Emirates Aluminium (Emal) has started the construction of its phase two smelter expansion and is already working ahead of schedule, according to the Abu Dhabi-based company’s chief executive officer (CEO) Saeed al-Mazrouei.

Emal plans to increase the capacity of its Taweelah smelter complex to 1.3 million tonnes a year (t/y) by 2014 in a project estimated to require about $5bn.

“We are at almost 7 per cent completion, which is almost 2 per cent ahead of schedule. We have already approved the long lead items,” Mazrouei told reporters at the CRU World Aluminium conference in Abu Dhabi.

The CEO said the initial phase smelter was currently running at 750,000 t/y, but that ongoing technology improvements would increase output to 800,000 tonnes by the end of the year.

Mazrouei says a team from Emal’s joint venture shareholders Dubai Aluminium (Dubal) and Mubadala Development Company have been travelling internationally looking at investment options for the phase 2 expansion. “The environment for investment is very promising,” the CEO says.

Earlier in the year, Emal was expecting to close the financing for the second phase project during the third quarter of 2012.

In April, UK-based William Hare Structural Engineers won the contract to provide the steel structure for the phase two potline.