Christmas storm: Alouette aluminum smelter in Sept-Îles avoids disaster

Christmas storm: Alouette aluminum smelter in Sept-Îles avoids disaster

The Alouette aluminum smelter in Sept-Îles avoided the worst during the December 24 storm when power was cut for many hours.

The Alouette aluminum smelter’s energy consumption, which is normally very stable, experienced some worrying upheavals on December 24th.

“The riots came overnight. We were struggling to keep the plant powered,” explained Sébastien Charest, a smelter worker who was part of the team that coordinated the emergency response.

The plant’s electrical installations were affected by the ice formation and strong winds that blew in the region in excess of 100 km/h. The Hydro-Québec network also showed signs of weakness.

“At 2 a.m. we reduced the amperage to try to stabilize the grid. At 5 a.m. we stopped a series to take more power off the grid,” the employee said.

The crisis team’s role was to prevent the tanks from cooling down, which can lead to a complete standstill of production in an aluminum smelter.

“What happens is the tank freezes and once it freezes you can’t start it. This is a catastrophe for an aluminum smelter,” reported Mr. Charest.

Concern steadily increased during the 4 hours of the breakdown, which affected a number of tanks. Some maneuvers were made to preserve her warmth as much as possible.

“To reduce the cooling of the stalled kegs, we reduced the toffee. The toffee draws air from the vats. To avoid heat dissipation, we reduced the drawdown,” added Philippe St-Arnaud, another emergency cell worker.

“The time we had to be able to restart Series 1 was extremely long and put the entire Series 1 at risk. We feared the worst for a while that we wouldn’t be able to get it going again,” said the President of the Alouette hut, Claude Gosselin, who was in constant contact with the hut’s shareholders to keep them informed of developments.

Of the 282 series tanks affected by the failure, five were lost. For those in charge of the aluminum smelter, this is a minimal loss, due to the fact that employees who were also experiencing difficult situations at home, with power outages and damage to their homes, were mobilized in full preparation for Christmas Eve.