The development of a thermal model to estimate energy distribution in an aluminum reduction cell and its impact on local conditions based on anode current signals are presented. In the Hall–Héroult process, routine practices carried out during operation give rise to spatial energy imbalances and consequently temperature variation in the cell. This phenomenon has been ignored in thermal models developed to date as they are only concerned with overall process dynamics. Implementing anode current signals as model inputs along with the discretization method allows the change of spatial conditions caused by current distribution to be calculated. Simulation studies have been performed to investigate the cell thermal balance affected by anode shorting. The article shows the potential of using anode current signals as model inputs to compute spatial thermal conditions based on the proposed model structure that are not considered in traditional modeling approaches. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 1544–1556, 2013
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