Completed Agreements

Rio Tinto Alcan

Full text of Agreement (HTML) (PDF; 46 KB)


Annual Public Report 2013

Purpose of the Agreement

The purpose of the Agreement is to set environmental performance objectives with respect to atmospheric emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from Rio Tinto Alcan's Söderberg aluminium smelter facilities in Kitimat, British Columbia, and in Beauharnois and Shawinigan, Quebec. In addition, the Agreement includes a timeline for achieving the performance objectives, requires the development of a continuous-improvement plan, annual reporting of progress made to Environment Canada, and verification of the achievement of the performance objectives by an independent expert.

Targets

The Parties to the Agreement agreed to assess the ambient air-monitoring activities in place within 12 months of the signing of this agreement and, if necessary, to propose possible ways to improve these activities.

By signing the Agreement, Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) also agreed to develop and annually update an action plan for reducing atmospheric emissions of PAHs at its Söderberg facilities by achieving the environmental performance objectives outlined in the Appendix of the Agreement.

Results

Achievement of Performance Objectives

Beauharnois and Shawinigan Söderberg facilities in Quebec have met the performance objectives of this agreement every year since this agreement has been in place, until their respective closure in 2009 and 2013. The Kitimat facility in British Columbia has met its performance objective every year except for 2013.

On April 23, 2009, RTA permanently closed the two series of Söderberg cells at its Beauharnois facility. This closure resulted in reductions in PAH emissions of approximately 36 tonnes annually. RTA permanently closed its Shawinigan smelting operations in November 2013. This closure resulted in reductions of PAH emissions of approximately 66 tonnes annually.

As part of the Kitimat modernization project, the company (RTA) permanently shut down two Söderberg potlines in 2010. In 2013, the performance objective of the remaining Söderberg potlines was not met due to issues related to operational and maintenance issues. In 2014, the company stopped two other Söderberg potlines. Permanent shutdown of the remaining potlines at Kitimat is expected in 2015.

The following table compares performance data in kilograms of PAHs per tonne of aluminium produced by each facility against the performance objectives established in the Agreement and against the reference year of 2007.

PAH emissions per facility (kilogram/tonne of aluminium produced)
FacilityPerformance ObjectivesPerformance of the Facility
2012-20152008-20112013201220112010200920082007
Shawinigan0.851.050.59Footnote10.66Footnote10.83Footnote10.86Footnote10.77Footnote10.940.998
Kitimat0.750.80.91Footnote10.720.630.610.660.730.61
Beauharnois0.851.05closedclosedclosedclosedclosed0.72Footnote10.76Footnote1
Footnotes
Footnote 1

Unverified data

Return to footnote1referrer

Ambient Air Monitoring

RTA used an external, independent contractor to analyze its ambient air monitoring activities in Shawinigan and Kitimat between 2008 and 2009. Their recommendations from this analysis were implemented in 2010.

Action Plan and Annual Report

As specified in the Agreement, RTA provided Environment Canada with an action plan for the Shawinigan and Kitimat facilities. The plan calls for a certain number of concrete measures to be implemented to achieve and maintain the performance objectives established in the Agreement. Introduction of a low-PAH pitch in the facilities and a pitch and anode quality monitoring program primarily account for the achievement of the objectives established in the Agreement.

The 2013 annual report, updated action plans and results of the Shawinigan and Kitimat facilities were submitted in June 2014. These documents are available upon request to Environment Canada.

Monitoring Committees

Kitimat Facility

The monitoring committee was built upon the existing Kitimat Public Advisory Committee and is composed of representatives from RTA, the district of Kitimat, the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, the labour union of the Kitimat facility, the Haisla First Nations, at least two regional environmental non-governmental organizations and Environment Canada.

The monitoring committee met for the first time in May 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to present RTA's 2008 annual report, select a recognized expert to conduct the verification and discuss the verification protocol. Subsequent meetings have been held annually for the purpose of presenting the updated action plan and annual report.

The last monitoring committee meeting was held on September 16, 2014, where RTA presented its 2013 annual report and updates to the action plan, particularly with respect to the performance objective that was not met. The stability of process and operations, the maintenance and quality of anodes and studs as well as issues related to personnel management in a context of technological transition were discussed. Corrective measures to reduce PAH emissions were implemented in 2013.

Shawinigan Facility

The Parties agreed to establish the monitoring committee for the Agreement composed of representatives from RTA, the union of the Shawinigan facility, the citizens of Shawinigan and Environment Canada. Representatives from the Quebec ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs and the Département de la santé publique de Trois-Rivières participated as observers. 

The first meeting of the monitoring committee was held in May 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to present RTA's annual report, select a recognized expert to conduct the verification and discuss the verification protocol. The second meeting was held in September 2009, for the purpose of presenting the verification report and discussing the model for the public report and its content.

At the third meeting, held in June 2010, RTA presented the status of implementation of the recommendations outlined in the 2009 verification report, and submitted its 2009 annual report and an update of its action plan. The company also presented the results of its ambient air sampling network for the 2001-2009 period. Subsequent meetings have been held annually for the purpose of presenting the annual report and updated action plan, focusing on the increase in recycled anodes and low-PAHs pitch quality and availability.

The latest monitoring committee meeting was held on June 20, 2012, where RTA presented its 2011 annual report and described efforts on improving low-PAH pitch mixes to achieve better process stability and anode consumption, and challenges in reducing PAH emissions (slight increase since 2009).

RTA had initially planned to close its Shawinigan facility by December 2014, but it announced on August 7, 2013, that, due to economic constraints, the facility would gradually reduce its smelting operations and would permanently close by November 2013. Consequently, the follow-up meeting did not take place.

Verification

The firm STS Canada was selected by the  monitoring committee to verify the performance of the RTA facilities in the year preceding the signature of the Agreement (2007) and the achievement of the environmental performance objectives for 2008 as set out in the Appendix of the Agreement.

This extensive verification includes, among other things, a review of the methods and protocols for sampling and analysis, PAH emission levels, calculation of performance objectives and implementation of measures or activities provided for in the Agreement.

The verification report for the Shawinigan facility was submitted on June 18, 2009, and the report for the Kitimat facility was submitted on August 11, 2009. These reports are available upon request.

RTA will ensure that the recommendations resulting from the verification reports will be implemented in each of the facilities. At this time, all recommendations have been implemented in Shawinigan and 13 out of 15 in Kitimat.

As stated in the Agreement, in 2012 the environmental performance objectives are more stringent, and third party verification of data was required. For the Kitimat facility, verification of the Agreement and of the achievement of these objectives took place in October 2013, and the report has been submitted to the monitoring committee. Given the closure of Shawinigan facility, no verification was conducted for 2012 data.

Next Steps

The Agreement ends in December 2014. The last updated action plan and annual report for the Kitimat facility should be submitted by June 2015. A final public report will be published by Environment Canada in 2015.

Contact

For more information, you may also contact Jean-François Banville at:

Jean-François Banville, Eng.
Program Engineer
Mining & Processing Division
Environmental Stewardship Branch
Environment Canada
105 McGill Street
Montréal, Quebec H2Y 2E7
Telephone: 514-283-6066
Fax: 514-496-6982

Background

PAHs have been determined to be toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. They represent a group of over 100 chemicals emitted mainly by forest fires (45%), woodburning appliances (31%), aluminium smelters (9%), transportation (5%) and other sources (10%). Total Canadian releases in the year 2000 were 4664 tonnes.

This agreement was drafted in recognition of RTA's commitment to reduce air emissions of PAHs from its old Söderberg aluminium smelters by pursuing alternative practices or technologies. The Söderberg technology is the source of a significant portion of the industrial emissions of PAHs in Canada.

Public consultations on the draft Performance Agreement took place in 2007 in the communities affected. The draft Agreement was posted on Environment Canada's Performance Agreements website for a 60-day public consultation period, which ended on July 31, 2007.

The Agreement was signed by representatives from Environment Canada and Rio Tinto Alcan on May 22, 2008.

For more information on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, see the Management of Toxic Substances section of Environment Canada's website.