Tens-of-millions lost because of power cut

Because of yesterday’s bad-weather-induced power cuts in Iceland production at both the Elkem ferrosilicon plant and the Norðurál aluminium smelter at Hvalfjörður in the west ground to a halt. It is thought the cuts cost the companies tens-of-millions of krónur.

Power cuts are very bad for aluminium smelters and can cause severe damage to equipment after three or four hours, as molten metal cools. Ágúst Hafberg, the Norðurál manager, says that his plant in all likelihood escaped serious damage yesterday because they were lucky enough to get some limited power back after three hours. It was enough to keep equipment running, although production remained at a standstill. The electricity supply was not fully restored until 06.00 this morning. Salt and snow are blamed for causing a fire at an electrical substation nearby and various difficulties which left much of the country without electric.

“We can only stand about three or four hours without energy or we risk damage to the smelting pots,” Ágúst said in an interview with RÚV today. Asked if any damage had occurred, he said: “We are looking into it, we think it was nothing serious but we still have to finalise how much was done”.

He believes, however, that delays to aluminium production alone yesterday mean millions in losses for the company; but says a concrete figure is not yet available.

The nearby Elkem ferrosilicon plant was without power for around 12 hours. But production foreman Einar Þorsteinsson does not believe the plant’s equipment is seriously damaged: “As far as we can see at the moment, we don’t think so and generally it is the case that if we loses electric supply to our equipment we are not in a position that it causes major damage. It is first and foremost production losses that cost us,” Einar said.

How much was lost yesterday? “I can’t say exactly but it looks like several tens of millions of krónur,” Einar says.

ISK 10,000,000 is about EUR 63,000 at today’s rate.

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