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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Alba Potline 6

project team posing with Alba sign

A successful 25-year collaboration produces the world’s largest aluminum smelter outside of China

In 2016, Alba appointed Bechtel as the engineering, procurement and construction management contractor (EPCM) to build its sixth potline in the Kingdom of Bahrain, thus continuing the two companies’ long-standing partnership. 

At the time, Bechtel had already worked with Alba for more than a quarter century, including previous assignments for the smelter’s Line 4 and Line 5 expansions, which began operations in 1992 and 2005, respectively.

However, Potline 6 would be the biggest challenge yet, as it aimed to transform Alba into the world’s largest smelter, increasing current annual output by 540,000 metric tons. This would be achieved by adding one potline with 424 pots utilizing DUBAL DX+ Ultra technology, and related infrastructure, carbon and casthouse facilities.

Aerial view of alba site

The team’s work at Alba Line 6 included:

  • Infrastructure – Tie-ins into existing plant systems, utilities, roads, non-process buildings, main substation, air compressor facility, water, drainage and general site development
  • Reduction – A new potline and the required ancillary equipment, gas treatment and fluoride recovery
  • Carbon – New carbon bake furnace, paste plant, expanded anode pallet storage, carbon and bath recycling, and a new rodding shop
  • Casthouse – New casthouse, including slab/billet and 10 kg ingot casting facilities
  • Port – Additional fresh alumina truck unloading station
  • Power and automation – New substation and rectifying transformers, power distribution, area substations, plant automation and manufacturing execution system

Bechtel was able to use the previous experience gained with Alba, as well as at major smelters like Oman’s Sohar and Fjarðaál in Iceland, which was crucial to executing the massive, complex job with the speed it required.

A history of collaboration

group poses for a photo at Alba

Bechtel was able to use the previous experience gained with Alba, as well as at major smelters like Oman’s Sohar and Fjarðaál in Iceland, which was crucial to executing the massive, complex job with the speed it required.

As a result of this strong partnership, Alba announced the commissioning of Potline 6 on December 13, 2018, achieving the First Hot Metal (FHM) milestone ahead of its scheduled date of January 1, 2019 – making it the fastest construction ever delivered in the aluminum industry. In addition, FHM was achieved at a record low cost of less than $4,000 per metric ton of installed capacity. The Project’s 24-month schedule to first aluminum was more than six months faster than the industry standard and was possible thanks to the outstanding collaborative relationship between Alba and Bechtel that has prevailed for decades.

Safely enhancing Bahrain’s global competitiveness

Bahrain royal greets employees

With the successful completion of Potline 6, Alba will continue to support the Kingdom of Bahrain’s diversification in line with Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030. The Project increased Alba’s contribution to the country’s overall GDP by three percent, thus bringing the aluminum industry’s contribution to approximately 12 percent.

While Potline 6 was an economic achievement, a successful project must be completed safely. Thanks to an emphasis on safety by Alba, Bechtel and the contractor companies, the Project team achieved a remarkable 13.8 million job hours without a single lost-time injury in 2019, one of the safest smelter projects in recent history.

Potline 6 benefited from innovative construction methodologies, including the utilization of surface miners to excavate one million cubic meters of hard rock, pre-cast concrete, modularized steel assemblies and two of the world’s largest tower cranes to mitigate a very congested worksite, which already included five potlines supplied with electricity from four onsite power stations.

Award-winning achievement

Bechtel CEO with Bahrain royal

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa officially inaugurated Potline 6, which was achieved approximately 16 percent under budget, on November 24, 2019. At the ceremony, he highlighted that Potline 6 will also boost employment opportunities for Bahrainis both at Alba and in the local downstream market.

Furthermore, Potline 6 was named Industrial Project of the Year and Mega Project of the Year at the 2020 edition of the MEED Projects Awards. These coveted awards recognize the best projects in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) across various sectors and promote best practices in project delivery and operations, as well as innovation and sustainability.

These honors demonstrated how Potline 6 set benchmarks in sustainable aluminum production - implementation of the DUBAL DX+ Ultra Technology boosted output with no increase in energy consumption, while the use of General Electric’s  (GE) 9HA Gas Turbine technology at the smelter’s Power Station 5 has made it the most efficient combined-cycle plant in the Gulf region.