The official opening ceremony of Qatalum not only represents a monumental milestone for Hydro, but also the arrival of a top contender in the world of aluminium, President and CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg said during the hectic program of festivities, seminars, site visits and business meetings to mark the start of one of the biggest and most efficient smelters in the industry.
Brandtzæg described the 50/50 joint venture with Qatar Petroleum on Qatalum as a "decisive, new chapter" in Hydro's long-standing presence in Qatar, as more than 40 years of history and cooperation is now continued in this model of equal partnership.
"The more than 400,000 tags now being signed off as part of the handover of Qatalum is a graphic reminder of the sheer scale and complexity of this mega-project, and gives pause for wonder at how the world's biggest smelter built in one step has risen in just 30 months since the foundation stone was laid in the sand," Brandtzæg said.
Brandtzæg was deeply impressed by the effort, dedication and competence of everyone who has helped ensure that the $5.7 billion project has remained on time and budget through a highly demanding construction phase - marked first by an unprecedented economic boom, then by the gloom of the economic downturn. Hydro has managed the construction project, including the main contractors and more than 200 subcontractors when on site.
Qatalum is now on course to deliver close to 600,000 tonnes a year to fresh markets and customers in Asia, the U.S. and the Middle East once the ramp-up is complete towards the end of the year. Hydro is supporting the commissioning and start-up of Qatalum with expertise and additional capacity.
"Six years ago, we signed an agreement with our partner Qatar Petroleum. Today, we see the results of all of our intentions and a lot of hard work from some of the most outstanding professionals in our field," Brandtzæg said.
At the peak of the construction phase, more than 22,000 people worked on site at the same time, and the total number of individuals working at the site has reached more than 55,000, representing 84 nationalities and more than 200 companies from all over the world.
Once in full production, the Qatalum joint venture with Qatar Petroleum will rank among the most efficient smelters world-wide in terms of energy, emissions and costs. Much of its annual capacity of 585,000 tonnes a year will be shipped as value-added products from its state-of-the-art casthouse, which has a slightly higher annual capacity of 625,000 tonnes to also accommodate for remelting of aluminium process scrap and other cold metal.
Eyeing a Qatalum second phase
Coming into Hydro's global portfolio as an ultra-modern smelter tucked into the very left corner on the industry cost-curve, Qatalum fits like hand in glove with Hydro's strategic ambition to strengthen its overall cost position and maintain its financial strength to emerge from the global economic downturn as a stronger company.
Qatalum is designed to ship all its products as value-added extrusion ingots or foundry alloys, but can also produce standard trading ingots. Based on a marketing agreement, Hydro will bring all Qatalum products to market, and has already introduced the new supplier to customers in Asia and the Middle East, the U.S. and Southern Europe.
"With the exciting prospects of Qatalum now coming to fruition, a second-phase expansion to double Qatalum's capacity may prove an attractive opportunity in the longer term," Brandtzæg said.
The spectacular opening ceremony of Qatalum on Monday included a long list of royals, ministers and other VIP guests from Norway, Qatar and around the world, most notably Qatar's Amir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon.
Representatives of key customers and suppliers were also present, as were top management, board members and other key representatives of Hydro, Qatar Petroleum and Qatalum.
In addition to the formal ceremony, the Qatalum event included customer seminars and tailored visits to both the site and the construction village, press conferences and other media events, business meetings and informal dialog.