Kaiser Produces First Aluminum in Valley
November 21, 1957
Kaiser Produces First Aluminum in Valley
A stream of primary molten aluminum signalled the birth of a new basic industry in the Ohio Valley last Sunday afternoon at the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp.
The event was a dramatic milestone in three years of effort and expenditure of millions of dollars of capital. Only newsmen and company officials watched as the tapping of the first of 164 electrolytic cells now in operation began.
The simple ceremony was accompanied by the sounds of construction continuing in adjoining potrooms to raise the plant's initial capacity to 145,000 tons of primary metal per year. The pots from which aluminum was poured Sunday will never be permitted to go out. Once started, the process must continue as with steel furnaces. Great damage results if the molten mass is allowed to cool.
Kaiser's new plant will be starting production at a time when aluminum output has caught up with demand, but D. A. Rhoades, vice president and general manager of the company, said in a congratulatory message from Oakland, Calif.:
"I am confident that the aluminum industry today is on the threshold of its greatest growth.
"I well recall that when our company entered the aluminum industry in 1946, there were many prophets of gloom who maintained that we, and the nation, 'would have aluminum coming out of our ears.'
"Today there are similar false prophets who wonder why we of the aluminum industry are continuing to build and expand at a time when the supply of aluminum temportarily [sic] exceeds the demand."
Rhoades went on to say that the future holds bright promise from the expanded usage of the metal, and said that "only a couple of weeks ago Kaiser Aluminum disclosed significant new developments in aluminum cans and their commercial production and sale."
Rhoades estimated that if aluminum captured just 10 percent of the can market, it would mean annual consumption of 200,000 tons of the metal.
First of millions of tons of primary aluminum to follow in the years ahead, the cascading metal will link together in a new enterprise the vast coal reserves of the Ohio Valley with a reddish ore, bauxite, of Jamaica in the British West Indies.
Upon completion to have 102 acres under roof, the Ravenswood works is one of the first aluminum operations in the world designed as an integrated operation to process the sugar-like chemical compound alumina to plate, sheet and foil at a single site.
The white, powdered alumina, aluminum oxide, for smeltering at the Ravenswood Works will be provided from a $70-million processing plant under construction at Gramercy, Louisiana. The southern operation, on an all-water route to Ravenswood, converts Jamaican bauxite to aluminum oxide.
The second major ingredient for producing primary metal is electrical energy provided by Ohio Power Company, a subsidiary of American Gas and Electric Company.
Kaiser Aluminum's power contract, calling for 450, 000 kilowatts for 40 years, is the largest, single power contract ever negotiated between two private firms.
Ravenswood's first four potlines - three more are being readied in addition to the one line now operating - will require nearly 2.5-billion kilowatt hours per year. This would be enough electrical energy to light a super highway extending around the earth at the equator, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The electrolytic cells are carbon lined steel pots, each 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and with a cavity 14 inches deep. A line consists of 164 units connected in series by 2,000,000 pounds of aluminum bus bar, or electrical conductor.
A complete electrical circuit is formed by the current flowing through carbon blocks immersed in a mixture of aluminum oxide and cryolite in the cavity and out through the pot lining.
As electric current passes through the molten mixture, the aluminum and oxygen separate with the metal settling to the bottom of the pot. The aluminum is then siphoned off. Each pot produces more than 1,000 pounds of aluminum per day.
From the reduction plant, the molten aluminum is carried in 8,000-pound capacity crucibles by special rubber tired carrier to the casting department.
There the molten metal is placed in one of six production units, each consisting of a melting furnace, a holding furnace and an ingot casting station.
Here ingots weighing up to 10,000 pounds are cast in preparation for rolling in the 32-acre fabricating facility which, except for two foil mills and a light gauge sheet mill already in operation, will be in production next year.
When the integrated facility is completed, probably some time in 1960, there will be some 5,000 permanent employees. There are presently 1,500 production employees and 7,000 on construction.
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