Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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2007 — Health and Safety

Better ventilation improves health and safety

Good ventilation in a plant is a question of balance between the air that goes out and the air that comes in from the outside.  This stability contributes not only to the well-being of employees but also to the more efficient management of some aspects of production.  A number of projects were carried out recently to correct the situation in some sectors of the Bécancour Rod Plant.
The issues
These improvements dealt with three specific problems.  To laminate the aluminum rods produced, the plant uses an emulsion made of oil and water.  This emulsion evaporates, condenses on the ceiling and eventually falls to the plant floor.  The oil contained in this “rain” made the walkways slippery in some places.  Although no injuries occurred, this represented a risk to employee safety.
The second problem was also linked to this condensation but, in this instance, it was affecting the finished product.  The rolls of rod must be clean to meet customer requirements.  The oily droplets were compromising quality, sometimes even resulting in rejected product.
The third issue was related to another chemical reaction that occurs as a result of a salt used in the ovens during rod production.  The salt steam was not being adequately collected in this sector and creating a corrosive atmosphere that, over time, was damaging the plant’s steel structure and any piece of equipment that was not covered.
The problem of emulsion condensation has been almost entirely eliminated thanks to two ventilation improvement projects.  First, the plant installed new hoods in the rod cooling sector to ensure better filtration and more efficient collection.  Secondly, we installed new natural (non forced) air entries including four gravity-fed ventilators and nine sets of “shutters” along the plant walls.
The chlorine salt emissions are the subject of a third phase of improvement currently underway.  It is important to note that all the modifications to the ventilation system were carried out in full compliance with applicable environmental and health and safety standards.