The complete shutdown at the $5.7bn Qatar Aluminium (Qatalum) smelter has proved that even the best made plans can go wrong.
The plant is a brand new facility with the state-of-the-art technology. The 50:50 joint venture partners of Qatar Petroleum and Norway’s Hydro are what many would consider to be a perfect match of local knowledge and international expertise.
So how a power outage at the smelter resulted in a complete loss of primary metal production is something that needs to be explained. Hydro, who sells the metal produced, will be demand to know what caused the company to lose 20 per cent of its global capacity overnight.
Digging out the solidified metal from the 444 cells affected is a laborious process and the full start-up of Qatalum has now been delayed by at least six months. However, it is the loss of the metal and the loss of its customer’s faith that will concerning Hydro shareholders.
The only positive aspect of the whole situation is that the cast house is still in full working order so as long as Qatalum can source metal then it can still produce billet and foundry alloy for its customers.
There is a global surplus of primary metal and the local smelters in the GCC such as Oman’s Sohar Aluminium and the UAE’s Emirates Aluminium will hopefully have some spare capacity to sell. Qatalum certainly needs all the help it can get.