When Consuming 63,000 GWh of Electricity, Software Can Ease Hard Choices

When Consuming 63,000 GWh of Electricity, Software Can Ease Hard Choices

November 27, 2016 at 01:11pm

By Bhanu Shekhar, Chief Digital Officer, GE Power in the Middle East and Africa

The smelters in the GCC consumed more than 63,000 GWh of electricity last year – that’s about how much Austria produces in a year. It’s also the amount of power the sector used to produce more than 5.2 million tons of aluminum.

That’s a huge amount of power demand at a time when the GCC aluminum industry is facing numerous challenges, including fluctuating oil price, changing regulations and an increasingly competitive global market.

For operators, this means an increasing focus on reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and driving productivity gains.

In looking at this, we talk at GE about the “power of 1%,” which reflects the insight that even small marginal improvements in efficiency, availability and productivity can have on the performance and the bottom line.

And it’s through powerful digital industrial software solutions that we seek to capture these efficiencies. That’s why we’ve developed Predix, the world’s first cloud-based operating system specifically designed for industry and industrial processes and systems.

We’ve looked at digital industrial-driven efficiency in the aluminum smelter industry and find that a 1% efficiency improvement could save the global industry US$ 970 million in production costs, increase output by US$ 936 million and save US$ 464 million in operations and maintenance costs.

In the GCC alone, we estimate that digitization could deliver US$50 million in savings, on operations and maintenance costs alone.

That’s why we see that digitization in the aluminum smelting sector is the big opportunity for the industry, and now is the time to adopt these solutions that can help operators right now to shift their cost curves and transform their processes.

During this week’s Arab International Aluminum Conference (ARABAL) I talked about digital opportunity and gave an example of how we are partnering with multiple smelters around the world to implement our digital smelter solutions.

Through our Asset Performance Management software and “digital twin” processes that help us develop deep insights into the current and future performance of the “twin” assets, we are focused on helping to reduce energy consumption and excess aluminum fluoride consumption across their operations.

We’re expecting to fundamentally transform their current operations and provide a real impact on the bottom line.

This week alone, I’ve seen great interest from many others at two events in which I’ve participated. First was ARABAL in Dubai, but also at the Kuwait Disruptive Innovation Conference & Exhibition.

This is a truly exciting way to leverage extremely powerful software to help companies in the aluminum sector and across industry more broadly to capture significant efficiency and operational gains that translate in to a range of benefits, from the environment to the bottom line.

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