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UAE Aluminum Firms See Rise in Raw Material Imports
Jul 26,2010 16:00CST
industry news

DUBAI, July 26 -- Two key UAE aluminum firms are expecting a record increase in their imports of raw materials in three years as the GCC has emerged as a significant primary aluminum producer over the past decade.

Dubai Aluminium Company (Dubal) and Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Aluminium Company (Emal) will jointly import 650,000 metric tons of calcined petroleum coke, 150,000 metric tons of liquid pitch and 3.5 million metric tons of alumina every year, for the three-year period from 2010 to 2012, according to an official.

These volumes are over and above the $1 billion in strategic raw materials imported each year by Dubal through Jebel Ali Port for use in the company's existing 1,573-cell, eight pot line smelter in Jebel Ali, Dubai, which has an annual hot metal production capacity of 980,000 metric tons, said Masoud Talib Al Ali, Dubal's vice president for supply.

"Our Jebel Ali complex is home to one of the largest single-site aluminum smelters in the world and we procure a wide range of strategic raw materials from various sources around the globe so as to ensure uninterrupted supply for our operations," he said.

"Some 40-50 percent of our total strategic raw material imports each year comprise alumina, the balance comprising calcined petroleum coke, liquid pitch, baked anodes, aluminum fluoride, pot lining materials, process materials and refractory items," he added.

Emal, which recently secured loans worth around $737 million from export credit agencies to help finance its smelter project, is a 50-50 joint venture between Dubal and Mubadala Development Company, Abu Dhabi's investment vehicle.

When completed, the $5.7 billion project would be the world's largest single-site aluminum smelter complex at Al Taweelha in Abu Dhabi.

Bahrain led the way, opening the Gulf's first aluminum smelter in 1971, operated by Aluminium Bahrain (Alba). Qatar and the UAE followed establishing Qatar Steel and Dubai Aluminium in 1974 and 1979 respectively.

Historically, the industry has been dominated by companies based in Europe and the US. Since 2008, new world-class smelters have opened in Oman, the UAE and Qatar, with a combined capacity of 1.6 million tons a year and a total investment cost of $13 billion, according to a Meed report.

By 2012, the Middle East is expected to account for about 10 percent of the world's primary aluminum production, compared with just four percent in 2007, the report added.

Globally, aluminum prices are expected to rise due to the appreciation of the yuan, rising electricity costs in China, raw materials prices and the high capital costs of installing new capacity, according to Phillip Strachan, CFO of Rio Tinto Alcan.

While the global aluminum demand is forecast to grow by yearly four percent to five percent in the next 20 years, demand for alumina is set to grow by 22 percent to 37 million tons in 2010.


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