ABB's integrated power solution for giant aluminum plant

2006-05-26 - ABB is supplying a complete integrated power solution – including process-critical rectifiers, unique rectifier control systems and award-winning current sensors – for the biggest aluminum potline ever built.

By Editorial services

“ABB is the only company with the capability to supply an integrated power solution of this scope and complexity,” says Max Wiestner, industry manager for ABB’s aluminum business.

The 360-pot Sohar aluminum plant in Oman will have a production capacity of 360,000 tons and be the biggest aluminum potline in the world when it goes onstream in March 2008. Sohar is a joint venture between industry and regional leaders Oman Oil Company, ADWEA (Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water) and Alcan.

ABB’s scope of supply includes five giant 113 kA / 1650 VDC rectifier transformers – the most powerful ever built, each one weighing more than 300 tons – five AC 800PEC high-speed control and protection units for the rectifiers, a level-2 SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system for the rectifier station and gas insulated substation, and ABB’s recently launched and award-winning fiber-optic current sensors (FOCS).

Rectifiers – key to the process

Rectifiers are the critical components in a smelter potline. They convert AC to DC power which is then passed through the molten electrolyte in the pots to form aluminum.

Tapping molten aluminum from a pot – the metal will now be transferred to a holding furnaceTapping molten aluminum from a pot – the metal will now be transferred to a holding furnace.
If the rectifiers fail and the line shuts down, the molten aluminum will “freeze” within hours, at a cost of $100 million or more.

Another key contributor to process reliability is ABB’s FOCS technology, which has revolutionized current measurement in large power-consuming applications like aluminum smelters.

Alcan had previously tested FOCS at a smelter in France and were very impressed with the results. Compared to alternative current measurement technology FOCS weighs 20 kg against the conventional 2,000 kg, takes four hours to install instead of 40, improves accuracy by a factor of 10 to an unrivalled 99.9 percent, and is immune to electromagnetic interference.

On the control side, the AC 800PEC uniquely combines in a single modular system the high-speed control requirements of large rectifiers with low-speed control tasks usually carried out by separate PLC units.

Industrial complex

The Sohar aluminum plant is part of a massive greenfield industrialization project in Oman to establish alternative sources of revenue to oil and gas. In addition to the smelter, the project includes two steel plants and a chemicals plant, all of which will be located 12 kilometers inland from the port of Sohar.

Already a second potline of the same size and capacity is planned for construction later this decade.

ABB is the market and technology leader in power conversion for smelter applications, with more than 80 years’ experience, a global market share of 50 percent, and a full scope of supply capability.

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    A modern potline. This one produces 200,000 tonnes of aluminum per year. ABB is supplying equipment Oman's Sohar plant, to be the largest in the world, at 360,000 tonnes per year.
    This modern potline produces about 200,000 tonnes of aluminum per year. ABB is supplying Oman's Sohar plant, to be the largest in the world at 360,000 tonnes per year when it opens in 2008.

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