allowing plant personnel to act immediately. The reporting frequency depends on the type of equipment. In a new business model for connected services, instrumentation such as acoustic and vibration sensors are not purchased but included as part of the subscription fee, requiring little or no upfront investment for the plant. Digital transformation in the aluminium industry Alumina refineries and smelters around the world are already digitally transforming how work is done. Switchgear monitoring An alumina refinery in Brazil was operating their rectifier stacks well below the rated 100kA due to operating temperature uncertainty because they were relying on infrequent manual infrared (IR) thermography for temperature checks. Surface acoustic wave (SAW) temperature sensors were installed on nine rectifiers, providing continuous temperature measurement at the control switch incoming and outgoing buses. The data is transmitted digitally to the monitoring system. The solution allowed a 10 percent increase in operating current and total material throughput without fear of catastrophic failure. Energy management and loss control Emirates Global Aluminium’s (EGA) smelter site in Dubai had a problem with the compressed air consumption. Air demand was varying through the day and the company wanted to improve measurement of the variations to optimise air usage and production. More than 50 wireless flow meters measuring the compressed air consumption of each plant area covering a total plant of 480-hectares were installed (figure 4). The measurements are integrated with the manufacturing execution system (MES) which allows the company to know in which area and at what date/
time air consumption increases. Based on this, each area is reviewing its processes and procedures to optimise air usage. The solution has eliminated the need for daily visits to air flow meters. Continuous monitoring shows spikes and trends in air use, allowing improved management. They now have a better understanding of the compressed air consumption in the plant with improved ability to plan and control cost. As a result they have reduced energy use and have created plant-wide awareness of the importance of compressed air. Since then they have added wireless temperature measurement in remote substations mainly to identify breakdown of air-conditioning as well as wireless vibration monitoring for aircooled heat-exchangers. Overfill and spill prevention An alumina refinery in Brazil using the Bayer process had problems with their red mud stacking. Originally the site relied on manual inspection of the level in a large area to determine which valves to open and close. Critical points may overflow if not detected fast. Due to the dynamics of red mud stacking a movable level sensing solution was required. Wireless level switches were installed to detect high level reporting much faster than ever possible with manual inspection. Since the sensors are wireless, moving them around is easy. The wireless gateway is integrated with the existing DCS and mud level displayed on operator screens. As a result they were able to reduce the risk of red mud overflow. Alumina 4.0 In the aluminium industry, applying digital automation technology and rethinking how the entire plant is run and maintained has increasingly become the best way to achieve operational excellence. To stay competitive, alumina plants must be prepared to expand their digital operational infrastructure with more software and sensors, digitized work processes, wireless monitoring, and training on wireless devices and software in order to improve production, energy efficiency, safety, and reliability. � 2019 Highlights
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At the heart of aluminium As the leading the supplier of aluminium in North America, Rio Tinto is uniquely positioned to feed the region’s manufacturing supply chain through its world-class, low-carbon smelting and R&D facilities in Canada. The company is building on its long history in North America by breaking new ground for the industry in responsible production and forging close commercial partnerships to develop specialised products that meet customers’ needs. The clean hydropower and AP TechnologyTM used at Rio Tinto’s Canadian facilities make their greenhouse gas footprint significantly lower than the global industry average, positioning the company to meet consumer expectations for sustainable products. In 2016, Rio Tinto launched RenewAl™, the first certified lowcarbon aluminium. In 2018 it became the first company to receive certification from the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) as producing “responsible” aluminium. At the end of 2018, Nespresso announced that they will be using Rio Tinto’s certified aluminium for their coffee pods. The Arvida Research and Development Centre, located at Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière in the Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean region plays a key role in the company’s leadership in the growing market for specialised high-performance alloys. It’s a focus that extends well beyond research and development, however, to offering technical expertise and marketing as well as collaborating with OEMs. The new Revolution-Al™ aluminium alloy is the latest example of how Rio Tinto works with customers to develop products that meet their needs. Designed specifically for 2019 Highlights
car wheels, the alloy is stronger, allowing manufacturers to make a lighter wheel, which in the end can make cars safer and more appealing to consumers with reduced CO2 emissions. The industry leading business Rio Tinto operates in Canada today has been built on a long history running back to 1901 in Quebec’s Mauricie region, with the Shawinigan smelter coming online in the early 1940s. The construction of aluminium smelters spurred the rapid social and economic development of the Centre-du-Québec, Saguenay–Lac-SaintJean and the North Shore in Québec, as well as the Kitimat region in the province of British Columbia, which led to the rapid expansion of the industry in the 1940s. The aluminium industry has been at the heart of the Saguenay region since World War II. Aluminium’s light weight and durability made it a critical material in the construction of airplanes, and demand for the metal boomed during the war. In fact, Canada supplied 40% of the Allies’ total aluminium production. It proved a turning point in the region’s economy, driving the expansion and modernisation of factories, and the development of hydropower facilities, which made the most of the region’s vast waterways. As a result, the Town of Arvida located in the Saguenay region, turned into the biggest aluminium production centre in the Western world. Today, Aluminium Valley – as the region is known – is one of the world’s leading producers of aluminium and Rio Tinto is the region’s largest private employer. Across the country on Canada’s west coast, Rio Tinto operates the newly modernised Kitimat smelter, which also
has a long history running back more than 60 years in northern British Columbia. In the 1940s, the government of BC invited the Aluminium Company of Canada to build what was the largest private construction investment in Canada’s history. The project included the construction of the world’s largest smelter of the era, and hydroelectric infrastructure to power the smelter. The new smelter was officially completed in 1954, when Prince Philip visited Kitimat to preside over the ceremonial pour of the first Kitimatproduced aluminium ingot (pictured). Today, Rio Tinto’s smelter in Kitimat runs on leading technology to produce some of the world’s lowest carbon footprint aluminium, after a USD $4.8 billion modernisation project. It is powered by the Kemano Powerhouse, the largest high-pressure hydro generation facility in North America, and continues to be one of British Columbia’s most significant industrial complexes. Work is underway to ensure the long-term reliability of a clean power supply, with a second 16 kilometre tunnel through a mountain being completed to feed the powerhouse. As Rio Tinto looks to the future, it is partnering with Alcoa to launch Elysis, a joint venture to further develop a breakthrough technology that eliminates all direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the aluminium smelting process, supported by Apple and the governments of Canada and Québec. The project keeps Canada at the forefront of the global aluminium industry, with Elysis’ new Research and Development Center being built at Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquiere in Québec. � Aluminium International Today
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20 ELYSIS EXCLUSIVE
The ELYSIS era is coming When a new, revolutionary way to make aluminium was announced in May 2018, all eyes were suddenly on the industry. Almost a year on, Nadine Bloxsome met with Vincent Christ, CEO, to find out more about the new research and development facility and what is next for the technology. “It’s pretty amazing to replace CO2 with Oxygen,” says Vincent Christ through a smile in an ELYSIS blue coloured meeting room in the shiny, new Montreal office. He’s right. It’s more than amazing; it seems down right impossible. Not only did the aluminium industry do a double take at this news on 10th May 2018, there was the added interest that Rio Tinto and Alcoa had formed a Joint Venture (JV) to announce the most significant innovation in aluminium manufacturing for more than a century. “The alliance is unique,” explains Vincent. “If you look at Rio Tinto and Alcoa together, they account for about 10% of the world production. So, when 10% of this global production gets together and forms a JV by pulling the key resources and everything into it, you mean business!” Apple is also a key partner with an investment of $13 million (CAD). It was mentioned at the time that the company helped facilitate the collaboration between Alcoa and Rio Tinto on the carbon-free smelting process. “Yes, the way this initially came together was through Apple, who were interested in de-carbonising their product,” Vincent confirms. “When they saw how the two industry players complimented each other, they suggested joining forces. Apple is a very important part of the story, because we need to set up a brand new supply chain. It is pointless to have the technology and then not be able to supply!” There is also significant support from the Canadian and Québec Governments, both of which are working to decarbonise industry in the region. While the aluminium industry in Québec accounts 2019 Highlights
“THE IMPORTANT THING FOR US IS WE ARE FOCUSSED, WE HAVE A STRATEGY, WE HAVE A PLAN, WE HAVE THE PEOPLE, WE HAVE THE FUNDING AND NOW
IT IS UP TO US TO DELIVER.
for 20% of its industrial CO2 emissions, the Kitimat smelter in British Columbia is also a key contributor. Silencing the sceptics As with anything new, there were initial questions raised and challenges to overcome. “Not surprisingly you encounter scepticism because this has been discussed a number of times in history, but there is still no commercial solution available,” says Vincent. “All the while there are energy penalties in place, some think it is not going to be viable, whereas others are worried that metal purity might be an issue, but we don’t have these concerns.” With an overwhelming pressure on industries to address Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs), ELYSIS ticks the box for sustainable technology, as well as proving there is a business case. “There is a need in the aluminium industry for a breakthrough like this.” Vincent continues. “The way smelters have been built today is carbon intensive and the interesting counter balance to this is that ELYSIS has the ambition to significantly lower the capital cost, because of the absence of the whole carbon outfit, from the pitch silos to the
bake furnace – the whole chain is basically eliminated.” At the recent TMS conference in the USA, Chris Bayliss from the International Aluminium Institute highlighted the need to add an estimated 90 million tonnes of capacity over the next 20 years. So, where is this aluminium going to come from? “There is no market for greenfield projects, or at least a very small market, whereas there is 60 million tonnes being produced today, which means there are existing operations for retrofitting projects,” says Vincent. “The other plus point is that because of the absence of the carbon plant and the need for changing an anode every twenty-five days, we expect that the operating costs will also be lower by 15%.” Other industry opportunities As the aluminium industry leads the way with sustainable manufacturing, other industries are beginning to follow and the ELYSIS technology has even faced questions as to whether it could be applied to steel manufacturing. “It is an interesting question and with an aggressive timeline of five years, we are focusing on aluminium first!” says Vincent. “In the cement and steel Aluminium International Today
VINCENT CHRIST, CEO, ELYSIS industries, it is likely that legislation will force a change over a business case. Whereas with aluminium, there is a good opportunity to scale-up to a commercial size with a business case on its own.”
“We could not have built something from scratch on this time limit, so the existing building at the site means we can move forward with construction over the next month.”
Research & Development Centre With the mention of the timeline already ticking away, at the beginning of April (shortly after this interview was conducted) ELYSIS announced the site for its new research and development facility in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region in Québec, which will directly employ more than 25 experts when it is fully operational. The new ELYSIS Research and Development Centre will be located at Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière, the site of the Arvida smelter, Vaudreuil refinery and Arvida Research and Development Centre. It is expected to be fully operational in the second half of 2020. The ELYSIS team will continue to work in close collaboration with the Alcoa Technical Centre (ATC) near Pittsburgh in the United States, where this patentprotected technology was invented and has been producing metal at different scales since 2009. The Alcoa Technical Centre provides support to ELYSIS on the proprietary anode and cathode materials that are essential to this advanced smelting process. “We’re currently in Year One, so we are aiming towards 2024,” continues Vincent. “This is another reason why the JV was created, to allow us the agility to move fast. The Research Centre will allow us to develop a pre-commercial size cell, which means the next step is commercial scale within the five-year timeframe.
Is ELYSIS digital ready? With Industry 4.0 integration underway across the aluminium value chain, ELYSIS will be entering an industry already poised to take on the challenges of digital manufacturing. “We had the luxury to go from a clean sheet,” explains Vincent. “Given the fact that you don’t have to change anodes every 25 days, the entire design is radically different. It is more like a closed box, which is designed for automation. “This is part of us working with Industry 4.0,” he continues. “There is not much that resembles the Hall-Héroult process, which was not designed for automation. The industry has to automate around Hall–Héroult cells where possible, but the original design is difficult to work with in this way. We won’t face this issue.”
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The future is coming… Since the first announcement in May 2018, the ELYSIS technology has been seen as something of a secret recipe. “I feel that ELYISIS is in the spotlight of media attention and I’ve received multiple invitations to attend conferences and talk about the company” mentions Vincent with a smile. ”It is flattering but it is not time to travel the world now, there is too much for me to do here.” So, just how much of the technology will be shared and how will ELYSIS work with a roll out?
“If you come up with a car engine that works on water, would you explain to the world how it works?” continues Vincent. “We are selling technology, but our knowhow is our asset. I have to think to myself, if I share something, does it benefit ELYSIS? If not, then there is no need to. It is that simple. “We will have a nice control room where you can see the cell, but all you will see is a box! There will be controlled access, because the know-how and the intellectual property is the asset of the company, which will be adequately protected.” The offices we are sitting in for this interview are currently empty, but you can already feel everything is in place and ready to go when it needs to be. “We currently have about 80 people working on it,” says Vincent. “We will have people in the Research Centre and then our two partners who will operate from their base until commercialisation. Then we will likely set ourselves up with bigger offices, with a dedicated sales force. The art of transferring technology is also key.” It seems everything has already been bubbling under the surface and we will start to see more announcements as the project pushes forward. It’s something the whole industry will be following closely, along with the rest of the industrial world, to see aluminium attempt a manufacturing first. “Everybody who works on ELYSIS doesn’t need an alarm clock in the morning, because they are all excited to go to work! We feel like we are working on something meaningful for the industry and the future. Even my sons now believe Dad is cool!” � 2019 Highlights
22 WOMEN IN ALUMINIUM
Number 13: Not unlucky for Hydro In the same week that Hydro’s CEO, Hilde Merete Aasheim was voted 13th on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list, Nadine Bloxsome* spoke to her about her thoughts on women’s roles in the aluminium industry and how she is working to inspire others to contribute not just to manufacturing, but business in general.
Q. The topic itself seems quite a tricky
one - as a woman myself I don’t like to think that there is or should be an issue with women working within the aluminium sector, but what are your initial thoughts when you hear the words ‘Women in Aluminium’? A. The aluminium industry is a hightech industry with lots of exciting career opportunities for both men and women. But we have not done enough to attract and retain female talents and leaders. We need to do something about that. Our industry is going to fall behind if we only pick from one half of the talent pool and fail to build strong pipelines of female leaders.
Q. You’ve got extensive experience within the aluminium manufacturing industry. What lead you to develop a career in this sector? A. Industry has always been close to my heart, and it has been my home for the last decades. The big plants, the people, the local communities – having this joint destiny of creating workplaces and products that the world needs have always fascinated me. I started my career as a certiﬁed public accountant, a profession that introduced me to the world of large-scale industry. I got Elkem as a client, and Elkem at that time had plants all over Norway. I was out there in the plants and got this fascination for turning natural resources like hydropower into ﬁnished products to be sold all around the world. I started to work for Elkem and stayed there for 19 years in different leadership positions before joining Hydro and the
aluminium industry in 2005. In Hydro I have held the positions as EVP for Leadership and Culture and later EVP for the Aluminium Metal business (20082019) before taking the helm as CEO in May this year.
Q. Have you witnessed any challenges or opposition in your roles leading to this point that you think are related to being a woman? A. Not really. To me, it has been about hard work and taking step by step. You have to learn all the way, no difference between men and women. I recognise that I meet many men in similar positions when I travel the world for Hydro. But I am happy to see that I see more and more women, and if I can be an inspiration to young women today – I am proud to be able to do that. Q. I meet a lot of women in this industry
who work in roles such as marketing and admin, but do you think the sector is now more open to women in leading or more manufacturing based roles or is a shift still needed? A. The sector should deﬁnitely be more open to women in leading or more manufacturing based roles. We need to do more to attract, develop and retain female talents and leaders and facilitate job rotation for both men and women. We need to be better at promoting our industry and to show the large number of opportunities in terms of disciplines that you could choose from. Companies have a responsibility to facilitate career moves. You need to spot and rotate talents, enable the transition
from functional experts to general managers across staff functions and business areas and manage succession planning in a good way. In particular we should try to get more females into line positions, which is a good basis to move further up the ranks. Companies and leaders should also support and facilitate a good worklife balance through family-friendly policies. There are times in life when it is challenging to combine a professional career and your private life, especially when you have small children. I believe this is a challenge many women have been facing and are facing, but also more and more men. It will be challenging to combine career and family from time to time, but it is possible, and it is worth it.
Q. Do you think there are enough opportunities for women to take on roles in this industry? A. Yes, there are a lot of exciting opportunities for women in our industry, and it will continue to be. The world needs better designed products, made to last longer, that can be recycled and produced by low emission, ethically sourced materials. Sustainability is the biggest challenge of modern production and the aluminium industry can play an important part in the transition to a more circular economy. We need all the talent we can ﬁnd to succeed with this big task. Q. Do you think enough is being done to encourage women in these roles? If not, how could we encourage more?
*Editor, Aluminium International Today 2019 Highlights
Aluminium International Today
WOMEN IN ALUMINIUM 23
“... we talk about “women in A.
aluminium” and “female leaders”. Placing “female” before leader or CEO means there is an element of surprise... and I hope it
won’t be, 10 years from now. A. We are getting better, but we are not
doing enough. To change the numbers at the top of our industry I believe we need to start young. We need to get young girls excited about a career in STEMﬁelds (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). We also need to encourage our girls and women to pursue leader positions. Women represent 50 percent of the world’s expertise and talent pool – of course our industry needs them.
Q. Is the subject of women in manufacturing a focus for Hydro? A. Yes, deﬁnitely. We aim at having
diversity in all areas in Hydro, and manufacturing is no exception. We have some good examples of female leaders in operative positions, and it is important that these are inspiring further young, female talents in seeing the possibilities for a career in the whole company. To be able to have a good pipeline of female leader and specialist talents, we need to nurture these talents from early on in their careers.
Q. Are there any company programmes
in place designed for women working in the sector?
Hydro has a number of talent programs. One of our business areas has a special mentoring program for female talents, else the programs are designed for all talents, independent of gender. That said, we are very conscious about diversity when accepting nominees to our talent programs. We always aim to ﬁnd a good balance on e.g gender, nationality and experience to reﬂect the company’s global presence.
Q. What do you think the future holds for women in the aluminium manufacturing workforce? A. A lot of exciting career opportunities. I encourage women to take a step outside the comfort zone and just go for it. It is possible, and it is worth it. Q. What would you like to see going
forward? I am happy to see more and more women choosing a career in our industry. Still, we are too few, and still, we talk about “women in aluminium” and “female leaders”. Placing “female” before leader or CEO means there is an element of surprise. It shouldn’t be, and I hope it won’t be, 10 years from now. �
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24 INDUSTRY 4.0
The future of aluminium manufacturing
Aluminium companies are continuing to incorporate more and more cutting edge digital technologies that fall under the Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) umbrella into their operations and it is expected to make considerable additional inroads in this direction over the next several years. Myra Pinkham* explains. “Innovation has always been at the core of our operations,” declares Alf Barrios, chief executive officer of Rio Tinto Aluminium. “We are now looking for new ways – whether through predictive mathematics, machine learning or advanced data modelling – to extract maximum value from the data we capture to improve the performance of our operations.” Somewhat universally, companies throughout the aluminium value chain have for a long time been generating and capturing real time data at a machine or plant operation level through the use of sensors on the equipment, Tony Barnes, senior manager for Crowe LLP’s metal industry consulting group, observes. This involves the collection of a wide range of possible data, including temperature and other production conditions and information about the quality of the material passing through the equipment as well as the condition of the equipment, such as how many passes the machine has made, how much the machine is vibrating
and whether there are any indications that it needs maintenance work. But what you are starting to see now is investments to allow the data that had been collected from various equipment and production lines, possibly at different facilities in different countries, being brought together in a central location to undergo real time analysis to provide real time insights to company executives. Stefan Koch, global metals lead for SAP SE, says this is enabling companies to start utilising such emerging digital technologies as machine learning and predictive maintenance, given that this could, for example, enable companies to compare the better performing and lesser performing production lines and to identify root causes for their performance levels. Right now, the technologies that most aluminium companies have either recently put in place or are actively pursuing could be classified as being advanced analytics, which Pierce Owen, principal analyst for
ABI Research’s industrial solutions group describes as being easy-to-use tools that look at the data from these sources to find patterns, or data fingerprints, which, in turn, could help them to optimise maintenance schedules to avoid unplanned downtime, to produce higher quality “golden batches” of product, to reduce waste by improving their production process performance, to increase their yields by identifying root causes of any anomalies in the production process and to reduce their carbon footprint by optimising their energy usage. This, he says, will be followed by applying more machine learning to those analytics to make them more effective by closing the feedback loop, and then to eventually incorporate the use of artificial intelligence to enable the industry to automate further and to provide greater connectivity. There are also other emerging technologies that could also help companies increase connectivity – not just
*US Correspondent 2019 Highlights
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INDUSTRY 4.0 25 5
internally but also with business partners. One example of this is the Blockchain open distributed ledger technology, which is best known for its use related to the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It involves a growing chain of records or blocks that are linked using cryptography and are typically managed by a peer-to-peer network as opposed to through a centralised bank or other centralised clearinghouse. Barnes calls this technology a more seamless way for companies to share information with trading partners including suppliers, customers and outside processors. Koch agrees, noting that it could be used to track and trace the status of a specific piece of aluminium with everyone in the Blockchain verifying that everything is correct as opposed to relying upon one central source of information. One potential downside, however, is that a lot of energy is consumed to keep such Blockchain networks alive. But Koch says that cost could be brought down if the parties involved agree to shorten their Blockchain. “Then you have a very efficient manner to track and trace items within the logistics chain.” While machine learning continues to be refined in certain research and development laboratory settings, Koch says that the aluminium industry is already being widely used in certain contexts by the aluminium industry. He notes that it’s major use, at least at this point, has been with companies that for research applications, including the development of new aluminium grades and structures, although it is also already being used to promote worker safety by tracking and tracing worker movement through pictures of the plant. Now, he says, machine learning is also moving into aluminium companies’ business processes through the automation of certain now manual operations, including accounting tasks. Aluminium International Today
Owen says that within the next year or two, the aluminium industry will likely step up its use of machine learning based on expected improvements in advanced analytics that will enable them to further close the feedback loop. He says that as this move toward greater automation is rolled out, it will enable companies to increase their productivity by guaranteeing a greater level of uptime. The aluminium industry’s use of artificial intelligence (AI), which is a technology in which companies would be able to train neural networks to essentially run certain processes autonomously and, therefore, potentially reducing human involvement in some areas of production, is further out – with Owen estimating that there will not be widespread adoption of this technology for several years. That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been any use of AI by the industry. Barnes says that a few larger companies are already leveraging some aspects of AI to
enable them to be more predictive about customer behaviours. “This includes how AI could help them determine what their customers are likely to need or are likely to order by looking at historical ordering information and their customers’ historical product sales,” he explains, comparing this to Amazon’s “if you like this, you might also like these things.” Koch says he believes that aluminium companies’ use of AI will pick up, with early adoption likely to be in some areas of research and development, including to determine the various options that they have regarding different types of processing, different production parameters and different material structures. The industry could see further use of AI in the future, Koch says, especially once larger networks and ecosystems are developed that will require companies to move beyond their classical borders, as, Koch says they will be able to apply intelligence to different structured or unstructured data from different sources or models – even those that aren’t coming from the aluminium industry itself – to make certain business or production decisions, including possibly finding new uses for their products or new ways to process their metal. It will, however, be a gradual evolution. One stepping stone that some companies are beginning to start to take to move toward AI is augmented or virtual reality, which unlike AI, is software driven as opposed to be driven by neural networks. Barnes says that while this technology, which involves wearing a headset that superimposes information, data or recommendations as the user looks at the real world in front of him, is still a few years away from being fully commercialised in the aluminium industry, some companies are already looking at it, especially for
26 INDUSTRY 4.0
certain maintenance applications. Owen says that with this technology they could be provided maintenance instructions remotely either by a drawing on their screen or through a skeletal recognition tool showing the hand movements that they should copy. This, Barnes says, will likely to be followed up by its use to plan the plant layout of facilities that they are planning to build. Another gradually emerging technology is robotics. Koch says that the first stage, which is already starting to make its way into use, is robotic process automation (RPA), which involves using a software robot macro to quickly and reliably fill data into certain fields that used to be manually inputted into an interface or computer. Also, he notes, that robotics has been used for certain plant processes, such as laser cutting, for as much as 10 years and that “cobotics,” where a worker wears a robotic skeleton to aid him in certain lifting, repair and maintenance tasks, is emerging. However, the greatest use of robotics and of autonomous vehicles by the aluminium industry to date has been in pilot plants. In fact, Owen says that of the
approximately 30,000 robots installed by the global primary metals industry, only a fraction of that is being employed by the aluminium industry. Koch says as far as autonomous vehicles, there are some pilot projects running, but more for driverless vehicles that aren’t totally autonomous, but that are still being controlled remotely. He points out that one concern with both autonomous vehicles and robotics is how they could affect worker safety. “When you have a mixed environment of people and machines, if there is an error with the machine it could be very dangerous for the person next to it,” he explains. But on the other side of the coin, he notes that robots could help to improve plant safety by doing certain types of work in certain areas of the facility that might be very hot or dangerous for workers. So, by eliminating the need for workers in those areas of the plant, it could definitely make production safer. Koch says that in areas where both people and machines are working together, safety could be improved through worker training as well as through the tracking and tracing of employee movement. He notes that various industries have addressed this
in different ways. For example, Amazon has recently rolled out a new worker safety wearable that it calls its Robotic Tech Vest that makes the robots in their warehouses aware of the location of workers. “And because we have such technology as digital twins, data points and connectivity, companies can have a digital representation of reality and can make decisions based on that. With such automation they don’t have to have someone manually push a button to start production. They can do that remotely through digital software or other digital processes,” Koch points out. Owen estimates that the aluminium industry is currently somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as the adoption of technologies under the Industry 4.0/ IIoT umbrella – behind the automotive industry but ahead of paper and textiles. “Going forward I see it incorporating more connectiveness throughout the value chain,” Barnes says, noting that this sharing and leveraging of all types of data, coming not only from their company but from their customers, suppliers and others in the industry, will not only be a positive for individual companies but will lead to better collaboration. �
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Digitalisation case study Ma’aden Aluminium engages 8Sigma to implement MES solution for automotive sheet plant. Following Ma’aden Aluminium business strategy, the management of this largest aluminium producer in the Middle East decided to digitalise their Automotive Sheet plant by implementing software solution Manufacturing Execution System (MES). After considering cooperation proposals received from several prominent companies, they concluded that the best offer was the one received from 8Sigma, whose experts have developed own solution 8Sigma MES and have already proved their expertise by working on some of the most demanding projects in the field of the metals industry. This cooperation is a part of Ma’aden Aluminium’s plan, which includes a multimillion-dollar investment for a complete digitalisation of the production processes in the rolling mill that produces aluminium coils for the automotive industry. The cooperation agreement that was signed in July 2019 refers to the first phase of the implementation of 8Sigma MES solution in the factory in Ras Al Khair Industrial City and will be completed and put into operation during 2020. According to this agreement, implemented MES will enable the factory’s staff and management to have a quick and real-time overview on all production phases. It will provide them with a possibility to track the product from the moment when it enters plant as a raw material to the moment when it is ready for delivery to the end customer. Some of the most important benefits of implementing MES solution will be also product quality increase, process optimisation, as well as a possibility to compare employees’ performance and control machine efficiency. “We expect a quick and efficient implementation of MES solution by 8Sigma that will bring Industry 4.0 to automotive part of our complex and support us in further digitalisation activities that we have been implementing from the very beginning of our plant. It will help us to increase quality control and also to strengthen our leading position on the market. By concluding this agreement, we 2019 Highlights
Vladimir Lukic, Director at 8Sigma
Marko Satrak, Director and Co-Founder at 8Sigma & Mohammed Al-Ahmari, Engineering Manager at Ma'aden Rolling Company
have once again confirmed that Ma’aden Aluminium is a modern company oriented to continuous development and growth, which follows high technological and market trends”, said Abdulaziz Al-Ruwaily, Ma’aden Rolling Company Operation Director. Signing the cooperation agreement with one of the largest integrated aluminium complexes in the world is an additional proof of the quality of 8Sigma. On the occasion of signing the agreement, Director and Co-founder at 8Sigma, Mr. Marko Šatrak said: “It is a great honour to be a partner of a leading company in aluminium production and to support them in their further development. Implementation of 8Sigma MES is a confirmation of Ma’aden‘s tendency to be a state-of-the art company focused on reaching the highest product quality and achieving the most challenging business goals.”
As a supplier of high quality primary and rolled product solutions, Ma’aden Aluminium includes the development, design, construction and operation of two sites integrated in a mine-to-metal network. Since 2009, it has been a joint venture company with Alcoa, the world’s third - largest aluminium producer. 8Sigma is a premium MES supplier based in the EU and established by software experts with valuable experience gained in developing MES solutions in the factories on five continents. Their 8Sigma MES is adjustable to all types of manufacturing industries and various plant sizes, as it is very configurable and at the same time user-friendly solution. It also provides clients with a wide range of benefits and features, such as immediate factory visibility, automatic comparison or results and targets, proactive maintenance, downtime analysis, standardisation of production and better planning. � Aluminium International Today
HERE IS NO TIME MORE FITTING TO SAY
AND TO WISH YOU A
On a roll South African semi-fabricator Hulamin has implemented AMETEK Surface Vision’s SmartView® Surface Inspection Systems to provide products of consistent high quality. The only major aluminium rolling operation in Sub-Saharan Africa, it supplies customers around the world, with a focus on specific product and enduse markets. The manufacturer’s primary activity continues to be aluminium rolling, supplying a range of high-quality aluminium sheet, plate and foil products. Hulamin’s biggest range of products is can-stock, which includes can-body stock, tab-stock and coated can-end stock that it has supplied to independent and multinational can-makers for more than 30 years. In addition to supplying the South African market, Hulamin has significant exports to Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia. The availability of primary aluminium in South Africa, combined with Hulamin’s rolling and extrusion capabilities, is intrinsic to the growth of aluminium usage in the region, driving industrialisation and regional economic growth. A strong business case The can stock market is considered notoriously as one of the most-demanding packaging markets in the world. Hulamin’s products, however, have stood the test of time, allowing the company to form close relationships with both customers and supply chain partners. To maintain these relationships, it was essential for Hulamin to ensure its customers that it provides products of consistent high quality. Historically, a significant number of surface defects would appear during the manufacturing process, from the hot and cold rolling mills to the finishing machine centres. The material inspections were carried out manually at each machine centre via physical sampling. 2019 Highlights
These defects can originate in the raw material (ingot phase) or be created during the rolling or coating processes. This led to coils having to be scrapped completely or finished with low yields. Hulamin General Manager Tim Hawkins said, “As a responsible supplier, Hulamin naturally wanted to drive down waste to the absolute minimum. We visited several global service providers looking for a solution that could achieve the reduction of energy, production costs and waste products, while also increasing the quality of product.” High standards SmartView® is the market-leading surface detection platform combining synchronised camera technology, state-ofthe-art software and lighting to capture defect images across multiple inspection angles. It delivers unprecedented monitoring, gauging, reporting and classification accuracy in real time. Taking advantage of SmartView’s flexible, scalable nature, the solution was installed over several years, allowing Hulamin to spread the capital expenditure cost over that period. The installation currently provides highquality automated monitoring from the hot strip mill all the way down to the slitting and coating lines. Information, which is saved in a SQL database, allows post-production tracking using AMETEK Surface Vision’s Production Quality Advisor software suite. The system is fully integrated with Hulamin’s inhouse data management software to ensure seamless data connectivity and exchange. The streaming video software also allows Hulamin to review a coil at any time without uncoiling and recoiling the
material – a big time-saver when checking product quality. Extra production assurance ensures that defective coils are not dispatched – should customer complaints be raised after shipping, Hulamin also has access to data regarding the coil’s condition when it was supplied. In addition, Hulamin benefits from AMETEK Surface Vision’s service support program, which includes software revision updates, remote access support and regular site visits. Measurable benefits Having installed the system, the operating team found that the benefits were multiple. It increased yield by 4% over four years, while increasing customer satisfaction despite producing increasingly complex products. Hulamin Surface Engineer Dominic Moreno noted, “The SmartView system has exceeded our expectations. Its realtime information has proved invaluable for problem solving. By eliminating the reliance on post-production physical strip inspection, we were able to overcome our most significant hurdles. “For example, on-line inspection allows us to monitor and troubleshoot our strip in mid production, so the hot rolling mill can now be stopped after the second coil – because the process demands that the mill has to finish the existing coil and the next coil, which is already prepared – removing the sub-standard coil from the process at an early stage,” he added. “Now integrated into our production process, troubleshooting and efficiency are at the heart of our operations. This neatly positions us to produce moredemanding products.” � Aluminium International Today
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32 FURNACES/HEAT TREATMENT
Alicante cast house produces first slabs after major revamp On 12 December 2018, Aludium Alicante cast the first trial slabs following a six-month revamp of the mill’s cast house. The decision to re-open the cast house was taken by Aludium’s Board in May 2018, with work commencing a month later. Trials will continue until February 2019 when the facility is expected to be fully operational and producing up to 28,000 tonnes of aluminium annually using clean scrap as feedstock. The Alicante cast house was closed in 2009 due to the economic downturn, which hit the global economy. But with demand for Aludium’s products rising, reopening the cast house gives the opportunity to increase capacity while reducing reliance on external slab suppliers. It also allows Aludium to increase the volume of scrap they can recycle, cutting their environmental footprint. The project to reopen the cast house was led by Raoul Aubry, Project Manager, and Mario Allet, Programme and R&D Director. They were supported by Dr Ignacio Gil and the Cindal R&D team, maintenance manager Javier Pena, and Laura Rodriguez from the engineering department. Additional engineering and process support was supplied by the Amorebieta cast house team led by Ana Lopez.
The direct casting facility in Alicante will utilise scrap from the 8xxx family as well as the 3105 alloy. Slab capabilities enhanced The liquid metal will be cast into a pit originally built by Guinea Hermanos in
Two casting options The Alicante cast house will have two lines, one of which will produce slabs for further processing at Aludium Amorebieta. The second line will use continuous casting technology to produce coils, which will be processed in Alicante. A significant benefit of the continuous casting line is that the coils do not need further processing in the Amorebieta hot rolling mill. This will free up about 13,000 tonnes of capacity in Amorebieta. Furnace revamp to meet latest standards Work to ready the cast house for full production has included revamping the facility’s direct casting furnaces. Manufactured by Guinea Hornos Industriales and first installed in 1992 and 1999, the furnaces feed the direct casting pit to produce slabs. Both are equipped with natural gas burners. Each furnace has a holding capacity of 10 tonnes. During the revamp new pressure and bath-temperature controls were installed, and the refractory lining was completely renewed. 2019 Highlights
KEY DETAILS: ALICANTE CAST HOUSE � Cast house area: 5,700 m2 � Total cost of revamp: €7 million � New jobs: 23 full-time equivalent (FTE) � Total capacity: 28,000 tonnes � Output: Slabs and continuously cast coils
1973. The pit can be used to produce up to three slabs at a time. Changes to the pit have included the installation of a new casting table, degassing unit, ceramic-foam filter, level control system, tilting frame, and pivot cylinder. An automatic start-up system has also been installed to ensure that no operators need to be close to the casting pit. All casting operations can be controlled remotely from a protected cabin, which gives operators a view of the casting operation while keeping them safe. Four cameras underneath the casting table enable the operators to monitor the casting operation closely. Continuous caster uses latest technology Two separate furnaces will feed the continuous casting line. Manufactured by Gautschi in 1961, they have holding capacities of 22 and 26 tonnes. Changes to these furnaces included the installation of a new door to improve safety and reliability. Regenerative burners of the last generation and new pressure and bath temperature controls were installed. With around 12,000 tonnes of capacity annually, the line uses technology supplied by SCAL (now Novelis PAE) in the late 1970s. The current revamp was performed by Bruno Presezzi, an Italian company, which is the global leader in continuous casting technology. The installation in Alicante is now the first aluminium continuous caster in the world with automatic start-up. The continuous caster will be used to create coils in alloys from the 3xxx family. With the commissioning of the revamped cast house in Alicante, attention is turning to the multi-chamber furnace, which is being installed in Amorebieta. When that is completed in May 2019, Aludium will have a full set of melting technologies, which enable us to recycle an unprecedented volume of clean and dirty scrap annually. � Aluminium International Today
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34 CASTHOUSE TECHNOLOGY
New possibilities in metal transfer and furnace automation By Jean-Francois Desmeules*
Industry 4.0 is the new buzzword in the business. The aluminium industry is climbing in the train like all others. However, many plants still have to implement classic 3.0 automation and in most cases we are far from reaching autonomous 4.0 plants. Still, it is desirable to make every effort to improve the automation level and tend towards autonomous processes. Many factors put pressure to do so, including manpower cost and availability, especially in the Western countries. Increasing energy cost and fierce competition force casthouses to be imaginative and innovative to improve and optimise their processes. Since it is not always realistic to invest in new machinery when existing equipment is performing well, it makes sense to work on improving the existing technology. Many possibilities are available to do so, some of which described hereafter. Siphoning: The most efficient method for metal transfer Metal transfer is omnipresent in the casthouse. A common configuration is having a direct chill casting pit or other casting machine that is fed from a tilting casting furnace, itself fed from a stationary melting furnace. Metal transfer from a furnace to another must be done in minimal time, using high metal flows. The most common transfer system is by removing a plug in the melting furnace to fill the casting furnace via a launder. This promotes the generation of dross due to exposure of the turbulent metal flow to atmosphere. The metal chute and the splashing in the furnace also create a lot of air exposure to the metal. Siphoning is often used in smelters to transfer metal from potroom crucibles to furnaces. It is also used to transfer metal from furnace to furnace but to a lesser extent. Some systems use refractory lined siphons with mostly manual operation. Dynamic Concept developed a fully automated furnace to furnace siphon metal transfer system that uses a large
bore, state of the art one-piece cast iron siphon tube. An automated system positions the tube and creates a vacuum to initiate the transfer. The vacuum level is automatically controlled to provide the proper flow. Refractory is shaped in both furnaces to minimise the amount of remaining metal in the melting furnace as well as metal heel required in the casting to prime the siphon. This facilitates alloy changes by allowing to fully empty the casting furnace. The metal heel for the next batch is created by melting a small amount of metal in the casting furnace, typically around 1000 kg. This system can transfer metal in minimal time without operator intervention. No skimming is required after transfer, saving operation time and minimising melt loss and tooling cost. Dynafeed: A craneless crucible discharge system Although siphoning is often preferred over other transfer methods, other
considerations can direct to different transfer technologies. Among them, discharging a crucible by tilting it is a very popular means to get 100% of the metal from a crucible. It can be done using a crane with an auxiliary hoist or a tilting table. In both cases, a high capacity overhead crane is required. Moreover, skilled operators are required since these cranes are not automated and fine movements are required to latch the crucibles on the lifting beams. A technology called the Dynafeed was developed to eliminate the need for an overhead crane for crucible tilting. Different configurations are available depending on the crucible transport truck configuration. The crucible is simply deposited by the transport truck (or AGV) within reach of the Dynafeed. An automated locking sequence follows and the metal transfer can then be done automatically. The weight of the crucible is monitored in real time. This means that mass flow transfer of the metal is possible
*Vice-President Technologies and R&D Dynamic Concept, www.dynamic-concept.ca 2019 Highlights
Aluminium International Today
CASTHOUSE TECHNOLOGY 35
thanks to an advanced PID sequence. Having a controlled flow of metal helps reduce the formation of dross due to minimised turbulence. Moreover, the full and empty weight of the crucible is provided, eliminating the need for a separate scale. With operator reduction and fully automated sequences, the Dynafeed is a great step towards casthouse automation and can even be used to feed casting machines directly from the crucible. Furnace level measurement Knowing the amount of metal in a furnace with accuracy is very important for furnace charging, alloy preparation and general casthouse cycle time. Having to adjust alloy composition can cause great losses of production time. This is why there is a need for accurate measurement. Many technologies are available for this, including direct measurement of the metal weight for tilting furnaces which is even better than measuring the metal level. However, for stationary furnaces, except using load cells which is only possible for small furnaces, there is no direct weight measurement possible. Thus, metal weight estimation must rely on level measurement. The two choices are radar and laser measurement. The radar must be mounted in the roof while it is possible to use a laser through a wall and use a correction factor for the angle. In both cases however, presence of dross, especially when preparing reactive alloys such as high magnesium alloys or when processing potroom metal which can contain pieces of solidified electrolyte, the measurement can be overestimated. The FLASER was developed to overcome this. It uses a state of the art blue laser level measurement system from Precimeter, with an enclosure specially Aluminium International Today
designed to be mounted on the furnace wall. A high accuracy mechanism rotates the laser to sweep a part of the molten metal surface, measuring the level over a series of points. An algorithm then determines the elevation of the baseline and the percentage of the readings that are affected by dross accumulation. It is then possible to use these values to determine the amount of metal in the furnace or even to decide if skimming is required. The measurements are made on an on-demand basis since the level only changes after metal addition or transfer. When the unit is not measuring, the laser is positioned in a standby position to shut the reading orifices and keep the unit cool. Furnace temperature measurement In addition to proper level measurement, temperature of the melt is another parameter that can affect many aspects of the process, including global cycle time. Problem is, for many furnaces there is no automatic stirring of the melt. This causes the metal temperature to be variable from the top to bottom, with higher temperatures at the surface due to lower density of the molten metal. Therefore, when measuring the temperature using a thermocouple, the location thereof will have an influence on the reading. A thermocouple with depth control is the solution to evaluate the correct temperature distribution. Coupled with a system like the Flaser, the thermocouple can be used to properly evaluate the average temperature of the melt and provide information for process decisions. Since the temperature of the metal in a furnace is a parameter that is long and expensive to control, an increase in accuracy when measuring it can help a casthouse operate more efficiently.
Conclusion The trend towards Industry 4.0 automation is only at its beginning. New equipment is mostly 4.0 ready, however the existing casthouses are working to integrate the concept in their daily operations. Many technologies are available to upgrade existing equipment to further automation levels, some of which are presented above* but there are many other possibilities. These upgrades then allow for streamlining and automation of the global casthouse process from charging to casting. About Dynamic Concept Our mission is to increase the competitiveness of light metals producers by supplying custom-fit equipment and systems adapted to the specific conditions of each process line. We assist our clients at all stages of a project, from preliminary studies to start up, including design, engineering, fabrication, testing, erection of equipment, and the supervision of commissioning and start up. Our success is measured by the longevity of our business relationships with our customers as well as their satisfaction. � *All the technologies described above are patent pending. References “Past, Present and Future Cast House Technology”, C. Weaver, Aluminium Cast House Technology, 2007, edited by JF Grandfield and JA Taylor “Oxidation, Dross and Melt Loss Issues Involved in the Aluminium Cast House”, JA Taylor, Aluminium Cast House Technology, 2007, edited by JF Grandfield and JA Taylor “Design Considerations for Holding and Casting Furnaces”, Migchielsen, Grab and Schmidt, Light Metals 2008, edited by D.H. DeYoung 2019 Highlights
CASTHOUSE 37 5
Ecomelt PS-160 with a capacity of 7.6 t/h
Hertwich Engineering: Leading partner in the world of aluminium Over the past few decades, anywhere where aluminium is melted, cast and homogenized to semi-finished products before processing, Hertwich Engineering, located in Braunau, Austria, has significantly contributed to the technology development. Today, the most important representatives of aluminium smelters, recyclers and casthouses all over the world cooperate successfully with Hertwich. Trend setter for melting and casting plants Using new processes and state-of-theart plant technology, Hertwich has contributed pioneering work for more than three decades to the melting technology sector, especially for the recycling of contaminated aluminium scrap. Today, users can choose between different furnace designs for their own individual challenges and requirements; using single chamber melting furnaces for relatively clean scrap and multi-chamber melting furnaces for contaminated scrap, UBC and chips. For severely contaminated scrap and dross Hertwich provides universal rotary tilting furnaces. Since economy and ecology are the two outstanding characteristics, Hertwich uses the designation “Ecomelt” as the higher-ranking term for the economic and environmentally friendly processing Aluminium International Today
of aluminium scrap. The features of this technology include: � �
Integrated scrap preheating, Decoating of the organic compounds, � Combustion of the emerging gases and � Melting of scrap The economic efficiency part benefits, among others, from the low energy demand based on the use of the energy content of the organic compounds. This results in a reduction of operating costs and lower CO2 emissions. The minimum emissions (NOx, dioxins, VOC, no salt) contribute to the environmentally friendly furnace operation. In the sector of casting Hertwich started with the commissioning of the first horizontal casting plant (HDC) for ingots in 1976. The process was subsequently further developed for additional casting products such as billets, T-bars and busbars. Horizontal casting plants for extrusion billets are becoming increasingly successful in extrusion plants with their own semi-finished product basis. When planning new expansions, the Hertwich compact type remelting plants (CTRP) are increasingly used. They combine
melting furnaces, horizontal or vertical casting machines as well as homogenizing furnaces, which are optimally adjusted with each other. Recent Hertwich developments include ingot casting plants with open molds resulting in the concept of an air- and water-cooled casting belt, which makes it possible to control solidification in a very precise manner. The design combines high product quality with an economic and environmentally sound operation. Automated operation in continuous and batch homogenizing furnaces The metallurgical structure created during casting is not optimal for further processing. Therefore a high annealing treatment is performed to produce a structural condition suitable for forming, whereby cooling must be adjusted to the metallurgical change processes in the material. Until the early 1980s, only conventional batch furnaces were available for this purpose. The situation changed when Hertwich presented its first continuous homogenizing furnace in 1980. Since then, continuous homogenizing has revolutionised the production of extrusion billets; today this furnace type is used for approx. two thirds of the worldwide billet production. So far, Hertwich has delivered 2019 Highlights
a batch type, flexible, automated homogenizing of rolling slabs.
Horizontal casting plant with a capacity of 2 x 3.5 t/h
more than 120 continuous furnace plants worldwide. The precise temperature control during heating, holding and cooling guarantees constant optimal metallurgical characteristics. The combination of all work steps up to the ready-forshipment product in one continuous, fully automatic process provided a significant advancement. In addition, it was possible to reduce energy demand and homogenization duration. However, continuous homogenizing is not suitable for all technical tasks, for example, with alloys that require long holding times between 4 and 12 hours are processed. As a next step, Hertwich developed a completely new batch furnace concept for such tasks. In the same manner as the continuous homogenizing furnace, it can be integrated into a fully automatic material flow. The newly developed heating concept with reversing air flow sets high metallurgical standards and reduces the heat-up time. As laboratory tests have shown, the metallurgical quality is also very good. Supplemented by an automatic billet handling, batch furnaces now almost reach the performance of continuous furnaces with respect to billet quality. Users either choose between both concepts or combine both furnace types. Some of the billet producers worldwide, who have replaced their old batch furnaces by continuous furnaces in the past, have now installed state-of-theart batch furnaces and are therefore in a position to adjust their homogenizing capacities optimally to the alloy mix. The new batch furnace concept has received increasing interest in the
market especially after the successful commissioning of several plants at Emirates Global Aluminium. In 2010, EGA Jebel Ali was the first company that decided to select the modernised batch furnace type. When Austria Metall AG (AMAG) upgraded its rolling slab casthouse, as part of their expansion program with a volume of 220 million euros in 2012, the decision for the homogenizing process with batch furnaces was made based on technical and economic reasons. The homogenizing furnace commissioned in 2016 - the 8th Hertwich batch furnace plant in the AMAG casthouse - was an interesting new development, which applied the concept of an automated batch furnace operation to rolling slabs for the first time. Hertwich reacted to the increasing demand for high quality rolled products for medium and small series applications by offering
Automated operation to the greatest possible extend Hertwich does not only provide plants for the industry, but also a system of components which can be used to automate the production of semi-finished products to a large extent. Transport equipment, saws, stackers, transfer cars and strapping machines supplement the customised casthouse. The high degree of automation of the overall plant requires extraordinary reliability. All plants are equipped with the required control and diagnostic systems as well as additional equipment to ensure the reliability. In addition, the Hertwich plants include... � An automatic product tracking across the entire system. It knows at any time all product data and the current production status. � A diagnostic system that monitors each individual work step. In case of any deviation from normal operation the plant reacts at once and provides support to ensure that occurring faults can be resolved in the shortest possible time. � An automatic restart program. After an operational interruption, this part of the program automatically returns the plant back to the position in which the automatic operation can be restarted. � Before its use, the entire software is tested by using a 3D simulation. This ensures most efficient on site commissioning. By providing all of the above, the technology offered by Hertwich is well prepared to address future requirements (“Industry 4.0”). � Contact www.hertwich.com
Batch homogenizing plant 43 t
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Aluminium cans as a source of end user’s scrap1 By Anna Sapota*
The aluminium can is one of the products which are a source of aluminium scrap. It is also one of the sources which originate directly from the consumer and not from the production process. Obtaining such scrap means that large quantities of used aluminium are returned to the production cycle and the life-cycle of the aluminium can is closed. In order to properly understand the issue, let us begin with a global look at the aluminium market, and the scale at which used beverage cans (‘UBC’) are used as a secondary source of aluminium. Approximately 37 per cent of total aluminium production in the world is secondary aluminium, which has been remelted (i.e. recycled). Over the course of 100 years, the industrial use of aluminium increased from approx. 6,000 tonnes in 1900 to approx. 95 million tonnes in 2013, of which secondary aluminium constitutes approximately 37 per cent2. At this point, a question arises: why do we want to, or should, use secondary aluminium? For the purpose of this text, I will focus on the important reasons why secondary aluminium is used to produce metal sheets for the manufacture of aluminium beverage cans. There are several reasons why using secondary aluminium is worthwhile: technical, economic, environmental, and legal (legislative). These benefits are off-set by one key limitation: ultimately, it is up to the manufacturer to whether to use secondary or virgin materials to make aluminum sheets.
With regards to technical limitations, there are two issues to consider: the possibility to melt the scrap (in this case, UBC) into the aluminium alloy required to manufacture a specific product, as well as the quality of this scrap. As for the first question, what matters is the composition of the alloy as well as the possibility of preserving its physicochemical properties when melting. From this perspective, we can consider the alloy used for the manufacture of aluminium cans, i.e. series 3XXX and 5XXX, to be recycling-friendly. It is clear that the physical properties are both a strength and a weakness of aluminium as a raw material. On the one hand, once it is extracted and melted, aluminium becomes a permanent material3. On the other, every alloy has its own properties and can be repurposed to differing degrees. As for the quality of scrap, it is necessary to consider contamination, including organic contamination, the addition of other elements, as well as humidity. The higher the contamination, the higher the expenditure of energy and cost associated with treating the material, and adding primary aluminium into the melted material in order to maintain the properties of the end product. With regards to economic questions, the first ones to consider are the availability and the price of the material. Depending on availability and the difference between the prices of UBC and primary aluminium, the demand for aluminium sheets with a high content of secondary aluminium varies. The availability of UBC in the
market, which at present can be described as global, depends on a number of factors. On the one hand, one can point to consumer habits as well as household waste management systems in specific countries (this is the waste stream in which UBC are found). On the other, due to the globalisation of the market, international legislation plays a major part: the availability of UBC in the market can be increased or decreased by the presence, or lack, of barriers in the form of duties or taxes associated with the international UBC trade, regulations on the transboundary movement of waste and the limitations imposed by them. At the same time, the price of primary aluminium at the LME and the associated price of secondary aluminium will be the key determinant for customers. Another economic factor is customer demand as well as customers’ marketing strategies. One cannot ignore the fact that the customer’s approach and their possible request to use recycled aluminium can be the economic factor driving the use of UBC in the manufacture of aluminium. Such a request can be a consequence of the customer’s own policy for minimising the environmental impact of their business operations, or of the expectations of the end consumer who expects that certain environmental demands will be fulfilled by the supplier of the purchased goods. With regards to environmental questions, several aspects need to be considered: production waste in the melting of secondary aluminium (solid
*Vice-President for Organisational and Legal Affairs, CP Recycling Organizacja Odzysku Opakowañ S.A. 2019 Highlights
Aluminium International Today
waste in the form of dross/salt slag), emissions with a potentially high level of organic particles, the melting technology, and the associated quality requirements. The necessity to check, dispose of or reuse the resulting waste impacts the attractiveness of secondary aluminium as a raw material. Most importantly, however, one should consider the fact that using secondary aluminium and remelting it requires only 5-8 per cent of the energy expenditure required for melting primary aluminium4. As a result, the primary environmental impact of a product made from secondary aluminium is significantly smaller than that of a product from primary aluminium with respect to the production of aluminium sheets for the manufacture of aluminium cans). In recent years, the legal (or legislative) aspect of using secondary raw materials has come into more prominence. The idea of a circular economy, which is being implemented more and more extensively in the EU member states and other countries, is a factor in favour of recycling. As a result, formal level legal acts are being created to encourage, or even enforce, the use of secondary aluminium. More importantly, they
address not only the requirements imposed on businesses/manufacturers but also those imposed on consumers, which serves to increase the awareness of the positive effects of recycling is to help increase available material quantity and quality (implementation and improvement of separate collection of recyclable waste). At the same time, the legal restrictions on the use of plastics in packaging can lead to an increased interest in packaging made from other materials, which is where the use of aluminium as a permanent material has an enormous potential. Moving on to a more detailed analysis of the UBC market and the role of specific entities within the supply chain, one should provide some information on the can market itself. It is estimated that currently over 300 billion cans are consumed each year, of which nearly one third are used in the US, 55 billion in Europe, 21 billion in Brazil, while in Poland 4-5 billion5. The can manufacturing market looks similar6. This needs to be overlaid with global recycling levels. Thus, the global recycling level is approx. 75 per cent, but results vary from over a dozen per cent in countries with poorly organised collection systems, to 97 per cent in Brazil. Against this background, Europe looks rather good with over 70 per cent level of aluminium can recycling, while Poland looks even better with over 80 per cent in 20167. This differentiation shows how much depends on the specific waste management system and the scope of responsibility taken on by the individual stakeholders in a given market. The entire waste management system - in this case, mostly household waste - impacts the management of UBC. As an example of stakeholders’ initiative and positive influence on the waste management system we can look to the Polish UBC collection system. In Poland for 20 years there have been two manufacturers of aluminium beverage cans who feel responsible for their product and its recycling or reuse. Thus, already in 1995 the CANPACK Group (one of these producers) initiated a recycling programme for UBC8 which became a separate collection system for aluminium packaging. The KOBA S.A. [Inc.] company was incorporated; today, as CP Recykling Organizacja Odzysku Opakowan S.A. [Inc.], it organises the collection and recycling of UBC via a
network of recovery facilities across Poland. Other manufacturer of aluminium beverage cans operate in a similar manner, enabling a system for separate collection, treatment, and recycling of the abovementioned 80 per cent of UBC in Poland. In consequence, for over 20 years the aluminium can industry has not only delivered a product to market but also provided the opportunity to recycle the cans after use. It is worthwhile to note two aspects of this activity - firstly, creating a real opportunity to return the UBC in a separate manner; secondly, increasing consumer awareness about the aluminium can and its recyclability. With regards to the former, the used can’s value played a key part, i.e. a can was more valuable when collected separately than when returned with other metal (or even other types of aluminium scrap). With regards to the latter, the broadly understood industry (including manufacturers of aluminium sheet and canned beverages) has invested in programmes and activities to increase consumer awareness about aluminium cans, the properties of aluminium, and recycling possibilities. One example is the “Every Can Counts” programme9 in Europe, which for two years has also been operating in Poland. Applying only these two types of activities and two (very different) ways of stimulating the market translates to a high level of recycling of UBC in Poland as well as a good quality of the obtained UBC. To summarise the above remarks, the question which needs to be answered is about the role of UBC as a source of aluminium. On the one hand, it is a recycling-friendly alloy and reprocessing it does not pose a technological challenge. On the other, UBC comes with risks associated with its origin, i.e. quality challenges, stability, quantity of obtained material as well as remelting it into not simply any aluminium product, but again into a beverage can, which enables to take full advantage of the primary alloy and minimise the impact on the environment. For this to be achieved, one needs to establish the following objectives: achieve a high level of consumer awareness about the properties of aluminium as a permanent material and the possibility to recycle the beverage can multiple times; consequently, achieve a 100% level of UBC recycling, closing the product lifecycle within the economy10. �
1.This article has been prepared on the basis of a presentation of
3.European Aluminum Association, Aluminum Recycling in
7.Data of the recal foundation: www.recal.pl.
the same title given by the author on March 27, 2019, during the
Europe. The Road to High Quality Products, 2004, p. 7.
8. ACRS – Aluminium Can Recycling System.
15th International Aluminium Recycling Congress.
4. European Aluminium Association, Aluminum Recycling in
2.Idem; G. Liu, D.B. Müller, Mapping the Global Journey of
Europe. The Road to High Quality Products, 2004, p. 13.
10. In an efficient waste management system, the aluminium
Anthropogenic Aluminium: A Trade-Linked Multilevel Material
5. Source: Global Data.
beverage can is able to complete a full life-cycle within 60 days.
Flow Analysis, Environmental Science & Technology, 2013, 47, pp.
6. US: over 100 billion cans per year, Europe: 64 billion, Brazil: 21
billion, Poland: 5 billion.
Aluminium International Today
42 SOHAR ALUMINIUM PROFILE
Celebrating 10 Years of Achievements Business success is created by the combined efforts of those who work for any organization. It is therefore fitting as we mark Sohar Aluminium Company LLC’s (SA) 10th anniversary that we celebrate those who have worked so diligently to deliver success during the journey. One decade ago and blessed with a wealth of natural resources and petrochemicals, Oman embarked on a mission to create a thriving aluminium industry which would contribute to the economic development of the country. As SA has strived successfully to help diversify the Sultanate’s growing economy, we have also streamlined the import of raw products and made huge strides in the past ten years. As the journey continues, we can look forward to the future, the next chapter of our history, with genuine optimism. Production excellence and incremental improvements As a facility, the smelter has produced 3,706,691 metric tonnes of finished product since it started operations. By utilising cutting-edge technology during the production process, we have maximised productivity and plant performance, increasing the volume of aluminium we produce. This has had a growing, positive impact on employment opportunities and business development. In addition to its smelting facility, SA has a dedicated Power Plant with a total design capacity of 1,000 MW. The company also operates a dedicated port facility at the Port of Sohar which handles vessels with a capacity of around 75,000 metric tonnes and is custom built to receive raw materials. The company is ISO 9001:2015 certified for the Casthouse, 2019 Highlights
ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2007 certified for EHS Management Systems. Our smelter is recognised within the sector as one of the most modern smelters in the world. By consistently enhancing and optimising processes to produce quality aluminium in the most efficient and environmentally- conscious way, we have become benchmark smelter operators. The company continues to develop plans for metal production and power generation by utilising state-of-the-art technology and by constantly upgrading the skills of its employees. A leader in the aluminium industry with a strong financial positioning Oman’s unique geo-economic location allowed us to attract some of the largest companies in the world and as a result, the last decade created a window of opportunity for SA to cement a position as a global leader within the industry. As the company responsible for the Sultanate of Oman’s first and only greenfield aluminium smelter, SA was a landmark industrial development project which has become a key contributor to Oman’s sustainable development ambitions and long-term prosperity. Our ambition has always been to have a positive impact on those around us and to create a successful business climate which inspires confidence amongst existing and future partners. From the outset, we focused heavily on bringing prosperity and sustainable growth to the Al Batinah region; to our neighbourhoods, then to our cities and for the benefit of the entire nation. At SA, we embody a culture of productivity effectiveness while always maintaining a quality-driven mindset. We
have become a benchmark smelter through consistently enhancing and optimising our processes to ensure we are producing quality aluminium in the most efficient and environmentally-conscious way possible. The aluminium industry is part of a dynamic and ever-changing market, where new challenges are constantly arising. In order to maintain our quality operations and competitive advantage, we use a systematic approach of lean manufacturing principles and capital improvement projects to significantly improve our productivity through waste minimisation efforts, higher process efficiency, standardised cycle time and reduced material costs. Commitment to support downstream job creation Since supplying the first hot metal delivery to our first downstream customer in August 2008, the company has established successful relationships with other thirdparty downstream producing subsidiaries. Our partnerships with Oman Aluminium Processing Industries LLC (OAPIL), Oman Aluminium Rolling Company LLC (OARC) and Oman Aluminium Cast LLC (OAC) have formed an essential part of our overall strategy to promote and support the creation of a robust downstream aluminium industry in Oman. We are offering them proximity to raw materials, a significant value proposition that provides our downstream customers with a distinct energy cost advantage. This initiative is also in synergy with our intent to build beneficial relationships with local suppliers as well as customers from Oman and abroad in order to deliver sustainable In-Country Value (ICV) for Oman. At SA, we realise how important these Aluminium International Today
contributions are to our domestic output which reflects on the socio-economic development of the region while creating further job opportunities. As the volume of liquid metal sold directly to the company’s downstream partners increases each year, the organisation continues to stimulate the Omani economy. In August 2018, we partnered with our latest downstream customer, Synergies Castings LLC, the leading manufacturer of aluminium alloy wheels in India, and SA will thereby meet its goal of supplying 60% of its hot metal production to its downstream customers while the rest is exported in the form of solid ingots and sows. Synergy Castings LLC will construct a USD 100 Million high-tech alloy wheel manufacturing plant situated in the Sohar Industrial Estate adjacent to our premises. This new facility will be a further positive simulant towards Oman’s economic growth. It will also help reduce the Sultanate’s requirement for wheel imports, and simultaneously create new forms of employment for highlyskilled talent and develop more training opportunities for Omanis. Building and developing local talents SA’s pride and most valuable asset is undoubtably its workforce, and we consider this as a community of staff which fully embodies our core values. Our board of directors made an early business decision to provide professional training for our entire workforce. This was essential to maintain high quality standards across the company, particularly since we are in a sector which is extremely safety conscious. This direction created Aluminium International Today
an opportunity to recruit, train and develop an increased number of Omanis to operate, maintain, supervise and manage the business. As we are the only aluminium smelter operator in the country, the task of hiring local employees with prior exposure to the industry was extremely difficult. To overcome this, we invested in programs which provided educational options for Omanis in Engineering, Maintenance, Plant Operation and other fields of related expertise. The company also established in 2007 a training centre which was certified as a Training Institute by the Ministry of Manpower in July 2016. As our operations matured, we developed a dedicated and highly motivated workforce which shares our commitment to efficiency and excellence and strives to create a positive impact. We are especially proud of our role as employer of choice in Oman and the Al Batinah Governorate. Our Omanisation rate of 76% in 2019 is the company’s highest ever national employment figure distributed across all levels and functions. Together with a focus on local employment, capacity building, competitive benefits and employee engagement, SA continues to aspire and develop a united and engaged community. Contribution to social and economic development in the country Local economic development and the creation of In-Country Value (ICV) are central aspects of our economic considerations. The company continues to make a significant contribution to the national economy and has an important national impact on job creation and social development. Through hiring more Omanis and an intensive focus on increasing the local supply base while supporting Aluminium downstream factories by supplying hot metal, SA has had an increasing impact on the economic development of the surrounding regions by increasing income and improving lifestyles. This has not only impacted on Sohar’s economic development, it has also improved the national GDP of the Sultanate. Given the vital role that local vendors and Small or Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in creating social growth and economic stimulation, SA is committed to developing partnerships with local Omani suppliers as a means of improving our supply chain and contributing to local economic development. Although several products, such as machinery, primary raw material including alumina, is sourced internationally, SA continues to grow its partnerships with local manufacturing companies as it focuses on identifying items and
10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY 43 services that can be procured locally. The company’s procurement of local goods and services constitutes on average 58% of our total purchases (except raw material). Through our continued efforts to build our local supply chain, we have developed a strong network of nationally-based suppliers who provide a variety of goods and services, from administrative items to specialised manpower. Local suppliers represent a significant opportunity to enhance the Omani metals and manufacturing sector while reducing costs and product delivery time. Committed to build a safety culture and preserve the integrity of the environment The company’s approach is to maximise shareholders and social value by responsible and sustainable operation of our business, while always maintaining a safety and quality-driven mind-set. As an organisation, SA adopts a policy of reliability to meet the highest customer expectations for product quality, while maintaining environment-friendly smelting operations. The organisation remains fully committed to protecting the environment, preventing pollution, and the responsible care of natural resources. Ultimately, SA is focused on playing a leading role in contributing to Oman’s development, while simultaneously minimising our environmental footprint. Maintaining a strong integrated Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Management System is critical to our success. In line with our customer and stakeholder expectations we continuously strives for zero harm to personnel and the environment. To meet this expectation SA is an ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 compliant company. In addition, we seek to fully integrate EHS into our core business, creating a culture that is recognised throughout the industry. To deal with the diverse and complex environmental issues associated with our operations, our comprehensive environmental management system helps facilitate the realisation of important EHS objectives and includes environmental performance standards. The Environmental Steering Committee chaired by senior management contributes to the continual improvement of our environmental performance. SA is equally committed to fostering a healthy working environment for all its employees. Our in-house occupational health and hygiene programme continuously strives to create the safest work places for our employees and contractors. Coupled with our inhouse programs our employee medical surveillance initiatives are a mandatory 2019 Highlights
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requirement whilst maintaining and delivering quality medical facilities to all who work at SA. SA Occupational health services include medical surveillance, health promotion and health education, occupational health visits and inspections, counselling, and biological monitoring. SA also implements a comprehensive industrial hygiene programme, and it is an important part of the company’s occupational health and well-being provisions. A work place monitoring programme based on the company’s health risks and legal obligations, is implemented. Whilst maintaining a healthy workforce SA has incorporated the highest safety standards within each of its operations. Employees are constantly engaged to seek safer means of operating whilst constantly maintaining a culture where we care and look out for each other. The company 2019 Highlights
is proud of our current standards and adherence to the safety systems on site. The company’s non-blame culture for reporting of incidents, accidents or unsafe conditions supports employees to actively report and seek areas of improvement. We are proud of our EHS systems and culture adopted by all employees and contractors. Together we stand strong to maintain a healthy, safe and environment-friendly workplace every day. Long lasting contribution to society and all parties of interest As an organisation, we remain fully committed to our mission to support sustainable development in Oman, particularly in the Al Batinah region. SA is a company rooted in community involvement; a responsible corporate organisation which is also a great place to work. We are proud of our continued
growth, and we strive to fulfil our responsibility to the community. From day one, we concentrated effort on fostering the all-round development of the country. Our focus is, and always will be, on serving Oman with national pride. This is a defining feature of all our endeavours. SA identifies issues of concern within the community in collaboration with community leaders and its members. SA also engages regularly with the community through a special hotline, social media and direct engagement events, which identify areas of concern and address these in the best possible way. SA has taken a unique and consistent approach to directly engaging with the local community by sharing knowledge of the company’s best practices. We regularly communicate important messages about the environment, health and safety, while spreading awareness in a fun, entertaining way. Aluminium International Today
invested in Jusoor, a non-profit social responsibility organisation, jointly founded by Sohar Aluminium Company LLC, Vale Oman Pelletizing Company LLC and Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company S.A.O.C. in 2011. Jusoor contributes to and supports social and economic development initiatives in Al Batinah. The organization focuses on four key pillars: Entrepreneurship, Education for Work, Health and Environment and Culture and Sport. Growth and innovation We recently unveiled our new Business Strategy which incorporates a new strategic objective called Innovation and Growth. The previous interpretation of the strategy represented a strong fort and part of the Omani heritage with the principles of strength, confidence and integrity. These are all attributes that we stand by and we will continue to cherish. However, now it is time for development and growth, and it is time for us to evolve from building our strong roots into reaching for the skies and looking towards a very bright future. We are now at a very exciting phase where we transition from ensuring stable operations towards growth and sustainability. This is all due to the trust that our shareholders have put in us, and the trust we have in our people. Through this objective we are planning to lead by leveraging on breakthrough innovations in aluminium smelting as well as from alternative power generation aiming for long-term sustainability.
SA is dedicated to contributing towards a robust Omani economy through investment and by supporting local communities. Social commitment is a key element of the company’s strategy to develop targeted sustainable programs which seek to improve the quality of life for those we come into contact with. This is achieved through responsible business conduct and voluntary outreach programs, which bring direct and tangible benefits to communities which reside alongside where the company operates. Our social responsibility initiatives are concentrated on strategically sustainable ventures. We follow a community-centric approach, which has had the effect of positively establishing our credentials as a people-friendly company. The company allocates 1.5% of annual profits towards corporate social responsibility projects. Most of this is Aluminium International Today
Conclusion For the past ten years, our staff have been our strength, and we have always come together as one, no matter what challenges we faced. Integrity, honesty,
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respect, trust, empowerment and teamwork are essential components of our DNA, and we are confident these values will continue to carry us further along our journey and create even more success. Since we were established as a company, we celebrated several significant milestones and many recordbreaking achievements in all different areas. Above all, we are resilient in the face of challenge, and as a company we always aim to be the best. Since its inception, the company has proved to be one of the industrial pillars in Sohar, and one of the drivers of sustainable development in the Sultanate, placing Oman on the global aluminium industry map. Ten years after its opening, the company plays an important role in the future of the aluminium industry in the Gulf region, contributing to creating investment opportunities that have boosted the industry’s contribution to Oman’s GDP. We thank all our employees for their hard work, our shareholders for their trust in us, and the government agencies and our business partners for their constant support. We are always striving to improve, develop and grow the business to ensure stable and sustainable operations for future generations to serve our beloved Oman and its loyal people under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Sohar Aluminium was formed in September 2004 to undertake a landmark Greenfield aluminium smelter project in the Sultanate of Oman. Inaugurated in 2009, Sohar Aluminium is jointly owned by Oman Oil Company S.A.O.C., Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA) and Rio Tinto. �
Celebrating 50 years of ET Amid a strengthening North American extrusion industry, ET ’20 promises a worldwide audience. By Jeff Henderson* The North America aluminium extrusion market has been through unprecedented times the past few months. From Russian sanctions imposed by the U.S. government and Section 232 aluminium tariffs to growth in aluminium extrusion consumption in the automotive industry, the U.S. aluminium extrusion industry finds itself ready to take on any challenge it may face. The current economic and political landscape in the U.S. finds many unsure what tomorrow will bring. However, at the same time, with what has been achieved these last few years, it positions the industry to be much stronger in the years to come. Fundamentally, the Canadian and U.S. extrusion industries find themselves protected from the illegal and unfair trade practices of the Chinese aluminium extrusion industry. Coupled with renewed manufacturing strength from over $1.5 billion in capital expenditures since the tariff orders on imported Chinese extrusions took effect, and a tremendous upgrade in human resources, especially in technical applications, the industry is much better equipped to withstand any challenge and is well positioned to expand by supplanting applications from competing materials.
The Chinese trade case was a real rallying cry for this industry. The efforts to protect the industry from China’s predatory practices have created a safe environment for operational expansion and new product development. Without that protection, any plant expansions would never have been considered, and new applications would only end up finding their way to the low bidder – China. Instead, the industry is free to grow and prosper.
However, new challenges from China are arising. Chinese-owned extrusion facilities have sprung up in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. These new operations are operating locally, but offering artificially low China prices, thus leading to the same disruption we saw in the late 2000’s. These operations also expand the opportunities the Chinese may have for circumventing the tariff orders by transshipping Chinese extrusion through these operations. These tactics cannot and will not prevail. The Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) is carefully monitoring the situation and, as in the past, will take appropriate action at the right time. If we have learned anything through this experience, it is that we CAN and WILL catch these criminals. We have done so before whether or not they are the largest extruder in China or a small freight forwarder in Malaysia. Knowing this, we can continue the expansion of our industry without fear that our protection will deteriorate. One example of how the AEC helps facilitate consumption growth of aluminum extrusions is through our Industry Promotion activities. Through webinars, workshops, trade events, and a myriad of programs, the AEC has collected the names of over 14,000 engineers, specifiers, architects, and
*AEC President 2019 Highlights
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other material choice decision makers by offering them education in the application of extrusions. These programs continue, and the list of names keeps growing. Going forward, the AEC is doubling down on this program by expanding its educational reach with digital media through dedicated websites to instruct key individuals how to design with extrusions, and the benefits of doing so. Education doesn’t end with Industry Promotion. In fact, over the last six years the AEC has educated over 5,000 extrusion employees in production areas like extrusion, maintenance, finishing, dies, and now, safety. These programs are designed by extrusion industry professionals to share best practices with extruders. AEC members find these programs compelling, and will often send several employees to one event. This Business Excellence program began in earnest in 2013. Since then it continues to grow. Through good times or bad, we all can get better at what we do, and the AEC membership agrees. Amongst all the Business Excellence programs, the most important is safety. Extruders recognised some time ago that this is an area in which everyone can improve. We all can speak freely about safety measures taken in our plants because this is an area free of competitive issues. This initiative has become such a major program that the AEC invited the Aluminum Anodizers Council, the Aluminum Recyclers Council, and the Aluminum Association to join forces, creating the Aluminum Safety Summit. This event took place in mid-October and was well attended. So, with the industry demonstrating the desire to improve safety practices, the AEC is taking steps to make that happen. A common theme here is education, and the AEC is convinced that educating extrusion buyers about new applications Aluminium International Today
is a great way to grow consumption. Also, teaching one another best practices in production make the industry a better and more competitive one. And, the AEC is absolutely convinced that the greatest educational conference for aluminium extrusions is the International Aluminum Extrusion Technology Seminar, or ET. The twelfth iteration of the extrusion industry’s most prestigious event, ET’20, will take place in Orlando, Florida, May 19-21, 2020. Started in 1969, this will be the 50th anniversary of the ET Seminar. This quadrennial event brings together the best minds in the industry from across the globe to present their research
in aluminium extrusion technology. So far, more than 175 abstracts have been received covering an impressive array of topics. From these submissions approximately 120 technical papers will be presented at ET ’20. If you’ve never been to ET before you are in for a real treat. It’s a fast-paced environment with high-quality content that offers insights into cuttingedge information and research that has been conducted–from the theoretical to the practical. Nowhere else can you get this kind of technical information from
the brightest minds in the industry in one place. The ET Proceedings, provided to each conference delegate, have long been used as a technical reference for the entire industry, and with each ET the library of information grows better and larger. ET will certainly address any questions you may have had going into the conference and undoubtedly answer questions you didn’t even know you had! During the conference the ET Expo will be open with more than 120 exhibitors displaying their latest technologies and solutions. Over the years, and certainly since ET ’16, processes and equipment continue to improve. As an extension of the ET Seminar, the ET Expo is an opportunity to see the very best from suppliers all over the world. For suppliers to the extrusion industry, exhibiting is a must! You only get a shot at ET once every four years. So, don’t miss the 50th anniversary event of ET. Many past participants of ET have said that the education is great, the expo is fantastic, but their best experiences come from the networking events. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary a variety of networking events and off-site functions have been added, enabling delegates to connect with peers from all over the world. ‘Add-on’ workshops on the Monday before and Friday after ET provide education covering a range of manufacturing operations, making the whole ET experience an excellent learning and networking opportunity that will reap rewards many times over for years to come. As an event that focuses exclusively on education, technology advances and networking for the extrusion industry, and which attracts professionals from all over the world, ET ’20 promises to be the industry’s largest event ever. The conference website at ET20.org provides emerging program details, including the current list of abstracts that have been submitted. Registration is now open and team discounts are available. There is so much information disseminated at ET that one person cannot absorb it all. So, take advantage of those discounts to bring a team to gather the wealth of information at ET ’20. In conclusion, as much of a highlight ET is for the industry, none of this would be happening if not for the hard work of AEC members. They are the ones that took on China, they are the ones that decided to invest in their operations, they are the ones that developed new solutions for the automotive industry and beyond, and they are the ones committed to education, whether it is the marketplace, the industry, or ET! Come join us next May in Orlando and see what it’s all about! � 2019 Highlights
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Mecfor AGV TEAM: Tested for life By Daniel Néron, Eng.* In mid-August 2018, Mecfor launched its newest and most innovative piece of equipment: The AGV TEAM, an electrical auto guided vehicle dedicated for aluminium smelters operations, mainly in the electrolysis sector for hauling metal ladles and shortly, anode trays. Not only does the AGV TEAM fit into the trendy Industry 4.0, but it aims to reduce the ecological footprint of aluminium producers; an energy-intensive industry. Accessible technology To make this possible, Mecfor selected Amerden as its AGV Technological partner for numerous reasons, one being that they offer the best chemistry between AGV designer, manufacturer and integrator, working with the well-known Kollmorgen applications. With over 20,000 AGV units in operation worldwide, Mecfor thought that the off the shelf type solutions offered by Kollmorgen (NDC8) is simply the best option. We are confident that the technology, hardware, software and components have been proven to be reliable, safe and stable. Kollmorgen has shown to be the world leader of AGV solutions; their actual extended integrator network gives access to an array of resources and experts all over the globe. Therefore, Mecfor/Amerden is presenting a trustworthy solution that
relies on quality of equipment, support, accessible expertise, all having one objective: The peace of mind of customers. Safety and reliability: Our priorities at all times Guiding and safety components chosen were tested under real life operations for months – mounted on Mecfor’s conventional haulers operating 24/7 in an AP30+ environment. Additional shielding, dust protection, component modifications were installed/performed to provide optimal results of overall guiding and safety components. The AGV TEAM is compliant with the ANSI/ITSDF B56.52012 Safety Standard for Driverless, Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles, on which Amerden is an active participant on the Standards Committee. The equipment is also compliant with the European standard BS EN 1525:1998 Safety of industrial trucks Driverless trucks and their systems. The AGV TEAM uses a laser navigation system based on target triangulation to keep the vehicle on course. The onboard odometry sensors contribute in obtaining a tracking accuracy of ±5mm. The AGV TEAM possesses a non-contact sensor mounted on the front and on the rear of the chassis. These sensors replicate
a virtual bumper ensuring that the AGV makes a controlled stop before coming in contact with any obstacle. There are two safety detection zones perimeter. Despite the great challenges found in an aluminium smelter, Mecfor AGV TEAM can operate completely autonomous fashion incorporating high safety standards at all time. The guidance system and safety parameters were key concerns in the design of the equipment. Design and power The vehicle can carry load of up to 34MT powered by two electric motors of 9kW and wheel arrangement ensuring stable operation on uneven floor. The AGV TEAM is equipped with a smart battery management system (BMS) that allows for opportunity charging with an automatic plug-in system. Since early 2019, Mecfor has been working on the deployment of a technological showcase in a Quebec Aluminium smelter with the objective of implementing a fully and completely autonomous metal hauling route, operating continuously 24/7. Prior to deliver the equipment at the smelter, a safety machine review has been conducted by a third party to make sure nothing was left out. The whole implementation process of the technological showcase is an eye opener; in contrary to conventional hauler equipment, AGVs deployment plan needs to be worked and refined hand in hand with all parties from the end-user to the automation specialist. This is the approach Mecfor envisions and promotes. Fluent and open co-operation is the key to success from the very beginning of the project. As we are writing this article, the AGV TEAM is being commissioned and is hauling metal by itself. The next step is to fully integrate the software layers with the plant orders to have the vehicle operating on a continuous basis while making sure that all modules are properly functioning. With a short turnaround for the deployment, we can proudly say that we’re on schedule. Putting Mecfor AGV TEAM prototype in full service is a learning curve that will benefit all AGVs’ projects conversion for the next decade. �
*Vice President, Operations and AGV Sales Engineer, Mecfor Inc. Aluminium International Today
During a recent visit to Québec, Nadine Bloxsome* was treated to a showcase of Mecfor’s latest AGV TEAM in action. Here, she speaks to Éloïse Harvey** about the company’s development in its electrical autonomous vehicles for the aluminium industry.
Q: How important is it for Mecfor to
be technology/automation focused? A: Over the past two years, we invested about 1.4 million (CAD) of our own equity money into developing this equipment, fabricating it, testing it, making sure that it functions well, so obviously if we didn’t think it was the path to the future, we wouldn’t have done something like that. Of course, the Canadian and Québec Governments have also participated with subsidiaries and loans for the development, which adds on top of the money that Mecfor invested. We believe it is very important to be ready with a new technology when the clients are ready for it. We started hearing about AGVs from some clients years ago and that’s why we decided to be ahead of the curve and develop on our own power.
Q: How are you working with the industry to integrate electrical autonomous vehicles? A: Our Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are a new technology - going from diesel to electrical, so that was one step and then going autonomous is another step, so it was two technologies at the same time for us. We believe that the electrical platform is the way to the future as well, so if some clients do not believe in going fully autonomous, then there is the electrical
platform that we are also working right now, looking at electrifying our various vehicles like the casthouse machines, bath tapping trucks or haulers. So, for the clients that do not want to go fully autonomous, the development we have done now will serve to integrate the technology platform for the electrification into Mecfor vehicles. This also fits with the Government’s approach to electrifying vehicles here in Quebec bringing our industry towards a greener approach, with less GES emissions. This is also very positive and isn’t just for this industry. It can be applied to other heavy-duty environments and used in other industries as well. However, we are starting with the aluminium industry, which we know really well. We can develop both the autonomous and electrical vehicles and then take these two platforms to other heavy industries. As a matter of fact, Mecfor’s ability for technological transfer from one industry to another is one characteristic of our company growth.
Q: How long before the aluminium industry will see the autonomous vehicles in action? A: It is a question of months before this technology will be fully implemented. Q: What does it mean for the vehicles being replaced? A: That’s a good question! Some clients are not in as much of a hurry to go autonomous. If one client wants to move to autonomous and the other vehicles are still in good shape, we could find other clients that have an older fleet and want to buy a few more years. That would be an option. Q:
How is Mecfor rolling out this technology? A: At the end of this year we will have all but one plant in North America operating on Mecfor vehicles – that’s over 100 vehicles operating and some of them have been partners for more than 20 years, renewing their fleet over and over. We hope to be able to have the same presence with our new technology over the years.
Q: What has the reaction been? A: It’s a particular choice for any clients – Q: they might want to only have a portion of A: the plant that is going autonomous. We cannot push our clients, but it is our clients pulling on us, which makes us want to accelerate the development.
What’s next? There’s a lot of interest from all occidental smelters at the moment, but one of our objectives is to move this particular technology to the casthouse as well. �
*Editor, Aluminium International Today **B. Eng. & Mgmt, President, Mecfor Inc Aluminium International Today
Making safety a priority Alex Lowery* met with Abdulla Jassem bin Kalban** and Salman Abdulla*** to discuss the company’s safety priorities and culture of continuous improvement. This is the fourth in a series of interviews on safety related topics with industry leaders. Abdulla Jassem bin Kalban, took the helm of EGA in 2014 and has since had a positive impact on safety not only within his own company but industry wide. Mr. Kalban joined DUBAL as a graduate trainee in 1985. His length of service affords him with a unique perspective of safety within his company and our industry as a whole. Mr. Kalban and EGA have taken an active leadership role in safety in the aluminium industry. How are things going at EGA? This year is a very challenging year for all of us, not only EGA but also the rest of the industry. We are taking quite a lot of initiatives to weather the storm by reducing costs and generating more revenue. With these initiatives, we are planning on saving more than $500 million by 2023. How do you view safety? Safety always starts from the top. That is what I believe. It starts with the CEO. I joined Dubal [which merged with Emal to form EGA in 2014] in October 1985. I started as a trainee and for the first month I was doing housekeeping. I learned how our employees come from many different cultures, and how those cultures think about safety. It starts from the top and not the bottom. Safe production is always the main thing. You have seen the slogan that we put out, “We are safety first and always”. That’s what we are driving and wish to engrave in the heart of every employee of EGA. Safety first and always. Not only at work but also on the road and also at home. Safety is the right thing to do. For you, for your colleagues and for your family.
meaning on the shop floor 80% of my time and 20% in an office. So I have seen incidents, which touch the heart. We can all always learn. Yesterday there was a big fire in a residential building in Dubai – nothing to do with EGA - and a fireman was killed. He was a very young guy, in his late twenties. The main reason why he died was because he could not use his air properly because of his beard. [Alex asks about a full face mask like a scuba mask]. Salman comments, “They are very uncomfortable to wear and incredibly expensive. We discussed this issue at ExCo a few months ago and we are going to have a beard policy for the firemen and the people working in the carbon plant. There will be no exceptions. There will be a beard policy, if you work in those areas.” Abdulla comments, “I am sure when we apply this one we will see a few resignations taking place in the company. Because people are very proud of their beards and they do not want to shave. So we have to give them the choice. Safety or out.” Can you finish this sentence? Safety is important because… It is the right thing to do.
Was there a particular incident that formed your views on safety? I’ve been in this business for 34 years now. I spent eight years working on shift,
What’s your view on the current state of environmental, health, and safety in the global aluminium industry? Things need to improve in terms of the
industry’s leadership taking an active involvement. I started going to the IAI in 1999. At that time the leadership of IAI was very good and very involved in safety-related activities. We had all of the CEOs from that time (Alcoa, Pechiney, etc). The CEOs back then were interested in making things happen. Their interest was more than what I see today. Today when you sit in IAI most of the people are general managers or heads of department, not the CEOs. Reporting of incidents is not like it used to be. When incidents happened then, anywhere in the world, we would get updated quickly. So things need to improve. How has EHS at EGA evolved overtime your tenure? We have a culture of continuous improvement at EGA and this includes how we manage safety. The key change in recent years is that we integrated two companies to form EGA. Each company had its own safety culture, processes and procedures, so we did a lot of work to align and ensure we took the best from each company. We have also leveraged third parties like DuPont to review and update major safety management systems. Another key change is that we are broadening what we consider safety to be. One example is our increasing focus
*Manager, Wise Chem **CEO, Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), ***Executive Vice President, EGA 2019 Highlights
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SAFETY 51 5
on mental health, but another is really expanding our focus on safety in our residential areas. We now have regular residential workshops where senior staff meet the residential employees to discuss safety concerns where they live, and also broader welfare issues. This has turned into a great additional forum to get candid feedback and generate discussion on safety issues with our employees. Can you explain the corporate structure at EGA, on why safety directly reports to you? Yes, safety has been reporting to me since I was a general manager. It followed me wherever I went. But I believe safety should report directly to the CEO, and that has been the case since I took this position. I think our EHS manager, Salman, does a fantastic job. The Executive Committee meets every morning, and it always starts with Salman. He reports what has happened with safety in the plants over the previous 24 hours. We discuss what we are going to do. The ExCo does weekly safety walkouts in the operations. Salman is also always first to report at the Board. He takes more time than anyone else. A safe and successful maintenance turnaround requires months – or years – of planning how does EGA handle protecting outside contractors from hazards in your plants and let alone themselves? We do a lot of good things. First of all it is not only contractors but our own maintenance crew. We have maintenance activities that are daily, weekly, and monthly. But when we start with any contractor company, the first thing is when they bid for the job. Our supply department shows them our safety rules and regulations. That is the first threshold for us “can you comply with this?”. Our regulations are part of our contracts and are legally binding – we call it the green book. Contracting companies must have a safety officer with them. They may have to hire a safety officer. We test the person, so we can be sure they understand the languages, if he has the capability to translate what we tell him to his coworkers, and that he knows what the safety is about. Our employees must all speak English, but sometimes contractor workers do not speak English. The safety officer is the bridge between us and them. We make sure the workplace is safe. Our safety officer makes sure everything is in place, like the permit to work system, proper signage. We then give them the site to start on. But our safety supervisors keep up checks on them. They sometimes come in the morning, sometimes they come in the afternoon, before the end of work. They need to make sure. The contractors know they are being monitored. Aluminium International Today
Can you talk about the challenges that EGA faces with workers who speak multiple languages and literacy? Our language in EGA is English. It is mandatory. When we hire people as employees, our requirement is they must speak English. Sometimes there are slips, when someone seems better in our tests than they actually are. We have training sessions every morning, our toolbox talks that you have seen. Every day we take one safety subject and talk about it for 1015 minutes. The workers themselves talk about it. We use pictures and sometimes films on safety. Can you explain how EGA promotes safety to your workers? So, it starts from the shop floor, from the supervisors and their employees. We do a lot of safety meetings. First thing in the morning we have toolbox talks, and every week in operations we have safety meetings. We conduct town halls where we talk first thing about the safety and how important it is. I keep saying we are not in the business of hurting people. As more workers are approaching retirement age, how should the industry deal with that loss and train the next generation of aluminium workers? We do have some skill dilution in operations. We have a few things in place to mitigate this issue. One is planning, so that people who have the knowledge of operations, including safety knowledge, cascade this knowledge to the next generation. When people are nearing retirement we give incentives for this knowledge transfer. We do also retain people after retirement age. I have more than 70 people that are past retirement age but are still working as consultants here. How has EGA dealt with minimising the interaction of moveable equipment and pedestrians? First of all it is about educating people, so conducting safety meetings every morning and everything else. But you have seen the layout of our casthouses, with separate lanes for walking and mobile equipment. We make sure that people do not leave their designated area. If you go into the potlines, you will see lanes on the right side and left side. People walk on the right and do not cross these lines. They know if they cross the line the cranes could hit them, or forklifts. How can our industry’s workers evolve from being consumers of safety education to producers in terms of promoting safety to their co-workers? We should not stop preaching about safety
every day. But we also have a campaign, “Safety I Care”. The main objective for that campaign is to hit the hearts and minds of the people. Why should I be safe? If I am a safe guy what does this mean for me? How can I become a safe guy? The workers have to understand what safety means for them and for their family. We asked people why they care and we use it on posters, in films and other materials. “I care about Safety because of my family”, “I care about safety because of my daughter”, “because of my health”. This helps us get into people’s hearts so they start to think safety in everything they are doing. Salman comments, “Safety goes beyond just the plants. We used to have a lot of incidents in the residential area, lots of reports and lots of injuries in the bathroom and playing sports. So we engaged with the people living there, by asking, “You tell us what we should be doing for you”. By giving them the power to take charge of their safety the incidents have come down. We would be very happy to share the data with you, you’ll love it. In what specific areas of the company is EGA investing now to improve environmental health & safety? We are investing in our “Safety I Care” hearts and minds programme, and also in safety projects at the shop floor level. We are also investing in our safety team – so for example Salman is currently studying for his Doctorate focusing on cultural transformation, sponsored by EGA. In terms of safety what are you most proud of within EGA? I’m not sure I would use the word ‘pride’ in connection with safety. The only acceptable goal is zero harm, and we have not achieved that. Our total recordable injury frequency rate is now significantly better than industry benchmarks, but people do still get hurt on our sites and that’s what we want to improve on. We need to stay constantly vigilant, and that’s why safety is always the first thing we discuss as a leadership team each morning. Will safety always be a priority in the future? The answer is yes Alex. The business today is evolving. Today if someone wants to do business with us it’s not just negotiations with sales. No, they come to our plants and audit us, a comprehensive audit on our systems. I want them to be satisfied. I want the customer to know EGA cares about safety. EGA cares about the environment and EGA has good processes. EGA looks after their people. And for EGA, we get a free audit on our systems.� 2019 Highlights
QA 52 FOCUS ON: ANTIMICROBIAL ALUMINIUM
Nadine Bloxsome spoke to Maxime Dumont, Operations Manager at A3 Surfaces about the world’s first biodegradable, self-disinfecting aluminium surface. 1. How does A3Surface technology work with aluminium? A3 Surfaces developed this technology which enables the anodized layer created artificially to enclose broad spectrum antimicrobial substances. This process makes the surface microbiocide. In other words, bacteria or germs (ae: bacteria, viruses, yeast, etc.) that come in contact with the surface are exterminated in less than 5 minutes. The effect on the population is noticeable in seconds. 2.How important is aluminium when creating a bacteria-free product? We believe that a self-disinfecting surface offers humongous advantages to prevent cross contaminations in public and health care areas like schools, hospitals, health clinics, etc. The costs of nosocomial infections for a country are surreal and they generally come from cross contamination.
In Canada, 200 million dollars are spent each year to deal with such infections. Therefore, having surfaces that kill bacteria within 5 minutes would definitely help governments or health institutes cut expenses. 3. What are the benefits of this technology? The major benefit with the A3S technology is that it changes the need to disinfect surfaces in institutes such as hospitals. We want to decrease the cost of surfaces disinfection and human error which cost a lot to health industry and users. We want to bring an additional safety measure to the system. 4. What projects/areas of development is the company focusing on? We are finalising a project with the
hospital of Chicoutimi for isolation chambers that host patients contaminated with C. difficile, E. coli and other nosocomial infections. The goal is to show that our surfaces help prevent cross contaminations. Commercially, we are focusing for the moment on door handles, push plates, floor and wall tiles. There are other projects coming in such as disinfecting water in cooling towers but the market is less accessible and we are finalising the specific surface for this field. 5. How are you rolling out the technology across Canada? We are the provider so people and companies needing such a product call us and we then can either treat the parts they send us or order their parts and treat them. We also think that the project with the hospital of Chicoutimi is going to bring some visibility in Canada and even the United States. Also, we participate regularly in show cases in other countries such as United Arab Emirates and Germany. 6. What other markets/areas of interest are you focusing on? We have many ideas such as operating room in hospitals, laboratories, commercial kitchens and such. We are in the process of being certified by Health Canada and EPA to develop every possible market. 7. Are there any other applications/ products this technology could be applied to? Everything that is or could be made in aluminium could be treated with our technology to fight diseases and eliminate microorganisms. For example, operating tables that are made out of steel could be made out of aluminium instead and be treated to be antimicrobial so that the surface would be disinfected continuously. 8. What does this sort of breakthrough mean for the aluminium industry and aluminium as a product of the future? We offer an aluminium surface that didn’t exist before and in markets where aluminium has a trivial place. Since our technology is only possible with aluminium for the moment, every company that wants our product must convert the parts they wish to be treated to aluminium. Concurringly, we believe that aluminium could get more opportunities in markets that were until now locked. �
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