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Tomago CEO says power shortages threaten to damage Tomago smelter in Newcastle


Staff at Tomago Aluminium smelter in Newcastle are doing everything they can to prevent major damage occurring due to a power shortage in NSW, CEO Matt Howell told Ross Greenwood.

A heatwave swept parts of Australia this week, with areas of Northern Victoria and NSW experiencing temperatures well into the 40s on Friday.

At 6pm AEDT Friday, the Australian Energy Market Operator directed the Tomago smelter to reduce its demand. Tomago uses about 12% of NSW’s total electricity capacity to produce the energy-intensive metal.

Operators have taken each of smelter’s three pot lines off power for an hour and a quarter each, sequentially.

Howell told Money News ‘staff had to physically attend to the pot lines in conditions over 50 degrees inside the smelter.’

‘The key to running a pot line is to keep it running. These cells run at very high temperatures.. if they freeze, they cannot be restarted.’

‘Even when the power is fully restored, the cell is in a pretty sick state’.

A failure in energy supply could potentially cause the kind of industrial damage suffered by the Portland aluminium smelter  in December last year when its power supply failed.

The Victorian government has since poured $200m into the Portland smelter to ensure its survival.

‘We would never compromise’ the integrity of the grid, Howell told Ross.

Listen to the full interview with Matt Howell here: