Fears crippled Alcoa plant in Portland may never reopen after power failure

 

News article: Fears crippled Alcoa plant in Portland may never reopen after power failure

The far-west Victorian city of Portland is in shock after a catastrophic power failure plunged the future of its biggest employer, Alcoa, into jeopardy.

  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Only Australia would place so many people in the dark and place such an important manufacturing plant into jeopardy.  Just criminal.

On another note, how much of the finished product from the plant is used dometically?

Fears crippled Alcoa plant in Portland may never reopen after power failure

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  woodford Chief Commissioner

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......................

A good number of Railpagers complain about subsudies for rail, Why then is it OK to subsidies  a non competitive Aluminium smelting operation, particularly one running on out dated technology.

woodford
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
A good number of Railpagers complain about subsidies for rail, Why then is it OK to subsidise a non competitive aluminium smelting operation, particularly one running on out dated technology.
woodford
It was a good idea at the time, but poorly executed with a terrible contract. But of course, Alcoa probably wouldn't have built a new smelter anywhere in Victoria in the 80s at all if it hadn't of gotten a good deal on the power price.

Additionally, the SECV at the time badly wanted new large industrial customers to help justify their massive Latrobe Valley power station expansion/replacement programme. Big modern stations = lower power prices for everyone, effectively making Alcoa Portland a way to cross-subsidise cheaper electricity costs for all of Victoria. Funnily enough, Hazelwood would've been closed 15+ years ago as part of that programme if the SECV had remained a state-owned enterprise.

But that's all hypothetical now. Alcoa Portland should close if the subsidy is too high.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Post script to the above,

Sometime time back I went on tour of the Point Henry plant, That was a real education, the strength of the magnetic field around the pot line was simply phenomanal, I actaully felt quite ill when close to such strong fields. what the guide said on answer to a question "what would happen if they lost power to the pot line?, was we would probably have to close as it would not be economicly viable at this stage to put in a new line, the old cells not being able to be recovered, each with quite  few tons of solid aluminium in them.

The quide did say where the product went, I cannot now remember where portlands went, but he said most of Point henry''s went for aluminium cans. this was quite some years ago.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
I don't think the big question is the viability of the Alcoa plant , the question is the psychological capacity of those that think wind and solar are going to carry the day with current (no pun) technology .
I hope the Green slimes are ones affected most and it'd be interesting to see what puerile excuses they come up with .
Before some of you push the Liberal National Coalition down my throat Turdbull is the best thing Layba never had .
The voting public will be taking note of all this and those without a job are going to be having a thin time of it .
If I was Layba in SA I'd be very concerned about voter backlash because the truth is there's no one to blame other than Layba and the Greens .
The electricity that is bludged out of Victoria etc to bail them out isn't necessarily wind or solar and when other States have problems of their own they should shut down the links to SA . SA should be able to stand on its own feet and not have these issues regardless of what the Ricotta brained idealists believe in . Charity starts at home .
As we've seen wind and solar generated electricity is not reliable workable 24/7/365 and to chain the SA public to them is a criminal act of lunacy .
I wonder if the day will come when they outlaw back up diesel generators and people start dying in Hospitals etc .
Regrettable losses in a "sustainable" world . Tell the mourning families that .
  allan Chief Commissioner

I wonder if the day will come when they outlaw back up diesel generators and people start dying in Hospitals etc .
Regrettable losses in a "sustainable" world . Tell the mourning families that .
BDA
Probably not diesel generators, but certainly coal-fired generators. People have been dying because of the emmissions from burning coal for generations...
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
I don't think the big question is the viability of the Alcoa plant , the question is the psychological capacity of those that think wind and solar are going to carry the day with current (no pun) technology .
I hope the Green slimes are ones affected most and it'd be interesting to see what puerile excuses they come up with .
Before some of you push the Liberal National Coalition down my throat Turdbull is the best thing Layba never had .
The voting public will be taking note of all this and those without a job are going to be having a thin time of it .
If I was Layba in SA I'd be very concerned about voter backlash because the truth is there's no one to blame other than Layba and the Greens .
The electricity that is bludged out of Victoria etc to bail them out isn't necessarily wind or solar and when other States have problems of their own they should shut down the links to SA . SA should be able to stand on its own feet and not have these issues regardless of what the Ricotta brained idealists believe in . Charity starts at home .
As we've seen wind and solar generated electricity is not reliable workable 24/7/365 and to chain the SA public to them is a criminal act of lunacy .
I wonder if the day will come when they outlaw back up diesel generators and people start dying in Hospitals etc .
Regrettable losses in a "sustainable" world . Tell the mourning families that .
BDA
Your knuckles must be red raw from dragging them around on the ground all day.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Yours must be red raw from walking on your hands .
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
In similar situations in NZ and Wales, insurance companies requires a full restart of lost capacity.

In the case of Wales for Anglesea, their power contract had less than 18mths to run with no hope of renew when they lost 1 of their 2 potlines when one of their sites HV transformer went bang.
  birdman1 Beginner

Portland Aluminium is the largest employer in the region, with 510 direct employees and approximately 140 contractors and a total of 2000 indirect jobs. The majority of employees live in the local Portland community.
Annually, it contributes approximately AU$65 million in salaries and wages, and around AU$62 million in local supply contracts.
The smelter produces approximately 20 per cent of Australia’s total aluminum production.
Aluminum from Portland Aluminium is a valuable export good for the state of Victoria.
In 2015, Alcoa of Australia injected approximately AU$395 million into Australia’s local, state and federal governments through the payment of royalties, taxes, rates, and charges.
Approximately AU$15.4 million was paid to Victoria’s local and state governments.


The media also fail to mention how much money the government got in the good years when aluminium makes money. I would be surprised if there would be to many smelters not getting subsidised power or kick backs. Its a shame they don't build a nuclear power plant up the road and be self sufficient but I dont see that happening in Australia to soon.As for the place of build if it wasn't built there would we have a national grid today ? And what would the wind turbines be connected to. There are many already directly going into the smelters switch yard. Do they use the National grid ?.The smelter itself is still reasonable modern and a mid size smelter instead of large like it once was It still has 20 years left in it.If it was to get a long term power agreement and it survives the next few days and board members. There is potential to get more out of a low emission smelter rather then make it in China with less emission control. Look at Bell Bay over 50 years oldand has about 10 years left on its power deal.Tomago is up for a power renewal next year also much bigger then Portland is this government going to let industry leave Australia.
  dm211060 Station Staff

I don't think the big question is the viability of the Alcoa plant , the question is the psychological capacity of those that think wind and solar are going to carry the day with current (no pun) technology .
I hope the Green slimes are ones affected most and it'd be interesting to see what puerile excuses they come up with .
Before some of you push the Liberal National Coalition down my throat Turdbull is the best thing Layba never had .
The voting public will be taking note of all this and those without a job are going to be having a thin time of it .
If I was Layba in SA I'd be very concerned about voter backlash because the truth is there's no one to blame other than Layba and the Greens .
The electricity that is bludged out of Victoria etc to bail them out isn't necessarily wind or solar and when other States have problems of their own they should shut down the links to SA . SA should be able to stand on its own feet and not have these issues regardless of what the Ricotta brained idealists believe in . Charity starts at home .
As we've seen wind and solar generated electricity is not reliable workable 24/7/365 and to chain the SA public to them is a criminal act of lunacy .
I wonder if the day will come when they outlaw back up diesel generators and people start dying in Hospitals etc .
Regrettable losses in a "sustainable" world . Tell the mourning families that .
BDA
Why the rant about renewables given this was a failure of power that was pretty much nothing to do with with renewables BDA? You are clearly knowledgeable about all sorts of issues about railways but on this one you, um, aren't. What's up?
  Z VAN Locomotive Driver

Portland Aluminium is the largest employer in the region, with 510 direct employees and approximately 140 contractors and a total of 2000 indirect jobs. The majority of employees live in the local Portland community.
Annually, it contributes approximately AU$65 million in salaries and wages, and around AU$62 million in local supply contracts.
The smelter produces approximately 20 per cent of Australia’s total aluminum production.
Aluminum from Portland Aluminium is a valuable export good for the state of Victoria.
In 2015, Alcoa of Australia injected approximately AU$395 million into Australia’s local, state and federal governments through the payment of royalties, taxes, rates, and charges.
Approximately AU$15.4 million was paid to Victoria’s local and state governments.


The media also fail to mention how much money the government got in the good years when aluminium makes money. I would be surprised if there would be to many smelters not getting subsidised power or kick backs. Its a shame they don't build a nuclear power plant up the road and be self sufficient but I dont see that happening in Australia to soon.As for the place of build if it wasn't built there would we have a national grid today ? And what would the wind turbines be connected to. There are many already directly going into the smelters switch yard. Do they use the National grid ?.The smelter itself is still reasonable modern and a mid size smelter instead of large like it once was It still has 20 years left in it.If it was to get a long term power agreement and it survives the next few days and board members. There is potential to get more out of a low emission smelter rather then make it in China with less emission control. Look at Bell Bay over 50 years oldand has about 10 years left on its power deal.Tomago is up for a power renewal next year also much bigger then Portland is this government going to let industry leave Australia.
birdman1


Yes Alcoa receives a subsidy regards Electricity tariffs however as the above post points out the Government gives with one hand but the Community gains with the other.
An economically practical decision is made do we pay everybody to be on welfare or pay a company and in a round about way we all have a job and a Town to live in.
If we send the manufacturing overseas we not only lose the jobs but lose the ability to control emissions, environmental effects etc that effects all. If the government does not become involved we cannot all be Bank CEO's or Jim's Mowing self employed people.
Totally off post look at the NSW North West Metro project. The rail has come from Spain.
Would it have been a better option to buy Arrium rail rolled at Wyalla than proposing a Federal Government bail out?
Same dollar outlay but all spent in Australia. What a revolutionary proposal!
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
No Smelter in Australia receives power without using the grid.

The smelters outside Vic at least are paying commercial rates, remember RTA owns 50% of Gladstone power station which supplies the bulk of the demand, the rest is bought from Stanwell and Callide, Boyne and I think Tomago also pays the coal price premium.

RTA once offered to buy power generation assets off Tasmanian govt to stablise and guarentee the price longterm and hence justify replacement of the 1960's aging but still doing ok small pot line technology with 1990's technology. The govt stupidly refused, could have solved alot of debt issues and provided an industry with a major investment into the state and 40+ years of operating life. Its now likely to close in early 2020's when the power contract expires.

No smelter in Australia would be viable off Nuclear power and very little aluminium is made off nuclear power world wide

RTA is very confident about Tomago power contract renewal.

Portland pays the highest price for power out of the remaining smelters
  BigTrain2015 Junior Train Controller

Now Hazelwood is closing down where does that leave the plant anyhow and also South Australia?
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Look at the average load on the coal fired capacity. the loss of Hazelwood is easily absorbed.

Part of the problem for Australia is the power price at the generator gate is too often below replacement cost and hence generators will fall away as age and other factors come to play.

Ie the power stations are prof it able but not sustainable long term.  it's why Alinta closed Northern and Hazelwood is finally going and more will follow.
  HardWorkingMan Chief Commissioner

Location: Echuca
Our politicians either lack the knowledge to connect issues or simply don't care. By not heeding the lessons learnt during wartimes their actions desecrate the ANZAC spirit they are so proud of.

A couple of examples

Politicians stated that water taken from the Goulburn River has nothing to do with Murray River flows yet the Goulburn flows into the Murray about 15km upsteam of Echuca so if you take water out of the Goulburn you are taking it out of the Murray.

I have been working in the office of a pressure vessel manufacturing plant.  The closure of local production by Ford and Holden (yes Holden have produced the last Cruze and Commodore) followed by Toyota dramatically increases the price for the grade of steel produced by BHP/Bluescope as we are small customers compared to the car companies.  In order to keep the current price they need to order and pay for 6 years supply in advance and take delivery of all of it before Christmas 2016.  This is simply not affordable if it is to compete on price with imports.  It's not something you can blame BHP/Bluescope for they have minimum batch sizes before they make any money but the biggest customers are gone.  The government allowed/encouraged the car manufacturers to leave without caring about the impact on other Australian Manufacturers.

Finally there are the defence issues. In all the major wars until recently the railway workshops, vehicle manufacturers etc were all equipped to be able to turn out the weapons for the war effort, the machinery required to farm the land or mine the raw minerals(we had several tractor manufacturers such as Chamberlain, Howard etc that are long gone), build railway rollingstock etc.  Also given our power and other key industries are now owned by overseas interests, along with our food manufacturers (eg SPC) we can no longer really defend or supply ourselves. Our fuels are mainly imported too so we have nothing to run anything with anyway.  

This is where the successive governments of all persuasions don't understand what they are doing to our country. Not that the alternatives are much better when the same environmental group want people to give up their water rights and plant more trees and think that water will magically appear from a tap.

Nobody who doesn't understand how a power outage can mean no water available at the house doesn't understand regional Australia and that is common as our government departments are full of people who have never lived outside a city or town
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Look at the average load on the coal fired capacity. the loss of Hazelwood is easily absorbed.

Part of the problem for Australia is the power price at the generator gate is too often below replacement cost and hence generators will fall away as age and other factors come to play.

Ie the power stations are prof it able but not sustainable long term.  it's why Alinta closed Northern and Hazelwood is finally going and more will follow.
RTT_Rules

A good friend owns an energy retailer and advised rates from the generator for coal are in the order of $.05 per kilowatt.  Not much when you consider we are paying more than $0.23 per kilowatt.

Who is making the money?
  Y115 Chief Train Controller
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-05/portland-smelter-to-operate-at-one-third-capacity/8092256
Y115

Any reason why Portland domestic output does not use rail now Portland is SG?
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
Look at the average load on the coal fired capacity. the loss of Hazelwood is easily absorbed.

Part of the problem for Australia is the power price at the generator gate is too often below replacement cost and hence generators will fall away as age and other factors come to play.

Ie the power stations are prof it able but not sustainable long term.  it's why Alinta closed Northern and Hazelwood is finally going and more will follow.

A good friend owns an energy retailer and advised rates from the generator for coal are in the order of $.05 per kilowatt.  Not much when you consider we are paying more than $0.23 per kilowatt.

Who is making the money?
bevans
Power retailers. That's why they chop and change prices.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Transmission Network Operators and Distribution Network Operators take substantially more than the retailers. Remember, there is a whole network to take care of between the power station and the wire that runs into your house...
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
If ALCOA were to close the Portland smelter, that would be devestating for Portland, and the local district.

That plant is the lifeblood for the whole community. NOT just locals who work there, but every single job in that town would be affected. The trickle down effect would affect everything, shops will close, real estate values will tumble, schools would downsize if not close themselves, people will be left with no option other than to leave Portland in the search for work. This will spread the pain to other communities that likely will already have their own issues to deal with.

Add this to the large scale closures at Hazlewood and in the car industry and you are seeing a large number of people loosing their employment, unlikely to get future emplyment.

Recent statistics show, when a large business closes, and a large number of people become unemployed you can split them into 3 even categories. if 1000 jobs are lost, usually 1/3 will find suitable work fairly quickly (under 6 months), another 1/3 will remain unemployed for the medium term (6-12 months) before finding some sort of steady employment, and the last 1/3 will remain unemployed for at the very least the next 3 years, often permanently.

The government didn't do enough to stop the closures in the Auto industry.

The government hasn't done enough to adequatly replace both the lost power output and lost jobs when the inevitble closing of Hazlewood occurs.

The government (both state and federal) must step in to assist with keeping ALCOA open, and assuring that it's future is much more secure than in recent times.

Yes ALCOA is a foreign company, but I don't think that matters much to the people of Portland. The Governments need to learn from the mistakes of the past, and ensure that we don't loose more jobs.

As for arguments for or against coal fired power, it's quite simple, coal is terrible, it's a shocking pollutant, will not last forever and is an ancient way of providing for our power needs, but until other options are as affordable and reliable as coal has been for the last god knows how many years, it will still power this state.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
There is a case for saying that burning any combustible material is terrible coal is just one of them .
I don't see Petrol Diesel LPG LNG Butane etc etc as any worse .
The catch cry is Carbon - or more specifically Carbon Dioxide gas . If it were so critically toxic we carbon based life forms that huff the stuff out wouldn't exist .
ALL energy comes back to a heat source and nothing you can burn to generate heat is ever going to be pure oxygen sweet .
Make energy excessively expensive and everyone suffers .
Apply enforced supposedly "sustainable" electricity generation ie solar and wind and failures are inevitable .
Its very easy to be holier than thou but what about when all your refrigerated food goes off , ditto the supermarkets , no hot water oh and BTW DCM because you no longer have a job .
These issues are far more catastrophic to Joe Average and the lations than bleeding hear do gooders moaning about Hockey Sticks and supposedly higher tides on some sandy Atoll .
When the smoke clears Joe wants someone to throttle and he'll do it at the polling booth .
  arctic Deputy Commissioner

Location: Zurich

The government hasn't done enough to adequately replace both the lost power output and lost jobs when the inevitble closing of Hazlewood occurs.
Gman_86
There is no need to "replace" the power output from Hazelwood. Plenty of baseload energy left in the grid. Jobs are another thing but it would be unwise to keep a really old and inefficient plant going for the sole purpose of an employment soak.

Cheers
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Look at the average load on the coal fired capacity. the loss of Hazelwood is easily absorbed.

Part of the problem for Australia is the power price at the generator gate is too often below replacement cost and hence generators will fall away as age and other factors come to play.

Ie the power stations are prof it able but not sustainable long term.  it's why Alinta closed Northern and Hazelwood is finally going and more will follow.

A good friend owns an energy retailer and advised rates from the generator for coal are in the order of $.05 per kilowatt.  Not much when you consider we are paying more than $0.23 per kilowatt.

Who is making the money?
You need to look at it alot deeper than that.

The typical response by the anti smelter crowd is they ALL get subsidised power because its so cheap and why are they paying 4-6 x as much at home, claiming subsidies and rip off yada yada brainless rubbish.

A few facts
1) A smelter typically buys a block of power for 25 years with a +99% load factor, typically plus 99.7%. A typical Australian house has a load factor of 5 to 75% of its connection, varying multiple times a day over a year. Domestic customers can cut off supply with minimal notice and then demand re-connection with minimal notice. There is no long-term commitment

2) A smelter pays its power bill on time each month
Many houses don't pay on time, need to be reminded or may still even be on Qtrly bills

3) A smelter buys power at 110kA/275kA, no distribution which is the most expensive part of power for houses.
Houses buy power at 240 (some 415) VAC which requires a number of steps down, numerous substations and different networks

4) A smelter doesn't have a meter that requires to be manually read. Both customer and supplier have counters and as long as they are the same everyone is happy.

5) A smelter provides a balanced 3-phase load and harmonic filters on its power so as not to disturb other customers and balance the grid. Power companies are constantly trying to balance residential power loads.

6) A Smelter does not require the costly customer service hotlines and offices.

7) Long term power contracts are bankable contracts the govt and or private power station operator can use to more easily secure finance at lower costs.

8) These power contracts are typically "TAKE OR PAY", which means failure to use your full block means the customer pays anyway or at least a reduced amount.

9) The large customers provide a stablising impact on the grid.

The list goes on

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