2010: A Year of Milestone Achievements and Unexpected Challenges

2010 was an eventful year for Qatalum, full of both impressive achievements and unexpected challenges.

​​Qatalum CEO Jan Arve Haugan attributed much of the plant's performance and achievements to the solid support of Qatalum's owners, Qatar Petroleum and Hydro, and the dedication of everyone involved at all levels of the project., saying, "2010 was a year of steady progress for Qatalum, one that saw us drawing a little closer to fulfilling the vision of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and Qatar's National Vision of 2030," says Haugan.


The year started off well with a scheduled ramp-up to full production, building on the milestone first metal at the end of December 2009 that placed Qatar on the map of the world's aluminium-producing nations.

The first major event of the year – and a historic milestone for Qatalum – was the official opening of the facility on 12 April 2010. HH the Emir officially inaugurated the Qatalum facility in Mesaieed Industrial City, in the presence of honoured guests, including HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, as well as a number of international customers, suppliers and contractors.

Three months later, in July, Qatalum achieved another major milestone when it was awarded ISO 9001: 2008 certification by accredited ISO auditors, Det Norske Veritas (DNV) Business Assurance Middle East. Achieving this certification allowed Qatalum to meet the registration requirements of the London Metal Exchange (LME), and confirmed its commitment to continuously improve the Qatalum Production System (QPS), as well as affirming its effective and efficient management practices, and enhancing the smelter's global competitive edge.

Unexpected challenges

Less than a month later, on 9 August, Qatalum's primary aluminium production was shut down following a power outage that lasted for nearly five hours. Qatalum employees and suppliers worked around the clock to restore the pots affected by the power failure. At the same time, the Qatalum Casthouse stepped up re-melting of cold metal sourced from external suppliers, while Hydro postponed planned maintenance and increased production at other plants, in order to ensure that bulk of the planned shipments to Qatalum's customers were met. Once the root causes of the incident had been identified and rectified, measures were put in place to prevent such incidents from happening in the future and the ramp-up of the plant continued.

In mid-September, Qatalum restarted ramp-up. As of 14 January 2011, in the space of three-and-a-half months, Qatalum had ramped up 352 cells, including all of Potline 2, which makes up half of the smelter's total capacity – an impressive feat meeting world-class standards of productivity.

High standards prevail

Safety is critical to any industry, and exhaustive processes have been put in place at Qatalum since the beginning of the project in order to ensure the highest safety standards are maintained across the board. Compared to the International Aluminium Associations benchmark figures, Qatalum rates exceptionally high among industry leaders in safety. During the shutdown, however, the Qatalum team had to cope with a previously largely inexperienced high-risk situation. The operational staff handled the unexpected challenges exceptionally well, showing great caution and teamwork, overcoming the challenges with no significant injuries and setting high standards for the future.

A similarly high standard was maintained with regard to environmental concerns. Qatalum has a waste management system in place, which includes recycling of paper, cartons, plastics, used oil and many other materials. There is also active management of food and clinical waste, and use of process wastewater for irrigation. In particular, the establishment of environmentally safe storage, prepared in a matter of days, for over twenty thousand tonnes of material generated due to the power outage in August, is a testament to Qatalum's environmental commitment.

With regard to monitoring, ventilation stacks are equipped to enable collection of emission samples. Ambient air quality monitoring stations were set up at three locations, wells were drilled and groundwater monitoring was established at seven locations throughout the site. Accurate measurements of all emissions, effluents, irrigation water, noise and groundwater are taken routinely with the use of elaborate environmental monitoring systems involving the Qatalum laboratory, external laboratories and several online measurement systems.

Within the sphere of human resources, all Qatalum's 2010 targets were met, with the latest milestone being the revised HR Policy. Qatalum has taken a leading role in addressing the particular needs of its international staff and in attracting and retaining a specialised workforce. Part of this is done through optimised staff support and training, which is important for Qatalum to maintain competitiveness and is a key process in encouraging its 1,120-strong multi-national team to follow the Qatalum Way.

In the course of 2010, Qatalum staff incurred over 70,000 total person-days of training – an outcome of 2,200 delivered courses, including tailor-made in-house courses, process training, external mobile equipment training, HSE courses, leadership and trainer courses, and software courses.​

Creating an international presence

Throughout 2010 Qatalum participated in a number of regional and international industry events, demonstrating its desire to play an active role as a global aluminium smelter. This included delivering a presentation at the Qatar Industrial Investment Conference, entitled 'Qatalum, its role in developing intermediate and downstream aluminium projects', which examined the types of industries that could be promoted and established based on the primary aluminium produced by Qatalum.

Moving forward

In November, the Qatalum management team was strengthened by the appointment of Khalid Mohammed Sultan Ahmed Laram as the plant's new Deputy CEO. Prior to joining Qatalum, Laram had worked for Qatar Petroleum for 25 years and had risen to the position of Deputy General Manager of Al-Khaleej Gas, responsible for oversight of the activities related to planning and establishment of strategies for efficient and economic development of all stages of projects and gas plant operation.

This latest appointment will help Qatalum move forward and achieve even greater levels of success in 2011 and beyond.​

Speaking of the year ahead, Haugan says, "I am proud and pleased of how everyone has risen to meet the challenges that have faced us, especially through the past year, and I am confident that Qatalum will be a strong catalyst for the development of aluminium related industries in Qatar. We are all looking forward to a positive 2011, and to regaining our position as a leader in the Gulf for operational excellence, high-quality aluminium products and environmental performance."