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The plant has been operating at full capacity since lateproducing some of the lowest-carbon footprint, highest-purity aluminum in the world. Aluminum smelting is an energy-intensive process requiring enormous amounts of reliable and inexpensive electricity, usually generated by hydro- or coal-fired power plants. Despite the energy required to produce it, aluminum is ubiquitous in modern life.

The lightweight, corrosion-resistant metal is used for everything from building materials to drink packaging, household utensils to electronics. Its main use is in transportation, as a lightweight material for aerospace and automotive panels, increasingly replacing heavier steel components to lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas GHG emissions over the life of a vehicle. Rio Tinto dramatically cut emissions and increased annual production by almost 50 per cent at the Kitimat smelter by replacing old technology with new, while continuing to rely on the reliable hydroelectricity available in the region and the skilled workforce already in place.

The smelter and nearby town of Kitimat were carved out of the rugged B. The Kitimat-Kemano project created the Nechako reservoir, excavated a km tunnel through the Coast mountain range and built a hydroelectric power station at Kemano. An km transmission line was also constructed to deliver 1, megawatt MW capacity to the newly constructed smelter at Kitimat. The Kitimat wharf. Since then the fundamental process of producing aluminum has changed very little. First, bauxite ore mined from the equatorial regions of Australia, China, Brazil, and Guinea is refined to alumina powder Al2O3.

Alumina, once delivered to a smelter, is then dissolved in a molten fluoride-containing electrolyte at about C and reduced to aluminum metal by electrolysis. Rio Tinto purchased the Kitimat smelter, together with the complex reservoir system and powerhouse at Kemano, from Alcan in and completed the modernization project by earlydespite challenging commodity market conditions in the years between. But why modernize a year-old plant in a remote location rather than starting fresh somewhere else? Manderson added several other reasons Rio Tinto had chosen to modernize the Kitimat smelter, rather than relocate.

But building a new smelter alongside a still-operating smelter, which was handled by Bechtel Canada, required intense coordination. Aside from managing production, safety and the extra workers onsite, the new smelter is nestled between two salmon-bearing streams requiring protection and bordered on the remaining sides by marshlands, mountains and the ocean.

The Kitimat smelter now employs AP40 smelter technology. AP40 is named for Aluminium Pechiney, the proprietary French research company now owned by Rio Tinto that first developed the technology, and the 40 means that overamps are flowing through the pots.

All this happens in pots. Laure Kline began working on Potlines 1 and 2, the oldest on site at 64 years, as the first female superintendent in the Reduction plant. Kline is a chemical engineer by training and witnessed the modernization from start to finish during her five years working at the Kitimat smelter.

Shortly before the old pots were shut down, Kline became one of the first to transition to the new technology as part of the reduction reaction pilot team. With the old Soderberg technology, the carbon sources were baked above the pots and manually added. As the carbon was burning to make the aluminum, it was necessary to keep refilling from the top. The used anodes are also fully recycled on site.

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Energy efficiency has skyrocketed with the new system, too. The old pots used Each tonne of aluminum produced at the Kitimat smelter creates about two tonnes of GHG. At the other end of the scale, the GHG emissions at some smelters in China often range from 17 to 20 tonnes of GHG per tonne of aluminum by using old smelting technology together with coal-fired power stations.

We emit less CO2 to manufacture the same tonne of aluminum. Casting aluminum ingots. Kylie Williams. In addition to the CO2 reductions, the plant has reduced particulate emissions by 80 per cent and ificantly reduced fluoride emissions through more efficient capture and recycling. By pre-baking the anodes and capturing and treating those fumes, there has been a 98 per cent reduction in the release of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that come from the carbon source.

Knowing that increased SO2 emissions were a possibility, Rio Tinto brought in expert consultants on SO2 effects to model the SO2 emissions and evaluate the potential impact to the environment. In response, the company built its gas and fume treatment centres as tall stacks to disperse the heated and diluted SO2 gas high into the atmosphere. A comprehensive environmental program sampling air, water, vegetation and soil at sites across the Kitimat Valley is monitoring dispersion around the plant today. The of workers on site, which swelled to over 4, at the height of construction inhas leveled out at around 1, operations personnel.

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Manderson said the next step is to optimize operations and productivity and is canvassing employees for innovative ideas. The decision to breathe new life into an old smelter paid off. The next challenge is to stabilize the process and still be the best in ten or fifteen years.

Proven benefits and outside financial pressure push modular construction into the mining mainstream. The retrofit at Rio Tinto's Kitimat operation has the smelter producing more without an increased footprint. By Kylie Williams. More Operations. All packed and ready to go Eavan Moore. Steelmaking coal price surge reinvigorates Canadian mines Kylie Williams.

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