EGA silicon metal production unit
EGA's silicon metal production facility will form part of the UAE's 'Operation 300bn' initiatives. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: One of UAE’s industrial powerhouses, EGA, will build a solar-powered manufacturing unit for silicon metal, one of the raw materials needed for premium aluminium production. The project will also form part of the ‘Operation 300bn’ and ‘Make in the Emirates’ initiatives. Construction of the new plant could start 'as soon as next year'.

Abdulnasser Bin Kalban

Developing a silicon metal manufacturing facility would secure our supply of a strategic raw material. Once we have met our own demand we could expand further, creating a new growth opportunity for our company.

- Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, CEO of Emirates Global Aluminium

Silicon metal is added to aluminium during the casting process, to create high-strength alloys, which are in demand from the auto industry. In the recent past, EGA has supplied to automotive clients in Europe. Nearly 25 per cent of EGA’s production is foundry alloys, which are used to make vehicle parts.

Silicon metal is also a raw material for other industries, including silicones used in ‘everything from adhesives to contact lenses’ and high-purity silicon used in solar photovoltaics and semiconductors. “The UAE is expected to become a significant market for solar photovoltaics with its ambitious goals to expand solar power generation capacity,” EGA said in a statement. “Domestic supply of silicon metal could create the opportunity for a local solar photovoltaics manufacturing value chain to develop.”

All imported as of now
The UAE currently has no domestic silicon metal manufacturing capacity. EGA is the biggest importer of the material, with annual demand of around 60,000 tonnes. Some 70 per cent of the world’s silicon metal manufacturing capacity is located in China, with the electricity-intensive industry largely powered by coal.