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ALUMINA REFINERY DESIGN FOR CLIMATIC EXTREMES

Thomas, D. and Pei, B.

For economic and logistic reasons, alumina refineries are often located either close to the upstream bauxite resource or close to the downstream smelter and associated energy supply. The nature of bauxite and energy reserves is such that this often places alumina refineries in less-than-hospitable climates. From the Amazon (Alunorte) to the Saguenay (Vaudreuil), from Siberia (Achinsk) to Nhulunbuy (Gove), the design challenges can be many and varied.

Different climatic conditions pose different design challenges and constraints. There may be impacts on worker comfort and safety, process flowsheet design (including heating and cooling options), materials handling equipment, environmental controls, waste water treatment, residue storage, equipment enclosures, plant civil and steel structural design and product quality controls.

Some new refineries are being built in even more challenging climes. The Middle East is one new frontier for example, with average annual rainfall often below 200mm, temperatures ranging from 0°C to 50+°C, and frequent dust storms.

Contemplating a design for such challenges can lead to a re-think of traditional design paradigms, providing insights that may also be applicable to milder climes.