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BIM enables international collaboration on Aluminium plant expansion


To increase the refining capabilities of the Alcan Gove aluminium plant from 2.0 million tonnes of aluminium to 3.8 million tonnes per annum, three calciners were designed by Outokumpu Technology and integrated into the plant. The calciner modules are monstrous, towering over eleven storeys high and each weighing more than 4 jumbo jets. They comprise the largest pre-assembled modules ever landed in Australia. Amongst other uses, calciners are used in plants to cause the decomposition of hydrated minerals at high temperatures, usually 1000-2100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Alcan Gove aluminium plant they are used in the calcination of Bauxite. This is a process that occurs by removing crystalline water as water vapour through the use of a thermal treatment.

The calciners produced for Alcan Gove helped with the expansion of the plant’s capacity to extract and produce aluminium. The expansion project saw the installation of a third Alumina Refinery Stream. Baigents Pty Ltd were chosen to design and shop detail all the steelwork needed for this enormous project, as well as the design and documentation of the foundation rafts.

This particular project realistically had two key players during the design process; the German process engineering company ‘Outokumpu Technology’, and the Australian structural engineers ‘Baigents Pty Ltd’. Baigents Pty Ltd modelled the structural steel from scratch for engineering design and steel fabrication purposes. Outokumpu Technology were using Intergraph’s PDS for the design of the processing equipment. Both parties needed to be able to collaborate one way or another. A project of this nature is bound to be constantly changing, so it was paramount that the lines of communication between the two companies were open at all times.

With Outokumpu Technology being based in Germany, Baigents Pty Ltd in Australia, and the fabrication and assembly completed in Thailand, it was evident that the distance between all three could prove to be a challenge. In addition to that, the project had to be completed efficiently and on schedule in order to beat the Thailand monsoon season for fabrication reasons and cyclone season for sea transportation reasons. The solution to these challenges was to be found in the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) software, and Tekla Structures won this task.

BIM software, allows for easy and streamlined collaboration between all parties. Its ability to easily share data allows constant evaluation of where a project is headed. It also prevents mistakes before they can occur, substantially reducing the amount of rework costs. This is critical in a project of this nature. Everything is modelled in 3D and information can be easily shared, making the distance between the parties almost irrelevant. Drago Sudaveric from Baigents explains that “The concept of the project kept changing, as is the case with many industrial projects, but with BIM software it wasn’t the fiasco it could have been. All the information needed goes into one central database. We were dealing with 100 tonnes of steel every month and without this automation we would not have met our milestones.” Baigents Pty Ltd by passed the typical project delivery approach of producing structural steel drawings from which to begin steel detailing. Instead Baigents’ steel detailers worked in parallel with its engineering designers using engineering sketches to model the structural steel from scratch.

The transportable modules and calciner structure were analysed with Strand 7 finite element analysis software. This ensured the structural integrity when the modules were transported by road, on board the ship at sea and fully assembled as an operating structure in Gove. During this time they could also be subjected to cyclonic winds. Outokumpu Technology used Intergraph’s PDS for design of the processing equipment. They supplied Baigents with a 3D DGN File of the mechanical equipment and piping for referencing into the Tekla model, which made checking for clashes easy. The effortless collaborative nature of this software meant that Baigents could supply Outokumpu Technology regularly with a 3D DGN of the structural steel for cross reference. Outokumpu Technology also supplied Baigents with a 2D Cad (.dwg) file of the structures footprint, which was then overlayed onto the Tekla model. This ensured that everything would fit when the units were delivered to site.

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