AluminIum Innovations of KAS
Production of domestic baked anodes was launched in Pavlodar. The operation of the new enterprise is based at the only producer of primary aluminum in the country, the Kazakhstan Aluminium Smelter (KAS), which is a part of the Eurasian Group (ERG). The industrial giant produced the first batch of anodes in the autumn of the last year. To date, more than 16 thousand anode blocks have been manufactured.
What is anode?
An anode, in other words electrode, is a 970-kilogram block of the black color, which is over 160 cm in length, 55 cm in height, and 70 cm in width. It is used as a consumable in the production of aluminium. According to technologists of the KEP, it requires 500 kg of anodes to produce a ton of the metal.
According to Deputy Foreman for Technology of the aluminium electrolysis workshop, Baurzhan Smailov, pre-baked anodes are an essential element of the aluminium production technology. "Carbon, the material the anode is made of, is a part to the main chemical reactions in the electrolyzer. Since the commissioning of the plant, anodes of China’s production had been in use, but they did not always meet the required quality parameters so posing risks to the stability of our production. The launch into production of our own anodes reduced those problems to zero. Since the beginning of March this year, the domestic anodes have been in use in the production of aluminium, and I can say that our experts have reached high and stable quality for the anodes."
By the way, this indicator depends mainly on the quality of the raw materials – the coal-tar pitch and petroleum coke calcined. These two elements, according to the technology, are fed into the mixing unit where they are mixed at a temperature of 185°C. The output is a so-called anode mass, which is then passed through a hydraulic press molding "green" anodes. It produces 25 blocks per hour, which are then cooled on a special conveyor.
"Green" anodes are then fed into the anode baking camera, the baking furnace, in which they are kept baking for a period of 14 days at a temperature of 1,100°C, – says foreman of the electrodes production workshop Ilsur Timerhanov. – Next, the assembling of the anode holder and calcined anode block is carried out, after which they are fed into the electrolysis production. Each anode can be in use for a period of to 28 days."
Reaching the designed capacity of 136,000 tons of anodes a year will make it possible for the KAS to eliminate dependence on foreign suppliers and significantly increase the local content in their final products – the highest grade aluminium.
Approved by the President
Construction of the workshop for production of electrodes began in March 2009. At that time they purchased modern equipment of European manufacturers, such as Buss Chem Tech AG, Riedhammer, and SH Industrial Technology AG. In September 2012, the President Nursultan Nazarbayev, during one of his few visits to the Kazakhstan Aluminium Smelter, gave a start to installa-tion and commissioning operations for the anode production and commissioned a production unit for anode baking. A year later, at the national teleconference dedi-cated to the Day of Industrialization, the head of the KAS, Almaz Ibragimov, following the welcoming message of the President, put into operation a mixing and press unit of the new workshop.
"This is the most innovative and ambitious project, which has no analogues in the world. Production capacity of the plant will make it possible to completely replace imports and to produce all aluminium domestically. All this became possible thanks to the state-run program of forced industrial-innovative development, as well as your support", – says Almaz Ibragimov, addressing the President.
"Earlier we imported anodes, and now we produce them on our own, – Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed. – Our industrialization should go in line with the programs of producing higher value added products from the raw materials we have. The Pavlodar aluminium plant is the pioneer of such higher value added products manufacturing chain from the ore dressing to production of aluminium metal."
In autumn 2014, the year of the 20th anniversary of the Eurasian Group, the new workshop produced a test batch of "green" anodes. It is worth noting that not only engineers and technologists of the KAS, but also experts from Russia and the countries of Europe – the representatives of the companies whose equipment was installed for the anode production – were involved in the work.
"We had worked together to develop the formulation, temperature parameters, blending modes, and so on. As a result of this work, we had got the anode with the desired density. The test batch of "green" anodes had been successfully baked in the lab conditions and passed through the required tests. After that, we had put the anodes into the baking furnace, and in March of this year the so ready baked blocks were tested in the electrolyzers," – says Chief Technologist of the workshop for production of electrodes, Nina Obydennaya.
Developing the cluster
The new workshop of the Kazakhstan Aluminium Smelter with the construction budget of about $300 million has been one more step in the formation of the aluminium cluster in the Pavlodar region. This cluster today involves the infrastructure of 19 strategically important facilities. These are primarily the unit for the anode baking, the mixing and press unit, the mechanical repair unit, the silo coke stock, the large fuel oil storage tank, the intake unit, the coke drying unit, the boiler, etc.
The plant officials emphasize that the project they have implemented was exactly innovative. The new workshop is a high-tech and environmentally friendly production. The most modern and highly efficient gas treatment equipment, neutralizing emissions by more than 99.5%, was installed.
"To clean the waste gases generated in the process of anode baking, the project provides for the gas treatment equipment of the French company Solios, – says specialist for gas treatment at the baking unit of the electrodes production workshop, Alexei Birt. – Gas treatment is carried out in two stages. At the first stage, alumina is fed into the gas treatment unit, which is like a sponge absorbing all the waste gases. The second stage involves treatment in special filter bags. Then the alumina is fed by the transport system into the silo and then is carried in tankers to the potlines, where it is involved in the production of aluminium."
One of the most impressive units of the new workshop is the unit for baking anodes. This is a huge premise with a lot of equipment, where the largest one is the baking furnace that consists of 50 cameras.
"The open-type furnace installed there, is the only one in the post-Soviet countries, providing a vertical feeding of anodes, – Alexander Ivannikov, the head of the baking unit of the new workshop and the professional with many years of experience, who had been working at the anode production of the Sayan Aluminium Plant for a quarter of century, shares with us. – Refractory products of the highest quality from Germany and Italy were used in the construction. The system continuously monitors their condition, allowing timely adjusting the technological process and thereby increasing the service life of the equipment."
Today, a large team of professionals, many of whom have mastered a new profession, work in the workshop. For the start, experts from Russia that work at similar enterprises were invited. Throughout the entire period of the commissioning works, they conducted theoretical and practical training of local staff.
According to Ilsur Timerkhanov, classes are conducted in 10 major themes: raw materials, equipment, process parameters, product inspection, etc. "At the last stage, we provide training by using our own documentation of the plant as a tutorial. In parallel, we study issues of safety and quality management. In addition, in 2012 more than 50 of our employees visited the Tajik aluminium plant, on the basis of which the production of baked anodes was organized. Also, we sent many employees to study in Russia."
To date, all the required personnel have been hired, and the staff of the workshop numbers over 320 people. These are the same employees and engineers who participated in the commissioning: the graduates of technical universities and experts from Russia.
"Pavlodar-based vocational and technical schools provide preparation of specialists that can work at our productions. For example, a new subject "Production of Baked Anodes” was introduced few years ago in the College of Non-Ferrous Metallurgy, and a new section of study, "The Anode Production", appeared in the Polytechnic College at the specialty "Ferrous Metallurgy". I think we will not face the lack of skilled workers", – Ilsur Timerkhanov concludes.
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Today, the Kazakhstan Aluminium Smelter is considered one of the leaders in the domestic industry of non-ferrous metals. Moreover, among the two hundred of similar giants in the world, the KAS is among the top ten. Since 2010, it produces 250 thousand tons of aluminium per year, and in the last year it became the first plant in Kazakhstan producing and baking its own anodes.