Abu Dhabi-based Emal International has successfully completed 50% of its new $5.6bn aluminium smelter at Taweelah in Abu Dhabi, according to a senior company executive.

Middle East news agency MEED reports that the project is now 50% complete and targeting an April 2010 start-up for the plant.

Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy used to extract pure metals from their ores. Most metal ores contain small percentages of metal atoms compounded with either oxygen as metal oxide, with sulphur as metal sulphide, or with carbon and oxygen as metal carbonate.

Compared to most other metals, it is thought to be difficult to extract aluminium from ore, such as bauxite, due to the energy required to reduce aluminium oxide (Al2O3). Aluminium oxide has a melting point of around 2,000 °C and therefore, it must be extracted by electrolysis.

Increasing throughput of existing furnaces represents a challenge for the aluminium industry.

Producers need to constantly improve process yields, cut fuel consumptions and reduce emissions of gases, such as CO2 and NOX, with low-temperature Oxyfuel combustion technology uniquely designed to meet such challenges.

Linde has pioneered the use of oxyfuel technology in the aluminium industry in recent decades and has undertaken hundreds of successful installations – only this year Linde Gases revealed an agreement to install its oxyfuel technology at Stena Aluminium’s Swedish recycled aluminium facility.

Emerging market
While large deposits of bauxite occur in Australia, Brazil, Guinea and Jamaica and the primary mining areas for the ore are in Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Russia, smelting mainly occurs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Russia and the US.

This is owing to the fact that smelting is such an energy-intensive process. Regions boasting considerable natural gas supplies and/or ready electricity supply are fast becoming aluminium refiners as a result, with the resource-rich Middle East a rapidly emerging market for this application.

As for the impending aluminium plant in Abu Dhabi, MEED reports that Emal International has already spent approx. 69% of the capital expenditure committed to the project and has awarded $1.2bn of contracts.

The 700,000-tonnes per year smelter complex was due to have fuel gas available for power by the end of May 2009, while Emal is to connect the plant to the national power grid this month (June).