800xA for Alunorte alumina plant, bauxite mine and pipeline in Brazil

Plant-wide automation system boost production capacity by 75 % at the world's largest, most technologically advanced alumina refinery in the world


ABB helps Alunorte keep operational availability close to 100% since 1994, while increasing production capacity and maintaining high product quality.

The largest alumina refinery in the world

Alumina is a white powder obtained from bauxite ore through a chemical process. This alumina is the main raw material for aluminum production.

Alunorte refinery, in the Para state in Brazil, began its alumina production in 1994, with two lines and an installed capacity of 1.1 million ton per year, using ABB's MasterPiece control technology. By 2002 Alunorte has reached 1.6 million ton per year. A third line was added in 2003 and the MasterPiece technology was evolved to Advant control system for all the lines, producing 2.4 ton / year by 2004.

After a history of successes in the first three production lines, Alunorte trusted ABB to continue supplying automation systems to their process in its further expansion projects, that made it the largest alumina refinery in the world.

The lowest ramp-up time ever registered in the industry

The $800-million Phase III expansion project in 2006 consisted of two new production lines (Nos. 4 and 5) that significantly raised the capacity at the plant from 2.4 to 4.2 million tons of alumina a year. During that time the plant enhanced its control system by adding System 800xA Extended Automation platform. This award-winning automation solution equipped Alunorte with a unique capability to control, manage and optimize the plant’s thousands of field devices, regardless of manufacturer.

Working closely with Alunorte, ABB completed the commissioning of the system in just 20 weeks, enabling the two lines to go quickly onstream and reach full production speed in record time. Ramp up to full production usually takes several months, but the unique capability of System 800xA enabled it to be completed in an unprecedented 12 days.

Main facts

Industry Aluminium production
Customer Alunorte
Country Brazil

Advant Master DCS evolution
System 800xA with:

Ramp up to full production usually takes several months, but the unique capability of System 800xA enabled it to be completed in an unprecedented 12 days

The largest upstream automation project ever undertaken

By mid-2008, two additional lines increased production capacity to 6.26 million tons. The refinery was linked by a 244-kilometer pipeline – the first of its kind in the world – through which up to 14.4 million tons of bauxite a year are delivered from the Paragominas bauxite mine. 

ABB has been selected to supply complete automation solutions for both the mine and the pipeline, making the entire Alunorte –pipeline– Parogominas chain one of the largest upstream automation projects ever undertaken.

Alunorte is jointly owned by CVRD (57 percent), Norsk Hydro (34 percent), and other partners. Paragominas and the pipeline are both owned by CVRD.

Project with the largest number of fieldbuses in the world

ABB took the challenge of executing the project with the largest number of fieldbuses in the world. All device interfaces are completely integrated with ABB’s Extended Automation System 800xA.

All the necessary libraries for communication with 35 different device types from several suppliers were developed and tested during the project phase in close cooperation between Alunorte, ABB and third party suppliers. The result was a significant enhancement in the solutions library.

The automation system has a total of 18 000 I/O points using the ABB S800 I/O System, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus interfaces and 13 redundant AC800M controllers. All motor control center interfaces with the system are via Profibus communication and all instrumentation is done via Foundation Fieldbus High Speed Ethernet.

Staff can access the technical and operational data for all devices with a single click of the mouse and perform advanced asset management procedures like monitoring the performance and energy consumption of each instrument. Functions like these provide Alunorte with the ability to manage each item of equipment and ensure it is operating optimally and at a level of cost efficiency not previously possible.

This integration with intelligent devices provided a centralized amount of diagnostic information, opening up a wide range of possibilities in the asset optimization area for ABB and Alunorte’s next implementations.
Roberto Trindade, Alunorte Maintenance Manager
“We have a frame agreement with ABB since the first expansion. We do not buy a package; with ABB’s know-how and our operational technology we build the project solutions together”.
Automation network topology Alunorte

Industrial Process

Successful operations driven for improvement

The entire refinery – including all five production lines, the material handling systems and harbor – is controlled, monitored and optimized by ABB automation systems.

"The ABB system has helped Alunorte reach production goals since start-up. If the DCS can give you good data, you can turn the data into information. If you have the power of information, you can change everything with the right tools to make the change. Alunorte drives for improvement and ABB is one of the most importnat tools for the increase of production capacity," says Jorge Aldi, Process and System Development Manager for Alunorte.

"My work involves series of activities where I have to provide safety," says Rui Guilherme Medeiros, and Electrical Engineer at Alunorte. "During many years I have worked here, it is hard to remember any problems, so we consider it and extremely reliable system, both in terms of maintenance and operations. Alunorte demands day-to-day improvements, improvements and more improvements. The ABB software and the entire control system have added quality to my day-to-day activities".

Medeiros went on to explain that it's very important to operators to be able to trust the information they receive on the screen. That's the basic factor in enabling correct decisions. The ABB software allows operators to work anywhere in the plant in safety, in spite of not being an expert in every area - because they can easily use and understand the one, plant-wide system. Thus, training time and expense are greatly reduced while safety is greatly increased. Medeiros again: "We are totally sure of what we are doing, as we know the product and what it can offer us, in a very clear and objective manner. That translates into easiness, reliability and promptness: benefits we bring to the operation."

Alunorte has introduced several improvements to the process and the control system since the plant opened. This has been transparent from the operations point of view. "Operations has not been affected, nor the quality of the alumina or the operator's certainty in using the data shown," said Medeiros. "We've made some improvements to the system; we've changed controllers, improved screens, and the system's level of safety and reliability remains intact. After introducing enhancements, you don't lose reliability, but rather add profits and benefits".

With only one shutdown in 12 years (planned and for just eight hours), Alunorte has operated at close to 100 percent availability since 1994.

Carlos Roberto Abrunheiro, Trinidade Alunorte Manager
“The ABB control systems have contributed much to increasing production and to achieving the results obtained by Alunorte during its years of operation.”


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