Modernization improves safety and productivity, while cutting emissions

Bechtel's modernization of Rio Tinto Alcan’s 60-year-old Kitimat aluminum smelter in British Columbia created an environmentally superior, safer, and more productive facility, and elevated the operation to world-class status.

The modernization employed the latest evolution in Rio Tinto Alcan’s state-of-the-art APTM technology and boosted production to over 400,000 metric tons per year. The project simultaneously reduced the smelter's overall emissions by nearly 50 percent, including some 500,000 metric tons per year of greenhouse gases.

The project also included a 287,000-watt (287-kilovolt) switching substation. Aluminum smelters require massive amounts of electricity, and Kitimat’s is generated cleanly by its own hydroelectric power system in nearby Kemano (tunnels for which were also built by Bechtel). 

Image gallery

What's a potline?

A long building that houses a series of pots (large electrolytic cells) that produce aluminum. Potlines can be quite massive; some stretch three-quarters of a mile (more than a kilometer).

Inside the project

Kitimat’s new potline will consist of 360 pots housed in six buildings, compared to the pre-modernized smelter's 900 smaller pots in 15 buildings.

The Kitimat team

The project brought major economic benefits to Kitimat and the surrounding region. Thanks to the efforts of more than 2,000 workers, the modernized smelter produced first aluminum in 2015.