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Bahrain's Taha makes strong moves.

A Bahrain-based company that has developed a breakthrough green, efficient and cost-effective process to separate aluminium from smelter dross and produce fertiliser from the aluminium oxide residue has made major headway.

Taha International Corporation has been allotted a plot by Bahrain's Ministry of Commerce and Industry to build a factory. The company says studies are in progress and construction of the new plant could begin in two months for completion to occur by the end of next year. The plant, south of the Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) complex, will primarily produce fertiliser while prospects exist for using the aluminium oxide for making ceramics and material such as cool decks for which Taha has devised a way that allows less than 50 per cent of the sun's heat to be absorbed.

Pollmann: adding value

The company has also started a joint venture with a Saudi group, Al Mutawa, for providing services to a major smelter under construction in Ras Azzour on the east coast of Saudi Arabia.

It has been talking to Qatar's Qatalum for a role in recovering metal through the Taha process. Qatalum has sent its dross to Bahrain where it is treated in the old-fashioned way.

Taha also announced that the first of its two New Zealand plants, Taha Asia-Pacific, built in Tiwai on South Island, will be inaugurated on October 5. The plant produces aluminium oxide from dross under Taha's mechanical separation process at the site of the New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) plant. Taha is working at the plant under a contract awarded by mining company Rio Tinto to have metal retrieved from dross.

Witter: prospects wide

The second plant, Taha Fertilizer Industries, located in Invercargill, also on South Island, will begin formal production in November. This plant uses aluminium oxide produced from the Taha metal separation process in Tiwai to make the fertiliser. Output from the plant will be marketed under the brand name Ouvea and sold within New Zealand. Taha has received the certification of conformity with European fertiliser laws and is certified to sell its product in the EU.

The fertiliser plant can yield 10,000 tonnes per year -- too little to serve New Zealand's substantial needs. However the more plants Taha signs up for recovering metal and aluminium oxide the more fertiliser it will be able to produce.

The company says fertiliser made under the Taha process enables plants to grow in salty environments. Frank Pollmann, a German national who is Taha's managing director, said the company conducted international studies with Bermuda grass which is sensitive to salt. "We were able to show that with our fertiliser we could have a beautiful lawn. A UK company we appointed did a test in simulated Bahrain-like conditions and the same result was seen."

For some time Taha exported aluminium oxide produced from its Gulf Aluminium Rolling Mills (Garmco) operation in Bahrain to China for use in the ceramic industry. The company believes it can gain more from making value-added products on its own. It has now stored aluminium oxide for use in the new factory that is to be built in Bahrain.

Mechanical separation process "The technology is developed inhouse and is a mechanical separation process. We've succeeded over six and a half years to the point we now have ventured out into New Zealand," said Pollmann. The technology incorporates two parts, the first of which is the Taha hot process where a majority of the metal is extracted immediately after it is skimmed from the client's furnace. In the second stage a furnace with a permanent magnetic stirring system is used. It moves the remaining metal around creating a vortex. Metal is sucked down where it melts, enabling full recovery.

The Taha process utilises energy available in the dross, enabling cost savings. And unlike traditional methods, no salt is used to separate the oxide from the metal. Companies employing the traditional system use salt to protect the metal from burning, when they reheat it, thereby creating a hazardous salt cake with no treatment facilities in the GCC region.

"In our system, there's no salt or chemicals of any kind or additives and with everything being utilised for additional value there is zero waste and nothing going into landfills. We give back to the client 95 to 98 per cent of recoverable metal and retain nothing for ourselves," Pollmann highlighted.

A worker at the Taha Asia-Pacific plant in Tiwai, New Zealand

"The innovation is not just in the way we extract it but what we make of the residue. We don't produce toxic waste. The smelter gets metal and there's fertiliser as the new value-added product.

"One of the core elements of the technology is transparency. Doing it onsite, right before the client-smelter's eyes is a straight forward approach with no chance of manipulation."

First tried at Garmco The process was first tried successfully at Garmco with whom Taha worked closely for developing the process, fine tuning it through trial and error. Taha continues to treat dross at the firm. "Earlier Garmco had a disappointing system. They were looking for a transparent process, for better metal recovery and little or no pollution," recalled Pollmann. "In the traditional method that the industry then used, there was waste that was toxic and so we have this unfortunate situation where hundreds of thousands of tonnes are sitting in the desert. Our philosophy is 'if you don't pollute it you don't have to clean it up'. You utilise every metal in the production and you don't have to add to the pollution.

"We're curious people and it was obvious how wrong the traditional system was. While we're not scientists we utilised in-house people with various specialisations or outsourced where necessary."

Having gained experience from operating with Garmco over several years, Taha sent its dross specialist Abdulrahim Ahmed from Sitra to train New Zealand staff.

Taha believes its plant in Tiwai is the first of several similar facilities it will build before long

Pollmann has been living in Bahrain for 18 years and worked as an international trader of various products. His wife Suhaila Habib Awachi is a joint owner of Taha International Corporation with John A Witter, the company's director of operations, who is British. Taha has been named after Pollmann's son.

Witter commented: "There are a host of places in the world where there are aluminium smelters. They have the problem of contaminated dross stemming from treatment with chemicals. The prospect for Taha is as large as the field of dross produced and worked. Our improved process has advantages with clients -- not only commercially but also environmentally and it is sustainable."

Witter, also a longtime resident of Bahrain, is involved with Alba as a contractor through another company, Shutdown Maintenance Services, which his father formed and has provided services to Alba for 30 years.

The Bahrain plant will be called Taha International. "Our aim is to market Taha as a worldwide brand and all companies will function under the same umbrella," said Witter, whose son Jay works at market research development.

The company emphasises that its technology draws a full circle as it features metal mined from the ground and fertiliser which goes back to the ground.

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Publication:Gulf Industry
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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