Photo courtesy Bechtel
Bechtel finished a $4.2-billion smelter ahead of schedule in Saudi Arabia with 14,000 workers and recorded just four lost days.

Constructing a $4.2-billion aluminum smelter, said to be the world's largest greenfield project of its kind, required intense planning and coordination to bring in the large amounts of labor, equipment and materials to a remote site in Saudi Arabia.

During procurement, Bechtel Corp. and its vendors imported material via road, air and water, often needing the help of specialized carriers and riggers to haul bulky plant equipment and other items to the isolated site near the Persian Gulf. The 287-acre project, which included 720 smelting furnaces arranged in four pot rooms of 180 pots each, consumed 228,000 cu meters of concrete and 48,000 tonnes of structural steel using a workforce of 14,000 people and 78-million job hours.

Despite a 3.5-year schedule that Bechtel describes as "overly aggressive," the team managed to hit its milestone of producing hot metal from the first potline two weeks ahead of the contract date. The second potline came on-line four weeks ahead of schedule. The project was delivered under budget, Bechtel notes.

Maintaining high levels of safety and quality on such a large, complex project was a core focus of the job. An array of tactics helped the effort, including employee incentive programs, peer mentoring, daily pre-start meetings and zero-accident reviews. The RAK team recorded only four lost work days. During the project, the team conducted more than six million safety observations and encouraged members to "engineer-out hazards," says Bechtel.

Project Team

Owner: Ma´aden-Alcoa Joint Venture

Lead Design: Bechtel Corp., San Francisco

Contractor: Bechtel Corp.