Coal for aluminum
The Aluchemie plant in Botlek is one of the largest single producers of customer-specific, premium quality carbon anodes for the aluminum industry. Using the “Sigma Air Utility” compressed air contracting model, three compressed air container stations from Kaeser provide the compressed air that is so essential for the company.
Aluchemie is a subsidiary of the Australian-based multinational raw materials group Rio Tinto. In the Rotterdam plant, petroleum coke and coal tar pitch serve as raw materials and binding agents for anode manufacturing. The main customers of Aluchemie are aluminum smelters in Norway, Scotland, Israel and Canada. This makes location of the anode plant on the main Rotterdam seaport ideal as it eliminates the need for costly transport over land. As Henry Visser, responsible for the kilns and sales, explains: “Our production here runs continuously, based on annual orders for a straightforward market. The production process is quite simple, but when there are fluctuations in the quality of raw materials, we must ensure that our customers do not suffer any negative consequences. We rely on lean manufacturing processes since safety and quality are paramount for us.”
Open container showing an ESD 442 rotary screw compressor from Kaeser Kompressoren.
No compressed air? No production!
Compressed air plays a key role at Aluchemie. Without compressed air, the entire plant would grind to a halt. Every important process step depends on compressed air. Its use begins with preparation of the clay-like material and continues throughout, including the all-important exhaust gas scrubbers. Finally, many final processing steps, such as packaging and shipping, are carried out by systems that are pneumatically controlled and driven.
We purchase the compressed air as we do electricity, gas and water.
"We purchase the compressed air as we do electricity, gas and water." Once the leasing contract with the previous supplier had expired, Aluchemie decided to explore the market and tried to find a better solution. "We were able to view several configurations by Kaeser Kompressoren, including the setups of several of their customers." Since the Rotterdam plant was undergoing restructuring at that time, it was agreed that the best solution, moving forward, would be provided by three compressed air stations, each composed of four compressors (instead of five, as previously).
Three container stations were placed at Aluchemie. The stations were constructed and equipped by Kaeser Austria in Linz, then transported by a heavy-load articulated lorry from the Danube to the mouth of
the Rhein-Maas rivers.
Henry Visser: “Within the framework of the Sigma Air Utility Kaeser contracting model, we only purchase the compressed air." In terms of energy consumption and usage, the solution installed by Kaeser proved to be the best configuration. "We transitioned step-by-step from the previous compressed air supply system to the new one. This ensured that we had no perceptible downtime, and we were not required to make any changes to the compressed air distribution network."
The compressed air container stations are positioned in just the right spot with help from a crane.