AWAM Asia: Kwinana Refinery
Growth of the Kwinana Refinery in its first decade of operation was spectacular, with the original one-unit 200,000 tonne plant becoming a six-unit 1.5 million tonne plant by 1973. Since then, the plant has been re-engineered so that today it is effectively a five-unit 2.0 million tonne facility. Because of the way Kwinana was built it has retained some advantages compared with other plants. Factors such as its relatively small unit size and substantial tank storage made Kwinana the obvious choice when Alcoa decided to diversify its product range by developing specialty alumina feedstocks.

Specialty aluminas find their way into a huge range of applications - such as water purification, refractory materials, pharmaceuticals, artificial marble, paper sizing, ceramics, abrasives, petroleum processing, plastics and fire retardant in carpets.

Kwinana produces a varied of specialty aluminas. Alcoa's KB-30 and KC-30 aluminium hydrate are specially manufactured for the chemicals business. These products are widely used for production of aluminium sulphate, aluminium fluoride, detergent grade zeolites and various other applications. An intermediate-soda calcined alumina, KA-25, is used for the production of Fused Alumina, while a third product, KA-13, is calcined to higher temperatures making it a suitable product for refractory and polishing applications.

The markets for these sorts of products are highly competitive, but the Kwinana plant has been able to establish itself as the largest supplier in Asia.

One of the key requirements of customers for alumina chemicals is product quality. Specialty alumina buyers around the world require ISO9002 certification before doing business with their suppliers. This led Kwinana's management to seek certification of its production systems by an independent organisation. In consequence, Kwinana became the first alumina refinery in the world to be accredited to Quality standards AS3902 (the Australian standard) and ISO9002 (the international standard.)

KB-30 Hydrate production
Kwinana Refinery has built a manufacturing facility with an initial design cost of $42.9 million to produce new specialty aluminium tri-hydrate for chemicals applications. The new facility came on stream in 1995. It will produce a nominal 270,000 tonnes of high quality, low impurity hydrate called KB-30, and it will supply markets that demand a very high level of brightness that cannot be satisfied by KC-30. This is an indication of the material's purity and low organics content. By incorporating various filtration and impurity removal steps, the final product is a "clean" hydrate that exceeds our customers' expectations.

The product is sold worldwide, and is targeted at the specialty aluminas markets such as fire retardants, fillers, zeolites and titanium dioxide. Annual production is likely to have a gross market value of more than $45 million. The following products are marketed on a worldwide basis:
KC-30: Sourced from SGA stream. Buff Colour, 99+% Al2O3.3H2O, 0.3% Na2O. Used for Alum (water treatment) and sodium aluminate (zeolite and titania).
KB-30: Purified isolated stream (ACAP facility) source. Bright, near-white colour, 99.5+% Al2O3.3H2O, 0.25% Na2O. Used for alum, sodium aluminate, polyaluminium chloride (water treatment) and polymer fillers (plastics).
KA-25: Calcined alumina with a 65 - 70 m2/g surface area, 0.2% Na2O. Used at a feedstock for fused alumina production.
KA-13: Calcined alumina with 14 m2/g surface area, 0.2% Na2O. Feed stock for sintered alumina, refractory aggregate, and general ceramic, abrasive and refractory use.
KA-01: Specially isolated SGA, 70 m2/g surface area, 0.45% Na2O. General chemical uses: abrasives, ceramics, refractories, glass.

Click image to enlarge.

A bulk carrier berths at the Kwinana Refinery dock to load alumina - Alcoa Photograph