Estimation of spatial alumina concentration in an aluminum reduction cell using a multilevel state observer



In the Hall-Héroult process, spatial variations in alumina concentration are very difficult to measure and impossible to estimate from the conventionally monitored line amperage and cell voltage. This article presents an approach to estimate in real time the alumina concentration distribution in an aluminum reduction cell based on individual anode current measurements. One of the key difficulties is that the localized mass transfer rates are unknown. To overcome this issue, a multilevel state observer is developed based on the robust extended Kalman filter. The approach utilizes a dynamic model of a reduction cell that is discretized subsequently level by level, where the estimated variables at each level are used to estimate more detailed alumina concentration spatial distribution at the next level. The proposed approach is validated in an experimental study using an industrial cell. © 2017 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 63: 2806–2818, 2017