The overhaul represents the first significant upgrade of the country’s largest industrial project since it came on stream in June 2008. As a result, all 360 cells – the individual production generation units that make up the giant potline – have now been replaced in a move that effectively revitalises smelting operations at Sohar Aluminium and delivers all round benefits.
According to Serge Gosselin, Chief Operations Officer at Sohar Aluminium, pots typically have a six-year life span and must be replaced in order to sustain and improve productivity and safety. However, as the 360 pots at SA’s plant form the backbone of the company’s production, replacing them in one go will necessitate a complete shutdown of operations for the duration of the revamp.
“Our team came up with a programme to change them gradually”, said Hamed Al Jabri, Reduction Services Manager. “The programme began in January 2012 with replacements initially taking place at the rate of four pots per months and then ramping up to 19 pot changes in a month. November 23rd marks the completion of the change-out of the last pot. Hundreds of contractors and employees were involved in the project,” Hamad explained.
The initiative effectively extends the lifespan of the production line because fewer pots will need to be replaced from time to time thereby minimising any impacts to the smelter’s overall production capacity.
Importantly, accompanying the pot change-out process is a significant technological upgrade as well. Chris Murray, Operations General Manager said “The previous pots are based on AP37 technology, and we were replacing them gradually with AP39 lining design. Starting this Sunday, all pots are be based on AP39, which provides better productivity and energy efficiency, and will increase our production capacity”.
Jason Moodley, Reduction Maintenance Manager added, “The process of managing the end-of –life of the older technology pots also brought some challenges but was highly successful due to a benchmark system that was developed and introduced during the project. Furthermore, the teamwork displayed in all areas across the plant was exceptional in delivering this important milestone for Sohar Aluminium”.
A formal launch of the new pots was celebrated at a ceremony aptly dubbed “1st Generation Change-out Completion” on the day of the last pot change-out at the company’s Sohar premises in which all of the teams involved in the three-year-long programme were present at the event, including the Pot Re-lining Team and Start-up Team. The entire initiative was overseen by the Reduction Services and Reduction Operations Departments, key operational services departments at Sohar Aluminium.