Focus on building Qatalum at TMS 2011 Annual Meeting and Exhibition

Qatalum gives insight on organisational and technical challenges and complexities in building a large, modern smelter.

In keeping with its aim to be both a strong catalyst for the development of aluminium-related industries in Qatar and a leading aluminium producer in the region and globally, Qatalum, the state-of-the-art aluminium smelter joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and Hydro in line with Qatar's long-term economic diversification strategy, was a focus at the recent Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) 2011 Annual Meeting and Exhibition, which ran from 27 February until 3 March 2011 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California (USA).

The TMS conference offered a number of themed programme tracks with attached symposia, including aluminium and magnesium; advanced characterisation, modelling and materials performance; high performance materials; materials and society: energy and sustainable production; materials processing and production; nano-scale and amorphous materials; and professional development.

As one of the region’s newest operational smelters, and one of the largest green-field smelter ever built in a single phase, Qatalum was the focus of two related presentations at the event. The first presentation, entitled ‘Building Qatalum – A Large, Modern Smelter’, provided detailed insights into how the Hydro Projects team handled the technical and organisational complexities during its work to construct one of the largest aluminium smelters ever built in a single step, and addressed aspects such as employee welfare, environmental considerations, safety precautions and working conditions.

The second presentation was entitled ‘Qatalum – Organisational Challenges in Starting up a Modern Smelter’. Qatalum CEO Jan Arve Haugan give insight into the organisation challenges faced in setting up a smelter that employs thousands of staff from 32 nationalities and 35 company cultures, with particular focus on the Qatalum Production System (QPS) – a local adaptation of Hydro’s own production system – which was devised as the main mechanism to align the organisation and ensure quality in all processes. The presentation summarised experiences and main learning points from Qatalum’s first year of operation. Speaking of the smelter’s participation in the prestigious international event, Haugan said, “Qatalum is one of the GCC region’s mega non-energy projects, and is scheduled to come online later this year. Given the increased global interest in aluminium production for intermediate and downstream industries, aluminium’s status as an important element in a large number of heavy industries, such as the automobile industry, will ensure a consistently growing demand for the foreseeable future, and once Qatalum reaches full production, Qatar will be in a position to contribute a significant portion towards GCC aluminium production. This, together with Qatalum’s focus on environmental sustainability and implementing Hydro’s cutting-edge technology, makes the smelter an ideal case study for those looking at the challenges inherent in building a modern smelter.”

“Qatalum also has a lot to offer beyond this: our vision is to be involved in growing a knowledge-based industry in Qatar and the region. We already have a highly qualified workforce at the plant, and we expect this number to increase as Qatar’s aluminium industry grows, as it is only through the skills and talents of Qatalum’s workforce that the owners’ vision of achieving efficient conversion of natural gas into value-added primary aluminium – Gas to Solids (GTS) – will be met. Thus participation in events such as TMS allows us not only to share what we have learnt, but also to meet with other key industry players from all over the world to pool our knowledge and experience, allowing us to build for a sustainable future for the industry as a whole, together,” he added.

TMS is a professional organisation encompassing the entire range of materials and engineering, from minerals processing and primary metals production, to basic research and the advanced applications of materials. The society provides forums for the exchange of information; promotes technology transfer and the education and development of current and future professionals; encourages professionalism, ethical behaviour and concern for the environment; and stimulates a worldwide sense of unity in the profession.

The TMS Annual Meeting and Exhibition 2011 saw materials science and engineering professionals hailing from more than 68 countries gather to network, present research, share industrial applications and introduce innovation. This blend of academic, technical, business and social elements creates the perfect synergy to move research and development forward to produce applications that fuel global solutions.