Alba set to become world’s largest smelter outside China

Line 6 Expansion Project is one of the biggest ‘brownfield’ developments in the Middle East

Image used for illustrative purpose. A worker walks among rolls of semi-finished aluminum at the Alcoa aluminum factory October 24, 2006 in Szekesefehervar, Hungary.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A worker walks among rolls of semi-finished aluminum at the Alcoa aluminum factory October 24, 2006 in Szekesefehervar, Hungary.

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MANAMA: His Majesty King Hamad will officially inaugurate Alba’s Line 6 Expansion Project next Sunday, making Bahrain the home of the world’s largest aluminium smelter outside China.

This was announced by Alba chairman Shaikh Daij bin Salman Al Khalifa in his keynote speech yesterday during the opening of the 23rd Arab International Aluminium Conference (Arabal 2019) that the kingdom is hosting for the fifth time.

Taking place at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain, under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the three-day event has drawn participation of 40 renowned speakers, 450 delegates as well as 70 exhibitors in the exhibition held alongside the conference.

Arabal 2019 was inaugurated by Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa on behalf of HRH the Premier.

“As we are about to celebrate the National Day of Bahrain and His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne, it gives me a great pleasure to announce that this monumental event would not have been made possible without the directives and infinite support of our wise leadership; it is truly a source of pride for Bahrain’s leadership, its government and people,” said Shaikh Daij.

Talking about the Line 6 Expansion Project, the chairman said it is one of the biggest ‘brownfield’ developments in the Middle East.

With an investment of approximately $3 billion, a sixth pot line has been added to the smelter boosting Alba’s per-annum production by 540,000 tonnes, taking the total production capacity to 1.5 million tonnes per year.

The project was commissioned on December 13 last year, ahead of schedule, with the delivery of the ‘first hot metal’.

Progress has been fast-paced since then and all 424 pots in the line are set to go on stream soon.

Shaikh Daij said the project is “transformational” for the country as it has not only created around 500 permanent direct jobs in Alba and is set to boost the downstream cluster by creating indirectly a few thousand job opportunities, but also presents many co-investment opportunities through local and foreign investment.

Speaking to the GDN on the sidelines, the chairman said the aluminium sector faces many challenges in the form of lower London Metal Exchange (LME) prices and declining demand for the metal with world market consumption almost flat, the first decline since 2009.

“Some of the factors are weak global economic conditions, slow global manufacturing and increased use of scrap metal,” said Shaikh Daij.

Amidst difficult conditions, the smelter continues to stay competitive, he said thanks to Project Titan, phase IV of which started this January targeting a $100m reduction in cash cost by end-2020.

“This will be on top of $240m that we have saved from phases I to III over the last five years.”

In his opening address, Arabal organising committee chairman Mohammed Al Naki said: “The aluminium smelting industry, which was adopted by the GCC countries as a strategic decision besides petroleum and petrochemical industries, has become a key player into achieving sustainable economic development in the region.

“The formation of a number of smelters in the region to produce primary aluminium has helped in the establishment of many downstream and end-product industries. With GCC smelters meeting the region’s demand for the aluminium metal, these countries primarily rely on the GCC smelters to supply the primary aluminium in order to produce semi-finished and end-products. In turn, the local downstream have widely developed to cope with the development in the region.”

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