x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

World's biggest almuminium smelter on track

An Abu Dhabi project to build the world's biggest aluminium smelter is steaming ahead despite the global economic slowdown.

An Abu Dhabi project to build the world's biggest aluminium smelter is steaming ahead despite the global economic slowdown and financial crisis that are jeopardising other major industrial projects in the Gulf. Emirates Aluminium (EMAL), the company developing the US$5.6 billion (Dh20.6bn) project at the Khalifa Industrial Zone, said yesterday it received delivery of heavy equipment crucial to building a dedicated 2,000 megawatt power plant to provide electricity for the energy-intensive smelting process.

The delivery of two 75-tonne combustion turbine exhaust gas diverters to a specially built dock at the Abu Dhabi port of Taweelah was an important milestone in ensuring that the project stayed on track, the company said. "This first successful delivery of equipment to the construction dock in Al Taweelah gives us confidence that all future deliveries to the EMAL smelter will be well supported," said Duncan Hedditch, the company's chief executive.

Earlier this month, he told a conference in the capital that the first phase of the project was on schedule to produce 700,000 tonnes of hot metal annually by 2010. EMAL is undertaking a pre-feasibility study for phase two, which would expand the facility's output capacity to 1.4 million tonnes per year. As a flagship industrial initiative aimed at diversifying Abu Dhabi's economy away from oil, the aluminium project is of vital importance to the emirate's future export revenues in an era of unpredictable oil prices. It is the only one of two large aluminium projects originally proposed for Abu Dhabi to have survived.

In July, the international mining and metals company Rio Tinto said a smelter project planned for Ruwais was "dead", after the development was denied access to cheap gas supplies for power generation. Rio Tinto had been planning to build the $5bn smelter with Abu Dhabi Basic Industries. In May, Mr Hedditch predicted that the EMAL smelter would generate roughly Dh9bn per year of export revenues for the UAE, and would signify "a shift to the Middle East as a hub for world aluminium production".

EMAL, a joint venture between government-owned Mubadala Development and Dubai Aluminium, in July selected General Electric to supply $500 million of power generation equipment for the project. tcarlisle@thenational.ae