The production of alumina is a highly intensive process involving the interactions of numerous processes. The ability to make this process economically viable relies on good process design together with an understanding of the process dynamics. Automation (encompassing instrumentation, control, advanced control, information systems and dynamic training simulation) is one of the technologies that ties this together. Widely used throughout the oil refining and petrochemical industries, it is being recognised as an enabling technology to safely and effectively improve the performance of alumina refineries throughout their lifecycle from construction through operations.
Automation systems only represent a small percentage of the overall cost of an alumina refinery and are often perceived to be costly and complex. With careful consideration to design and architecture these systems can have a significant impact on operations and profitability, particularly in the areas of advanced process control, and dynamic simulation.
This paper reviews automation technologies and the relationship to benefits. Case studies are presented for the areas of dynamic simulation and advanced process control highlighting the benefits.