EGA begins stockpiling bauxite for commissioning of UAE’s first alumina refinery in Abu Dhabi. First alumina from new Al Taweelah alumina refinery expected during the first half of 2019
by Mario Conserva
Emirates Global Aluminium received its first shipment of bauxite ore in preparation for the commissioning of its under-construction Al Taweelah alumina refinery.
The 61,450 tonne shipment of bauxite from Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée sailed to the UAE from the Republic of Guinea in West Africa in 33 days. The UAE currently imports all its alumina and once Al Taweelah alumina refinery is at full production, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée will supply some five million tonnes of bauxite each year to EGA.
Abdulla Kalban, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of EGA, said: “Alumina refining will be a new industrial activity for the UAE, so this shipment of bauxite is the first ever to our country. Thousands of people are currently working hard to bring the construction of Al Taweelah alumina refinery to completion, and we look forward to producing our first alumina during the first half of next year”.
In June 2018, EGA completed construction of a huge shed to stockpile bauxite ready for use. The shed has the capacity to store 450,000 tonnes of bauxite, the same weight as the Burj Khalifa. During operations, stockpiling is required to ensure that production can continue even if there are interruptions in shipments of mineral. Bauxite ore is moved from the ship to the shed on a conveyor belt. Al Taweelah alumina refinery will have more than eight kilometres of conveyor belts in total. More than 13,000 people are currently building Al Taweelah alumina refinery, which is one of the largest industrial construction sites in the UAE.
Al Taweelah alumina refinery
Alumina refineries convert bauxite ore into alumina, the feedstock for aluminium smelters. Al Taweelah alumina refinery is the first to be built in the UAE and first alumina from Al Taweelah alumina refinery is expected during the first half of 2019. Sections of Al Taweelah alumina refinery are being completed in sequence to enable the carefully-planned pre-commissioning and commissioning of the thousands of pieces of equipment that make up the huge plant.
Al Taweelah alumina refinery has a total budgeted project cost of approximately $3.3 billion; once full ramp-up is completed, Al Taweelah alumina refinery is expected to produce some two million tonnes of alumina per year, enough to meet 40 per cent of EGA’s needs. EGA is expanding upstream and internationally to secure the natural resources that the UAE’s aluminium industry needs and to create new revenue streams.
EGA is also building a bauxite mine and associated export facilities in Guinea. First bauxite from GAC Guinea Alumina Corporation project is expected during the second half of 2019. GAC is one of the largest greenfield investments in Guinea in the last 40 years and has a total budgeted project cost of approximately $1.4 billion. GAC’s bauxite will be exported to customers around the world.
Bauxite is the ore from which aluminium is derived, and is a rock formed from a red clay material, is typically found near the surface and is usually recovered through open cast mining. It can usually be found in tropical locations, such as Guinea in West Africa; the biggest global supplier of bauxite is Australia. After extracting it from the ground, bauxite is placed in crushers to be broken up into smaller pieces, then is transported to an alumina refinery for processing into alumina, the feedstock for aluminium smelters. The Bayer process, discovered in 1887 by Dr. Carl Josef Bayer, is the principal process of refining bauxite to produce alumina, and is carried out in four steps: bauxite is crushed then dissolved with caustic soda; mixture is separated to remove impurities, with bauxite residue being washed and filtered for disposal; alumina solution moves to tanks where it is cooled, and extra solutions are added; finally aluminium hydrate is heated in calciners to remove bonded water particles to produce the final product alumina, a white powder. At the current rate of extraction, there is at least 100 years of known bauxite reserves in the world.