Emirates Aluminium (Emal) has reached the first hot metal (FHM) milestone on its phase two smelter expansion three months ahead of schedule as it looks to the possibility of a phase three project, says the Abu Dhabi-based company.

The company will now ramp up production to the expanded capacity of 1.4 million tonnes a year (t/y), which it expects to hit in the second quarter of 2014.

Emal earmarked an investment budget of $4.5bn in the expansion, but it is now forecast to come in under-budget, according to the company’s vice-president, projects, Yousef Bastaki.

The Taweelah site, located midway between the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, also has the potential of a third phase smelter expansion and the construction of downstream production units.

“We have a template for build phase 3… we are ready from an infrastructure point of view,” says Bastaki. “The decision will depend on the leaders of Abu Dhabi and what they think is the right time for investment.

“We are very much committed to [downstream] industries and we have a contract signed with an industrial manufacturer. We have contacted people who make aluminium rods and extrusion billets,” he adds.

Emal and its counterpart in the neighbouring emirate Dubai Aluminium (Dubal) have agreed to merge in a $15bn equal-ownership joint venture called Emirates Global Aluminium. After the Emal expansion is complete the companies will have a combined smelting capacity of 2.3 million t/y with just 150,000-200,000 t/y going into the domestic market.

“We are waiting for full clearance and that is when things are going to happen,” Emal’s chief executive officer (CEO) Fadhek al-Mazrooei said when asked about the merger.

The phase two Emal expansion has, at 1.7 kilometres, the longest pot line in the world, consisting of 444 reduction pots. It also operates with the highest amperage in the region at 440KA, which can increase to 460KA.

The complex also has the world’s largest gas treatment centre, world’s biggest anode baking furnace, world’s biggest single-site captive power plant and the highest single-line capacity green anode manufacturing plant.