JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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More blackout damage — Alcoa smelter to run at just 27% capacity for up to six months

The fallout from the small blackout last week will cost jobs and reduce production for months to come. In Victoria, the Alcoa smelter in Portland was hit at the same time as 200,000 customers in South Australia. But the short power outage meant that hot metal turned solid at the smelter, damaging equipment. One potline is totally shut down, the other hobbles along.

Manager of Portland Aluminium, Peter Chellis, said crews had been working tirelessly to stabilise the plant since it was taken offline.

“Obviously a long power interruption freezes the metal, and when you bring the power back on that creates what we call ‘burn offs’,” he said. “So we’ve been taking the pots that can’t be fixed out of circuit, and at this point in time line two is looking quite stable.”

He said the smelter was operating at just 27 per cent of its capacity. “At the moment we haven’t started to work on any scenario other than stabilising the plant,” he said. “But I think in three to six months we can turn around lines one and two.”

 – Source: Alcoa smelter to run at 27% due to unexplained power failure

“”[If Alcoa closes] this will be a much bigger impact on the local economy, due to the small size of the town, and the large number of jobs.” says (ironically) Victorian Greens leader who wants a taskforce set up to manage the “transition”, as if talking heads can generate MW of spinning reserve.

h/t David B

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77 comments to More blackout damage — Alcoa smelter to run at just 27% capacity for up to six months

  • #
    Rob Schneider

    “But the short power outage meant that hot metal turned solid at the smelter”

    If power is so essential for the manufacturing process, why did not the backup/contingency plan work for them? In addition to the utility power failure a problem, the inability to cope seems to be another flaw.

    Or maybe their plan was to accept the risk of utility power failure and so this long-term operation at reduced capacity is actually their contingency?

    Feel there is more to this issue that simply the utility power failed and the smelter now down to reduced capacity.

    35

    • #
      Analitik

      You are a total mor0n just like the characters depicted by your namesake.

      Aluminium producers rely on cheap, reliable electricity as the entire process depends on electrolysis and heating. They have some level of demand response (as shown by Bell Bay in last summer’s Tasmanian power crisis) but they need notification and some residual level of power – neither of which was provided in the recent power outage.

      If the power requirements are not met, then the smelter is uneconomic and will shut down – it’s that simple. Having standby generation and heating (or self sourcing) would make the whole operation uneconomic so the smelter would never be built in the first place.

      And before you launch into the smelter being subsidised through low priced power contracts, they get the low rates by offering a volume market that has some level of demand response which help hugely in grid stabilisation and investment confidence in power generation.

      73

  • #
    el gordo

    The Greens are a little over zealous in reading the last rights, the transition may not go their way.

    http://www.standard.net.au/story/4335979/greens-be-ready-for-alcoa-smelter-closure/

    22

  • #
    Robert Rosicka

    Yes the greens win if Alcoa closes and nobody loses , maybe votes but that’s it .

    42

  • #

    Makin’ Australia great again checklist (+/-)

    Efficient, inexpensive energy. -
    Jobs. -
    Common-sense leadership. – - – - – - – - – - – -

    162

    • #
      Graeme No.3

      We need a situation where large loss of regional jobs is paralled by matching losses of public servants and other recipients of government funding. Only then will these rabib fools understand that they are the superfluous ones when the economy collapses.

      201

      • #
        David Maddison

        Actually, for every job lost, two public serpent jobs need to be terminated.

        131

        • #
          Analitik

          South Australia will provide the example in due course. The state will benefit in the long term with the reduction in public servant per capita.

          30

    • #

      Nah, just import more liquid fuels and forget coal.

      MAKE ARABIA GREAT AGAIN!

      50

  • #
    el gordo

    Sue Lines, senator for Western Australia, in a speech on March 1, 2016 about Alcoa and corruption.

    ‘Alcoa of Australia Limited is the management of the Portland smelter and has a 55 per cent interest in the unincorporated joint venture. The other joint venture partners, each with a 22.5 per cent interest, are subsidiaries of CITIC Resources Holdings Limited and Marubeni.

    ‘CITIC Limited, the parent company of CITIC Resources, is the largest conglomerate in China. It is worth $1 trillion and is controlled by the Chinese government. CITIC is ranked as the 160th largest company in the world. CITIC Resources and other CITIC companies have other significant operations in Australia and, with a 16 per cent interest, it is the largest shareholder in Alumina Limited.’

    - See more at: http://www.mua.org.au/sue_lines_speech_on_alcoa#sthash.krHkgvl2.dpuf

    30

  • #
    Jester Court

    Removing the base load power generation will be economic suicide, as this example illustrates. AGW risk is uncertain, but economic suicide is not.

    The chance of dangerous global warming occurring by 2100 is very uncertain, the values of the TCR and ECS the modellers are using are guesses at best. It is likely the modest rates of sea level rise will be offset by increasing precipitation (snow) over Antarctica. Even the extra rain during the last big La Nina was enough to stop sea level rise.

    60

  • #
    john karajas

    Are the Victorian Greens finally aware of economic effects? Wow, Greenies, people in small country towns are seriously affected if they lose their jobs and all that, did ya’ know? How about organising a demo’ about it with people dressed up as cuddly koalas or something like that.

    Give me a break!

    131

    • #
      jorgekafkazar

      The solution to Green failures is always more Green activism.

      30

      • #
        Analitik

        Adam Bandt wants his Melbourne electorate to be running purely on renewables.
        Us fellow Victorians should bite the infrastructure bullet to install the separate transmission network needed to provide this. Dan Andrews, how about it?

        30

        • #
          bobl

          Yes, complete with infrastructure to limit consumption by managing loads in accordance to green generation. When renewabubbles are only generating 5% of nameplate the area can only draw 5% of its demand by say reducing voltage. IE 5% of 240 or 12 Volts AC will be provided. Let them see what renewables are really like.

          40

          • #
            Analitik

            Yep, that’s the essence of the phase shift transformers that I suggested to be installed at the ACT borders with the NSW and Victorian grids. The same should be applied to inner Melbourne.

            40

  • #
    liberator

    Alcoa, Hazelwood. Greening the country creates jobs – there’s jobs in renewables – just not too sure where they are – certainly not in Australia right now it seems.

    110

    • #

      We just have to look towards Central Africa to envisage what Australia’s future ‘green’ jobs will look like.

      50

    • #

      Traditionally, “there’ll be green jobs” is something you’re just supposed to say on certain occasions. Goes back to the Mongols. After Genghis Khan had razed your city to the ground and slaughtered the inhabitants, he was in the habit of saying: “Never mind, there’ll be green jobs.”

      50

    • #
      jorgekafkazar

      IIRR, in Spain each green “job” killed off two real jobs. Green jobs just can’t create significant net wealth.

      50

      • #
        bobl

        What is never mentioned is that these so-called green jobs are low paid expendable and menial jobs that are easily automated. How do you spell Vulnerable ….. G.R.E.E.N.

        30

  • #
    Trev

    The BIG issue everybody is missing here is that (heaven forbid) Alcoa closes Victoria will not have excess electricity, it will have BLACKOUTS. This is because Alcoa uses mainly Victoria’s off-peak excess. As a result, when toasters begin to be popped and electric kettles begin to boil in the early morning there is no need to fire up the boilers in the Latrobe Valley.

    That means Victoria has its base load up and available 24 hours a day. When was the last blackout in Victoria due primarily to a generating issue?

    And, if you are a greeny, emissions are curtailed as boilers rarely need to be fired up so there is far less of that (brown) smoke coming out of the smoke stacks (just white clouds coming out of the cooling towers).

    And no amount of wind farms in the western district will help Alcoa. Except to keep the security lights on a dormant smelter, I’d guess!

    130

    • #
      Analitik

      Exactly. As a large steady load that can provide some short term demand response, the Portland smelter helps stabilise the grid. But The Greens would have us install umpteen domestic batteries in the belief that this would provide the same capability

      30

  • #
    J Cuttance

    I’ve worked in an Al smelter. They need constant power and lots of it.
    If the bauxite and metal solidifies it’s a big issue.
    They might even consider closing that smelter, especially at current base metal prices.

    110

    • #
      jorgekafkazar

      That’s my thought, too, J.C. The likelihood of a repeat non-performance plus substantial damage makes a permanent shutdown probable. The fact that Greens consider this an acceptable outcome is a measure of their mental illness.

      81

      • #
        Analitik

        Me three. Alcoa could use the power situation as reason to bail earlier rather than wait for the loss of Hazelwood to make the plant operation a day by day proposition.

        Those lost pot lines may never come back

        60

    • #
      oeman50

      I notice not 1, but 12 windmills near the smelter. Why didn’t they supply the smelter during the blackout?

      70

  • #
    Geoffrey Williams

    The power crisis in SA is a disgrace! And the damage done to its industry is immeasurable. Surely the State government has a duty of care but they just don’t seem to understand. In most other economies heads would roll and so they should in this instance. Wake up South Australia!
    GeoffW

    51

    • #
      Mark

      Unfortunately, I suspect they do understand. Destruction of the capitalist system is at heart the desire of the greens and the ALP. It’s the only way of looking at their actions that makes sense.

      71

  • #
    Geoffrey Williams

    My comment #9 above …
    For SA read SA & VICTORIA.

    51

  • #
    Robert Rosicka

    Slightly OT but still linked , our vacuum cleaner died a couple of weeks ago (was an expensive high powered one) went to a local retailer and bought a cheapie $150 bucks and it was useless so took the offer of upgrading to a $500 cleaner that was rated industrial .
    Unit was shite too wouldn’t pick up half the stuff the old one did , so went to the store today to see if we could get it looked at or trade up again and was told that all vacuum cleaners in Australia now were limited to 1000 watts or less as per European standards .
    I knew they were doing this crap over there but had no idea it affects us too .

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    • #
      David Maddison

      Didn’t know that. That explains why so many friends have told me lately that they haven’t been able to buy a decent vac. cleaner.

      So I guess you have to spend twice as long vacuuming with the lower power machine and using as much energy or more than a higher powered machine.

      91

    • #
      David Maddison

      I looked into this.

      It had previously been covered by Jo, at least the European side of things.

      http://joannenova.com.au/2014/08/eu-bans-good-vacuum-cleaners-next-big-kettles-hot-irons/

      71

      • #

        I did not know we Australians could not buy a real vacuum cleaner?

        102

        • #
          Rereke Whakaaro

          They all use ersatz vacuum these days. There has been a shortage of real vacuum ever since they started putting it in valves and cathode ray tubes.

          70

        • #
          Robert Rosicka

          Sucks doesn’t it ? What’s with the red thumbs troll ?

          71

          • #

            Obviously a greenie or an idiot (most likely both), someone who doesn’t get how STUPID having under-powered equipment is. It doesn’t save a dang thing! Not energy, not CO2, certainly not time and effort. It’s a regressive step, making jobs HARDER and more TIME CONSUMING. It’s one step towards back to the Dark Age.

            (Sorry for shouting – but this p!$$e$ me off!)

            51

        • #

          Through some accident we in Australia are still able to get 2400W vacuums like this.

          Phew.

          52

          • #

            My thought is grab one while you can.

            20

            • #
              Robert Rosicka

              Doing some research and eventually vacuums will be 900 watt or less as per EU mandate , which starts in 2017 .
              At the moment it’s supposed to be 1600 watt max so no idea why Australia is getting the euro compliant rubbish , apparently it’s supposed to shave $30 a year off your electricity bill .
              Obviously thought up by a greenie who has never used a vacuum !
              To placate the angry masses they are claiming the more powerful the wattage does not mean the more powerful the unit .
              This may be so for the odd one or two but I’d rather have a V12 than a four cylinder any day .

              20

        • #

          Jo Nova December 6, 2016 at 2:59 am

          “I did not know we Australians could not buy a real vacuum cleaner?”

          Joanne,
          Do you actually have a dirty vacuum? Here in Arkansas USA we let the Texas Armadillos suck the detritus from the ‘Vacuum’! :-)

          20

  • #
    ROM

    Bit early in this post but off topic big news;

    BBC; Italy referendum: PM Matteo Renzi resigns after clear defeat

    The EU is in big, big trouble now;

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has resigned after suffering a heavy defeat in a referendum over his plan to reform the constitution.
    In a late-night news conference, he said he took responsibility for the outcome, and said the No camp must now make clear proposals.
    With most ballots counted, the No vote leads with 60% against 40% for Yes.
    The turnout was nearly 70%, in a vote that was seen as a chance to register discontent with the prime minister.
    &
    EU leaders won’t have slept much on Sunday night. Angst about Italy makes an uncomfortable bedfellow and there’s plenty for them to worry about. Particularly in Brussels. Prime Minister Renzi was the only premier left in Europe with a vision for the EU’s future. Angela Merkel is too busy crisis-managing while much of France is in thrall to Front National eurosceptics.
    &
    Italy wakes up on Monday to the threat of a banking crisis, political turmoil, and a group of anti-establishment populists banging on the doors of government. Eurozone beware and EU be warned. Italy is the euro currency’s third largest economy and it’s in for a bumpy ride. And there are more unpredictable votes to come in 2017: in France, Germany, the Netherlands and perhaps here in Italy too.

    And I suggest that with Brexit in the UK, Trump in the USA taking over from what is increasingly being suggested in a number of quarters including a couple of democratic opinion writers, as the worst President America has ever had , the Italian’s now giving the digit to the main Italian EU political supporters of the EU, another couple of EU nations potentially also giving the EU political supporting parties another up yours salute, the EU is about to fall apart almost literally then the whole Climate Change thing along with the Renewable Energy scam is about to fall over completely [ over 300 anti renewable energy, anti turbine groups now operating locally across Germany ] as far as the politicals are concerned with their own political hides coming first and the hell with global warming if it means personal political defeat and .

    121

  • #
    Yonniestone

    We went on a day trip there last month, all that beautiful coastal view ruined by bloody horrible turbines that contribute SFA to the grid and hamstring the economy.

    Alcoa now closed in Geelong got power from the Anglesea coal station (150mw), now closed also, which fed in its excess power to the Vic grid, when Alnglesea closed the local greens rejoiced like it was some great victory for the environment, I holidayed there in my youth and later lived in Torquay about 10 miles away and can honestly say you would never know a coal station was there unless it was pointed out, even then people didn’t believe you!

    This systematic erosion of our reliable base load electrical power must be stopped unless people are willing to accept living in pre-industrial conditions where a simple task now will take hours if not days of work to achieve, the day a majority give up current comforts and agree living in this green draconian lifestyle I’ll throw the towel in too.

    181

  • #
    Geoff Sherrington

    For decades now, I have been writing time and again that alumina refining and aluminium smelting are two huge users of electrical energy; that producers constantly monitor country risk, in terms of which country has the most reliable, low-cost electricity. Aluminium is almost the canary in the coal mine for national electricity quality.
    Canaries fly.
    So will any company like Alcoa being subjected to this boy scout level of national energy security.
    Yes, Australia, that is you.

    130

  • #
    Peter C

    What caused th blackout that damaged the Portland smelter?

    40

    • #
      el gordo

      There are two lines of power to Alcoa, just in case one breaks down the other one trips in and no harm. On this occasion one of the lines was down for maintenance when something happened to the other, so they were caught short.

      In terms of chaos theory its perfectly understandable, an amazing coincidence, but I’ll wait for the investigation to give us a definitive answer.

      40

  • #
    David Maddison

    This all makes sense when you realise that the real purpose of “renewable” electricity is the deliberate deindustrialisation of Western society. The minority of “Gangrenes” who aren’t just “useful idiots” (as are a majority of the Gangrenes), understand that industrial society can’t run on windmills, and so use the weapon of windmills to achieve their goals.

    61

  • #
    David Maddison

    The politicians and the sheeple simply have no idea of the massive scope of electricity production in modern Western societies and the huge size of machinery required to make it. They further have no idea of the vast amount of cheap reliable power required to run various smelters such as those for aluminium.

    61

  • #
    David Maddison

    The Greens are right. You could run a household on windmills and a household battery pack so long as society had been deindustrialised and you didn’t require heating, cooling, cooking and hot water.

    Computers, TV’s and LED lights can easily be supported by intermittent energy coming into the home and stored in batteries on the rare occasions it becomes available.

    41

    • #
      David-of-Cooyal-in-Oz

      I agree DM, but would add that it wouldn’t be so good for those who live in high rises, and probably need water and sewerage services, and the odd bit of frozen food from their supermarkets. In some, they might even like some air, a lift, and CCTV security. A train perhaps.
      It might be bad for even for some its greatest proponents.
      Wouldn’t that be nice?
      Cheers,
      Dave B

      50

  • #
    ROM

    Aluminium has been called “Congealed Electricity” for a very good reason.

    Large amounts of pure carbon black are also consumed as the large anode electrodes in the pots that heat and break down the Alumina containing bauxite ore and smelt it into a raw Aluminium product.

    40

  • #
    pat

    4 Dec: UK Telegraph: Emily Gosden: Battery subsidies spark energy row
    Battery storage projects could this week win Government subsidy contracts to guarantee they can provide electricity in a crisis – despite the fact they that they run out of juice in as little as half an hour.
    The Government has sparked an industry row over its decision to let batteries compete against power plants in its “capacity market” subsidy auction, which kicks off on Tuesday.
    The scheme is supposed to ensure Britain has enough reliable sources of power to keep the lights on through future winters. Ministers have decided they need to recruit 52GW of capacity for winter 2020-21…
    Most of those bidding for contracts own or want to build conventional power plants, such as coal, gas and nuclear, which can run for weeks at a time.
    However, about 500 megawatts (MW) of large-scale batteries developed by companies including Centrica, EDF and SSE have also qualified to compete. Many of the battery projects can only provide their maximum output for half an hour
    It is understood at least one rival energy firm has written to officials to raise concerns that this could leave Britain short of power in a future crisis…
    Critics suggest battery owners may have decided to take a calculated risk that such shortages will often only last for a half-hour peak period, and that the subsidy benefit outweighs potential penalties from occasional longer crises.
    “We need a rule to say, to be considered for this process you need to be able to run for minimum of two hours,” a senior industry source said…
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/12/04/battery-subsidies-spark-energy-row/

    registration was required to read more of the following:

    4 Dec: UK Telegraph: Tony Lodge: Stakes are high in showdown for Britain’s future energy strategy
    It is high noon for Britain’s fledgling energy policy. Years of failed interventions, arbitrary green targets and damaging subsidies will come to a head in this week’s capacity auction, when we will either see investors commit to building desperately needed new power plants or simply walk away.
    The stakes could not be higher, for the Government and for those policymakers who believed they had designed a credible strategy to keep the lights on…
    The overriding issue remains the urgent need to replace old coal-fired power stations, which have served the UK since the 1960s, with new plants that burn natural gas to generate electricity. At this stage, we can forget Hinkley C, as it will not be ready in time…
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/12/04/stakes-high-showdown-britains-future-energy-strategy/

    31

  • #
    Richard Ilfeld

    CLIMATE REFUGEE: A person forced to move/migrate because idiotic “green” policies removed the person’s ability to make a living.

    The Greens are apparently correct; there will be many Climate refugees..

    110

  • #
    Mikky

    Wind power fluctuations may well have had something to do with recent SA blackouts, but don’t forget solar PV, now capable of shifting demand up and down by several hundred MW, some of which will be unpredictable:

    https://climanrecon.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/south-australia-blackout-sept-28-2016/

    60

  • #
    Lionell Griffith

    Is there anyone not yet convinced that the green blob intends to destroy modern technological civilization?

    Especially since that is the result of every one of their implemented policies done over and over with exactly the same result? Even at the cost of their own survival.

    They are saving the earth for everything and anything but humans. Humans must live by using reason and acting to improve his existence. They do it by transforming a hostile environment into one conducive for his survival and thriving. Yet this is exactly what is increasingly being prohibited. It is done on purpose with conscious intent.

    100

  • #

    And “they” expect to be able to build submarines with an infrastructure like that?

    I can see the welds cracking from here.

    100

    • #
      David Maddison

      Yes, once you start a big mission-critical weld you can’t stop until it is finished.

      What could possibly go wrong when you rely on windmill power, something we haven’t done since the invention of the steam engine and the start of the industrial revolution.

      60

  • #
    Phillip Bratby

    A task force. Yes that’s the ticket. No doubt “lessons will be learned” and ignored.

    50

  • #
    Another Ian

    Jo

    FYI – more green dream

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2016/11/28/decorative-diesel.html

    “From the website of the government of American Samoa

    The project description lists 1,410 kW of Solar panels and 6,000 kWh of battery storage. Also, three new 275KW Cummins Diesel Generators…

    The latter presumably for decoration.”

    60

  • #
    • #
      Analitik

      Sorry Dennis. I came across the same thing from another source and started a separate comment trail. My apologies.

      10

  • #
    Analitik

    /rant on

    WTF is the CSIRO doing contributing to this drivel? Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap: Key Concepts Report

    - 34 GWh of “customer” storage by 2027 – 95 GWh by 2050
    - Networks pay distributed energy resources customers over $2.5 billion per annum for grid support services by 2050
    - 100 TWh of domestic PV (80 GW deployed) and 200 TWh of wind generated electricity in 2050′s all renewable national grid.

    Who’s in charge of that circus?

    And when did this Energy Networks Australia body decide to jump on to the CAGW renewables feeding trough? Someone needs to tell them they missed that gravy train and should get back to their jobs of planning gas distribution and power transmission and distribution rather than dreaming up fantasy scenarios for the sake of diverting funds.

    42

    • #
      Graeme No.3

      Drivel yes, but note the unspoken premise; it is all about the consumer generating his own electricity. Since retail i.e. household use is only 32% of current demand it seems that they think that there won’t be any of that ‘nasty, dirty’ industry or mining or agriculture. The “ordinary” consumer will be able to afford lots of solar PV, battery storage etc. presumably since all those wrongly orientated houses or those poorly insulated will be demolished and rebuilt (with natural – whatever that means – sustainable – whatever that means ) materials at no cost to anybody.

      Total and utter drivel and if it were ever to happen would be ghastly news for public servants, university hangers on etc. as there wouldn’t be any money to maintain their positions. Just deserts in this case.

      31

      • #
        Analitik

        Actually, the consumer generated power premise is well and truly to the forefront of the report with domestic systems supposedly exporting significant amounts of energy to the grid as well as providing storage. Most of the rooftop PV generated power from the “active” households is expected to be consumed by the “passive” ones.

        The 200 TWh of wind generated electricity and 50 TWh from solar farms is for industry.
        In the meantime, gas consumption skyrockets to displace the nasty coal generation to keep meeting the CO2 reduction milestones.

        108 pages of milestones, “standards” and targets – nonsense about “fairness” and “resilience” to meet the climate change “challenge”. And precisely ZERO mention of battery costs and limitations – they are just assumed to be available and people will buy them to become “active” grid participants.

        20

  • #
    Analitik

    Probably no one will read this but anyway…

    A point that has totally been missed by everyone with this blackout is the fact that in the past, South Australia could have prevented the damage to the Alcoa smelter (and made a tidy profit) by supplying Portland with exports via the Heywood Interconnector, even if only at a maintenance level to keep the pot lines warm on a rotation basis. Instead, the South Australian grid was unable to self supply, let alone provide external support services.

    The South Australian attitude has been so self-concerned that their ability (or rather lack thereof) to provide support to interstate users has been totally ignored. Just another utter failing for the renewables transition.

    20