Active Agreements

Rio Tinto Alcan

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Annual Public Report 2012

Purpose of the Agreement

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

All facilities covered by the agreement, i.e., Kitimat in British Columbia, Beauharnois and Shawinigan in Quebec, have met the performance objectives of this agreement every year since this agreement has been in place. 

On January 20, 2009, RTA announced the permanent closure of the two series of Söderberg cells at its Beauharnoisfacility. Smelting operations were permanently discontinued on April 23, 2009. This closure resulted in reductions in PAH emissions of approximately 36 tonnes annually.  

As part of the Kitimat modernization project, the company announced on August 5, 2010, the permanent shutdown of two Söderberg potlines. The closure has reduced annual PAH emissions by approximately 49 tonnes.

On August 7, 2013, RTA announced that its Shawinigan facility would reduce and ultimately close its smelting operations. It has since permanently closed (November 2013). The closure of this Soderberg facility will result in reductions of PAH emissions of approximately 66 tonnes annually.

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 2008 agreement and against the reference year of 2007.

PAH emissions per facility (kilogram/tonne of aluminium produced)
FacilityPerformance ObjectivesPerformance of the Facility
2012-20152008-2011201220112010200920082007
Shawinigan0.851.050.66Footnote10.83Footnote10.86Footnote10.77Footnote10.940.998
Kitimat0.750.80.720.630.610.660.730.61
Beauharnois0.851.05closedclosedclosedclosed0.72Footnote10.76Footnote1
Footnotes
Footnote 1

Unverified data

Return to footnote1referrer

Ambient Air Monitoring

Rio Tinto Alcan used an external, independent firm to analyze its ambient air monitoring activities in Shawinigan and Kitimat between 2008 and 2009. The recommendations that resulted from this analysis were implemented in 2010.

Action Plan and Annual Report

As specified in the agreement, Rio Tinto Alcan 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 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 achieving of the objectives established in the agreement.

The 2012 annual reports, updated action plans and results of the Shawinigan and Kitimat facilities were submitted following the monitoring committee meetings. These documents are available upon request.

Monitoring Committees

Kitimat Facility

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

The monitoring committee met for the first time on May 13, 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 5, 2013, where RTA presented its 2012 annual report and updates to the action plan, emphasizing efforts on process control and continuous improvements to increase and maintain process stability.

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 participate as observers. 

The first meeting of the monitoring committee was held on May 6, 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 on September 21, 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 on June 11, 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 will gradually reduce its smelting operations and permanently close by November 2013. Consequently, the follow-up meeting did not take place.

Verification

The firm STS Canada was selected to verify the performance of the subject 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.

Rio Tinto Alcan 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. Given the closure of Shawinigan facility, no verification was conducted for 2012 data.

Next Steps

Submission of updated action plan and annual report for the Kitimat facility by June 2014.

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
Montreal, 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 Rio Tinto Alcan'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.

Responses to Comments

Also available are the comments received by Environment Canada on the draft Performance Agreement and the responses to those comments. All the comments received on the draft Agreement were taken into consideration when the final version was prepared, and minor changes were made.

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.