After a two-year hiatus, the Alcoa plant in San Cibra is gearing up to recommence its primary aluminum production. The countdown is on, with the first vats set to restart by January 1, 2024, although full functionality won’t be achieved until late 2025. Encouragingly, investments that promise to upgrade and enhance the facility’s output have started to pour in. However, looming uncertainties regarding electricity pricing and recent operational halts have cast a shadow of doubt.
Raising alarms, the Foundry, the singular active department of the facility, has momentarily halted operations. This decision by Alcoa, attributed to an unfavorable market environment marked by exorbitant energy costs and dwindling order volumes, has stirred unrest. While the multinational firm assures that this setback won’t impede the Aluminum’s revival schedule, questions loom large. Especially when one considers the Smelter’s crucial role in processing liquid metal.
The Workers’ Committee, particularly the CIG, is skeptical and is seeking clarity on the implications of the Foundry’s shutdown on the planned January restart.
Undeterred by these challenges, Alcoa has continued its commitment to advance the facility. Significant investments, including a new furnace and advanced technology casting tables, promise to amplify the factory’s billet production capability. By December, these augmentations, worth around 8 million euros, will be fully integrated into the operations.
Additionally, by April 2024, 32 vats, embedded with magnetic compensation bars, are slated to be operational, which represents a substantial investment of 18 million euros.
Other notable investments include a cutting-edge transformer, designed to support an adaptable number of tanks and bolster intensity. Coupled with an auxiliary gas station, these investments sum up to 18.1 million euros. Yet, the most substantial and intricate investment is reserved for the firing furnace for large anodes, boasting a budget of a staggering 109 million euros, with its operational debut set for 2026.
Electricity Pricing Woes
The plant’s initial closure was primarily attributed to escalating electricity costs. And as the facility prepares for its reboot, this issue remains unresolved. While Alcoa has secured fixed price supply contracts with energy giants, Endesa and Greenalia, the anticipated coverage falls short of expectations. The company is now calling upon the central government to intervene and propose cost-cutting measures, emphasizing that without such intervention, the plant’s long-term viability hangs in the balance.