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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Kitimat Aluminum Smelter Modernization

British Columbia, Canada
Kitimat aluminum smelter

Modernization improves safety and productivity, while cutting emissions

When Rio Tinto undertook the modernization of its Kitimat aluminum smelter in British Columbia, the goal was not only to increase production, but also to create an environmentally superior and safer facility. 

The result? Kitimat is now one of the world’s most efficient and lowest-cost smelters
Bechtel partnered with Rio Tinto to upgrade the facility, which originally began production in 1954, in one of the largest private construction projects in British Columbia’s history. The modernization employed the latest evolution in our customer’s state-of-the-art AP40 technology. In addition to creating a more energy efficient facility, we helped implement digital monitoring and computer control systems, more advanced cleaning systems, higher levels of material recovery to maximize raw material yield and recycling opportunities. 

As a result, production was increased to 420,000 metric tons per year, while the smelter's overall emissions were cut by nearly 50 percent, including approximately 500,000 metric tons per year of greenhouse gases. 

The operation subsequently received the Canadian American Business Council’s Corporate Leadership Award and has been certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative for producing metal that meets the highest internationally recognized standard for responsible environmental, social and governance practices. 

Image Gallery

Inside the project 

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

Aluminum smelters require massive amounts of electricity and Kitimat is powered exclusively by clean, renewable hydropower generated by its own power system in nearby Kemano (tunnels for which were also built by Bechtel).  

The Kitimat team 

During construction, 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 and reached full production the following year. 

Building the Kitimat Modernization Project