Technology innovation drives excellence in inspection and maintenance operations at EGA

New top cover design facilitates quick and convenient insertion of cut-out wedges into the busbar system
United Arab Emirates: Emirates Global Aluminium (“EGA”), the largest primary aluminium producer in the region accounting for almost 50 per cent of the total primary aluminium production capacity in the GCC, adopts and – where relevant – develops, world-leading processes and technologies to produce the highest quality products possible. As well as developing advanced proprietary reduction technologies (such as DX+ Technology and DX+ Ultra Technology), one of EGA’s key priorities is to utilise home-grown technologies to support operational best practices that ensure worker protection, as well as energy and time efficiency.

To ensure sustained technological development across all plant operations, the Technology Development & Transfer department at EGA has been mandated to innovate continuously in order to drive industry standards and to showcase 100 per cent United Arab Emirates (“UAE”)-based technologies to the global aluminium industry. Accordingly, the R&D project team at EGA Jebel Ali (also known as “DUBAL”) successfully filed a patent application on 16 September 2015 with the support of Takamul – an innovation protection support programme developed and operated by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (“TDC”) – to commercialise a removable hinged cover that allows for easy wedge insertion and pot inspection activities at the EGA Jebel Ali smelter complex in Dubai.

As Mark Jordan (Lead Engineer - R&D, Technology Development & Transfer, EGA Jebel Ali Operations) explains, the invention relates to a particular arrangement of the top cover of the intercalary space between the potshells of two adjacent electrolysis cells, arranged side-by-side in a series of electrolysis cells. To avoid uncontrolled heat loss, as well as for practical and safety reasons, the intercalary space is closed by a top structure (“slab”). To carry out routine operations, maintenance, or in an emergency situation, these heavy concrete slabs may need to be removed by a machine or crane.

“From time to time it may be necessary, during the normal operation of the plant, to proceed with routine activities, inspection and maintenance of certain functional elements covered by the top cover,” says Jordan. “In particular, operators need to carry out operation critical activities, visual inspections and cleaning operations, as well as measurement of certain physical parameters, such as temperatures or voltage drops.”

Working alongside Jordan were Mahmood Abdulmalik (Senior Manager, Technology Engineering), Abdalla Al Zarooni (Director) and Syed Fiaz Ahmed (Engineer I, R&D). The cross-functional Technology Development team, which comprised representatives of the engineering, operations, process and maintenance departments at EGA, began to assess the particular drawbacks of this top cover arrangement. Focal points included the lack of convenient and quick access to the inner volume of the intercalary space during routine operations, maintenance and inspections, or in case of emergencies.

According to Jordan, “The objective of the invention was to develop a new design of top cover for the type of plant used at EGA Jebel Ali, while meeting all the requirements of electrical insulation and worker safety. The new design is made up of manually movable covers that provide easy access to the intercalary space, in particular for the insertion of wedges into the busbar system underneath the top cover.”

The top cover design is unique and the improved access has been shown to improve the operational efficiency of the plant substantially. The new design will be installed across all EGA Reduction Technologies and will set the industry benchmark for utilisation in this type of plant. EGA continues to lead the industry in developing innovative and sustainable technology in line with the UAE’s national strategy for innovation with the aim of making the UAE one of the most innovative nations in the world within seven years.