Bechtel helped Québec emerge as a world leader in aluminum production

The Alma project entailed building a carbon plant, a reduction plant, a casting center, and supporting infrastructure. At the peak of construction, more than 4,500 workers were on site. With capacity of more than 400,000 metric tons per year, Alma is one of the world’s largest smelters.

Bechtel managed a team of architecture and engineering firms, and worked closely with project owner Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan), to incorporate our proprietary process equipment and technology into the Alma smelter.

The result is a facility that produces five times more aluminum than a nearby plant but requires only 35 percent more workers. The Alma smelter is also gentler on the environment, thanks to innovative emissions-reduction features developed by Alcan and implemented with Bechtel’s assistance. 

Inside the project

With Alma and several other smelters located along the Saguenay River, Québec’s Saguenay region is often called "Aluminum Valley." Optimal resources abounded for the new smelter at Alma: a nearby bauxite refinery, an efficient rail system, abundant hydropower electricity, and a skilled workforce.

The owner’s refinery, about an hour’s drive from Alma, produces alumina from bauxite ore, which is shipped by rail to Alma for smelting. Alcan operated its own rail system, which Bechtel upgraded to increase capacity. The Alma project also included an upgrade to the plant’s alumina storage and handling facilities. Furthermore, Bechtel upgraded Alcan’s transmission lines to supply the plant with 161 kilovolts of electricity, massive amounts of which lie at the heart of the smelting process.

This trust filters both up and down through all organizations involved in the project. We actively fight surprises by full ‘open book’ communication.  -- Maher Boutros, Bechtel project manager

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