Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) is still in talks to secure a long-term gas contract, which has delayed its planned $1-$2bn modernisation and expansion plans until the end of 2011.

The Middle East’s oldest smelter is planning to build a sixth potline as well as carry out efficiency and debottlenecking that is expected to add over 400,000 tonne-a-year (t/y) of capacity to its current output of 870,000 t/y.

Bahrain metal projects
Status $m
Study 2,000
Execution 2,400
Source: Meed Projects

“Alba wants to source its gas from Bahrain and ensure that a long-term supply is secured,” a source says. “There are a number of ways of maximising the extra gas that Alba is trying to secure and these are being looked into at the moment.”

Added value can be gained from the gas by improving the efficiency of the power station attached to the Alba smelter, which would result in more energy being produced from the same amount of gas. 

The debottlenecking operations are expected to add around 80,000-100,000 t/y of extra capacity at Alba and these would be carried out on the existing potlines.

The sixth potline could then add anything up to 400,000 t/y of capacity depending on the financing and the amount of additional gas that is secured.

“If the long-term gas contract is secured then it will go ahead towards the end of 2011,” the source says.  

We have conducted research and found that we can debottleneck our operations with minimum capital expenditure that will add 100,000-t/y to Alba’s capacity. This has been approved and is going ahead.”

Alba recently maintained full production from its smelter despite a general strike in Bahrain meaning that around 15 per cent of its workforce was not available for working (MEED 3:4:11).

The company has since said that the strikers will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Bahrain’s labour laws.

The general strike in March was in response to the government using violence against anti-government protesters that had gathered in the capital on Manama.

Established in 1971, Alba is the oldest aluminium smelter in the Middle East region and is owned by the government of Bahrain who has a 78.5 per cent stake and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), which holds the remaining 21.5 per cent.