Emerson helps Alcan increase production capacity by 12%

Austin, TX—Emerson Process Management was recently selected by Alcan to help improve processing operations at its Alumina and Specialty Chemicals facility at the Jonquiere Complex (Quebec, Canada).


Austin, TX— Emerson Process Management was recently selected by Alcan to help improve processing operations at its Alumina and Specialty Chemicals facility at the Jonquiere Complex (Quebec, Canada). The plant produces specialty hydrates, which have to be manufactured with very stringent quality requirements in a process with challenging dynamic process control applications.

Previous loop-tuning work had been undertaken with little improvement. Alcan hired Laurentide Controls and Emerson's Process Solutions division in February 2003 to improve washing and drying operations in the plant. Using Emerson's EnTech Diagnostic ToolKit, the team quickly found that process optimization would more likely be achieved by a revision of the Alcan's process control strategy and design than by loop tuning.

Following the implementation of the initial modifications in the mill's Provox system, Alcan recorded a 60% reduction in dryer temperature variations, as well as a 12% production increase. This production increase is worth more than $1 million per year. The control loops were re-tuned very conservatively by using the systematic Lambda method. The reduction of variability at its source--before it reaches the PID controller--allowed for a much more robust tuning and reduced resonance to a minimum.

The next phase of work will have a different aim. The overall objective is a 15% reduction of natural gas usage per ton produced. In the interim, it is likely that Alcan will install advanced control tools such as Model Predictive Control (MPC) to further enhance their operations.

Alcan is a multinational leader in aluminum, packaging and recycling with 2002 revenues of $12.5 billion. It has operations in primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum, as well as flexible and specialty packaging. Alcan employs 53,000 people and has operating facilities in 41 countries.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jim Montague, news editor

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