One of the largest process control projects in the world undertaken by Alcoa World Alumina and Honeywell, QUASAR (Quality Automation Solutions in Alumina Refining), was awarded Engineers Australia’s 2007 National Project Excellence Award in Automation, Control and Instrumentation.
The global project cost over $400 million and aimed to link seven Alcoa refineries in four different continents to one core process control system, QUASAR.
Alcoa’s QUASAR Global program manager Dr Dennis Mason said controlling production in an alumina refinery was a difficult task.
“Productivity and safety rely on reliable, real-time, process information so that the alumina refining process and equipment can be monitored, maintained and adjusted to get the maximum benefit.
“As a global leader in alumina production, we realised that to continue to succeed in the global commodity business, we must have the ability to produce alumina safely at the lowest possible cost,” he said.
“In addition to our operating practices, we recognised that automation, process control and instrumentation were going to be some of the key business drivers to give us a significant competitive advantage and that’s how QUASAR was born back in 2001.”
Alcoa World Alumina decided to take process control at its seven refineries around the world (three in Western Australia, three in central and south America and one in Europe) to a new level — aiming to implement the same system in each plant, with full integration to enable global knowledge sharing, remote monitoring, 24×7 support and best practice benchmarking capabilities.
By working with global industry leader, Honeywell, a suite of advanced process control applications and newly developed instrumentation were used on top of a revamped infrastructure layer to deliver benefits such as reduced alumina process variability and the ability to operate the refineries closer to their practical limits, all while using less energy and raw materials. This in turn increased production rates, improved process efficiencies, and reduced waste and emissions at the refineries.
The Western Australian sites alone have exceeded $8 million per year in savings including reductions in green house gases and raw material usage and has contributed around $40 million to the local economy through implementation contracts.