Half of Damaged Aluminium Production Back Online at Alcoa’s Portland Smelter

Portland aluminium smelter

Another step in the recovery of Alcoa’s Portland plant was taken this week, as the firm announced that half the capacity it lost in a power blackout six months ago is now back online.

The Portland smelter has been running at about one-third capacity since December, when a storm interrupted power to the plant, causing molten aluminium to cool and harden in the midst of the production process. The outage and resulting damage put 200 thousand metric tons per annum of production capacity out of commission, leaving the plant to limp along with the remaining 100 thousand metric tons of capacity.

“Getting to the half way point in our bid to restore the business has been a big task, but what I have seen up to now gives me great confidence in our ability to deliver the plan,” opined Plant Manager Peter Chellis in a statement released by the plant.

The smelter in Victoria has clawed all the way back with no small help from the government. Earlier this year the state and federal governments extended a A$240-million (US$182 million) package that will keep the smelter in operation for at least the next four years. Such a deal was offered in hopes that the plant would not be yet another casualty in an area desperate for jobs after the loss of a spate of manufacturing plants and an energy plant in recent months and years. The deal is contingent upon the plant remaining open until at least 2021 and turning out aluminium at at least ninety percent of pre-damage levels.

In addition to the fiscal aid package, the Portland smelter and local energy provider AGL Energy came to an agreement on a four-year deal to provide the plant with 510 mW, or roughly one-tenth of the state’s total energy consumption, at below-market prices.

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