Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) expects the start up of a new power plant at Ras al-Khair to be delayed until late 2013, says Abdulrahman Mohammed al-Ibrahim, head of the utility. This may affect production at a new aluminium smelter relying on it. Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) expects to begin production at the aluminium smelter it shares with US-based Alcoa in December.

The smelter is supposed to be supplied by the new 2,400MW power plant, which was expected to have started production by now.

“First production of electricity was supposed to be in October 2012, but now we are anticipating a 10-month delay,” says Al-Ibrahim. “To overcome this delay, SWCC has taken on the responsibility to provide power to the grid in excess of 450MW to meet client demand.”

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arrab Contracting Company and China’s Sepco III Electric Power Construction Corporation are building the power plant on the Gulf coast. Neither contractor was available for comment and Maaden did not respond to an email request for comment on the possible impact of the delay on operations at its new smelter.

Other parts of the project, including a seawater desalination plant, remain on schedule, says Al-Ibrahim.

The Ras al-Khair complex will be able to remove salt from more than 1 million cubic metres of water a day, which will be distributed by SWCC. Maaden has rights over 1,350MW of the power plant’s capacity and the other 1,050MW has been allocated to Saudi Electricity Company (SEC).