Posted on November 20, 2012

The 16th ARABAL Conference has kicked off at the Grand Hyatt, and taken the delegates from around the world on two separate tours: a virtual tour through a storied corner of the City of London – the London Metal Exchange – as well as a physical tour of the Qatalum plant at Mesaieed Industrial City.

Tuesday began with a workshop presentation in front of 200 ARABAL delegates by Martin Abbott – CEO of the London Metal Exchange. The LME is since 1877 the world’s premier non-ferrous metals market, and which offers a range of futures and options contracts for non-ferrous, minor metals and steel.

The standing-room-only workshop was an invaluable opportunity for delegates to get a deep understanding of one of the least-understood links in the chain of the global metals industry. The LME provides a transparent forum for all trading activity and as a result helps to 'discover' what the price of material will be months and years ahead, which helps the physical industry to plan forward in a world subject to often severe and rapid price movements.

Mr Abbott highlighted the mechanisms and techniques used in the LME, gave his review on market reality and presented market analysis from a historical point of view as well as future prospects. As well as detailing the crucial hedging role the LME pays, he discussed controversies surrounding aluminium storage and he updated delegates on the current ownership status of the LME.

After going through the three main services the LME offers – hedging, pricing and delivery (as well as training) – Mr. Abbott explained that more than 80% of all non-ferrous metal futures business is transacted on LME platforms.

The LME brings together participants from the physical industry and the financial community to create a vital, robust and regulated market where there is always a buyer or seller, where there is always a price and where there is always the opportunity to transfer or take on risk –24 hours a day. Investors value the LME as a vibrant futures exchange but also for its close links to industry. And the possibility of physical delivery via the worldwide network of LME-approved warehouses makes it the perfect hedging venue for industry and the world gains a benchmark price they trust.

After the LME workshop, ARABAL delegates were taken by bus to Mesaieed Industrial City, the smelter of Qatalum – the host of ARABAL 2012. During the forty-minute tour of the facility - which has the capacity of approximately 35% of Qatar's total power usage - delegates began with a viewing of Potline 2, then moved to the baking furnace, paste plant and anode rodding plant, before the metal fluxing and casthouse and power plant and zero energy building, which has zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually.

The Paste Plant where ingredients are mixed to create new (green) anodes. The baking plant consists of furnaces where green anodes are baked to form the black anodes used in the reduction pots for making liquid aluminium. And the 1,350MW power plant includes the turbine building, seawater cooling towers, four heat recovery steam generators for recycling exhaust gases and finally the Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) - the connection between the power plant and the smelter. Delegates were accompanied by tour guides from Qatalum to answer any questions on the plant, processes and people.

During the evening, delegates attended a welcome reception at the Grand Hyatt, sponsored by Qatar Petroleum, and at which a welcome speech was given by Ibrahim J. Fakhri, Qatalum Communications Manager.

Wednesday will see panel discussions on ‘the Future Prospects of the Aluminium Industry in the GCC’, ‘the Economic Impacts of the Arab Spring’; ‘The Future Prospects of Expanding Local Use and Creating Local Demand’; and presentations on ‘Reshaping the World Aluminium Balance’ and ‘Power Plant - Challenges, Difficulties & Experiences’.

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