Sept-Îles, Que. – Aluminerie Alouette, a producer of aluminum and the largest Canadian aluminum smelter, has received a $15-million investment from the Government of Canada towards development projects.
The investment will help Alouette maintain at least 830 jobs and modernize its facilities in Sept-Îles, Que., according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
The funding was allocated under the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund, which supports business investments and projects designed to accelerate the transfer of technology and commercialization of innovative products, processes and services.
Alouette president and CEO, Patrice L’Huillier, said he was pleased with the contribution, as the company is going through a period of turbulence in the industry.
However, the Quebec-based company, which has an annual production capacity of 600,000 tonnes of primary aluminum, plans to invest locally to ensure its long-term future.
“The government’s support speaks to our shared commitment to expand primary aluminum production in the country and thus generate benefits for the entire community,” said L’Huillier.
The funding has been granted through the Steel and Aluminum Program, and is intended to bolster the competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers and better integrate the Canadian supply chain of steel and aluminum.
The Regional Economic Growth through Innovation Steel and Aluminum Initiative is a $100-million national initiative, which provides non-repayable contributions to “Canadian, downstream, SME steel and aluminum users” for investments in innovative projects that enhance productivity and competitiveness.
The funding initiative is aligned with the facility’s modernization efforts, which is estimated at over $474 million. Upgrades will include:
- Pot change-out program (AP40): Technological migration of these pots got under way in 2018 and is continuing in 2019, reports Alouette. Upgrades include changes to the steel pot-shells and the installation of new internal components in order to ensure the pots’ structural and thermal stability.
- Conversion to natural gas for anode baking: Depending on the availability of natural gas at a commercially viable price in the Côte-Nord region, Alouette hopes to convert its anode baking furnaces – which currently use heavy oil – to natural gas, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and costs.
- Use of automated production vehicles: If upcoming tests are conclusive and commercially viable, Alouette hopes to integrate autonomous electric vehicles into its fleet of production vehicles, replacing diesel equipment.
- Integration of various “Industry 4.0” concepts: Alouette wants to continue to install robots, control and decision-making assistance systems and infrastructure needed for full integration of operations at the plant.
Under the agreement, Alouette has also committed to maintain $5 million a year in R&D expenditures in Canada.
In addition to Aluminerie Alouette, steel and aluminum producers on the funding list include: EVRAZ North America; Algoma Steel Inc.; ArcelorMittal; Elysis, an Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminum joint venture; and Alcoa Corporation.
The aluminum industry contributes $3.2 billion to Canada’s GDP, and its annual exports to the U.S. total $9 billion.