The Abu Dhabi government-controlled investment vehicle Mubadala Development Company has received bids from international engineering consultancies to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed alumina refinery in the UAE.

The new refinery could be built next to the Emirates Aluminium (Emal) smelter at Taweelah in Abu Dhabi and would be the first upstream aluminium plant of its type to be built in the UAE.

“Abu Dhabi has looked at several options that would add value to the Emal smelter, but all of them have been downstream converters like extrusion plants or rolling mills,” says an aluminium industry source based in the UAE. “This is an interesting option because while it is similar to a project in Saudi Arabia, the UAE does not have any domestic bauxite supply.”

The engineering consultancies that have bid on the project include:

  • Bechtel (US)
  • Fluor Corporation (US)
  • Hatch (Canada)
  • SNC Lavalin (Canada)
  • Technip (France)
  • WorleyParsons (Australia)

Due to the project being in its infancy, the exact scope of works for the proposed scheme has not yet been formulated. However, due to economies of scale the industry norm is usually to have a capacity of at least 1.5 million tonnes a year. The budget for similar schemes is usually more than $1.5bn.

“Usually, the initial plan is to build a refinery of between 1.5-million t/y and 1.8-million t/y,” says the source. “Then if you want to expand you have to double the capacity otherwise you have the same problems with economies of scale as you would with a first phase.”

A metals park has been planned by Abu Dhabi at Taweelah for several years. A $125m aluminium extrusion plant at the park is prequalifying contractors, while a rolling millthat has been delayed is now planning to tender contracts in 2013.

When contacted by MEED, a Mubadala spokesperson said: “In the context of our continuing collaboration in the aluminium sector, Mubadala and Dubal [Dubai Aluminium] are currently conducting preliminary studies as to the feasibility of constructing an alumina refinery in relative proximity to Emirates Aluminium.”  

The Emal smelter has a capacity of 750,000 t/y and is currently undergoing a phase two expansion that would double capacity. The first production from the phase two is expected at the end of 2013 with production slowly increased over the following 18 months.  

Emal is a 50:50 joint venture partner between Mubadala and Dubal.