With recent talk about the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. smelter possibly restarting next year, the status of the other nine Pacific Northwest aluminum plants should interest readers.
Skyrocketing prices during the 2000-2001 West Coast energy crisis idled, shut down or bankrupted seven plants that no longer have smelting facilities. The Bonneville Power Administration sells and distributes 20,430 megawatts of power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams and one nuclear plant. At one time, the region's 10 aluminum plants used about 3,000 of those megawatts.
(bluefish: For comparison note that the four Lower Snake River dams combined produce about 1050 megawatts of power, 5% of BPA's total typical production, 2% of the region's total. )
Five of the region's aluminum plants have been leveled to the ground and backfilled. The quantity of recycled materials from these cleanup operations is staggering, including millions of pounds of steel, aluminum, copper and concrete, along with equipment, carbon and other chemicals.
Alcoa has two smelters in the Pacific Northwest currently producing aluminum. The 278,000 ton per year Intalco plant in Ferndale, Wash., started operating in 1966. With a BPA power contract in place, workers celebrated energizing another potline on April 4.
Alcoa's smelter in Wenatchee, Wash., also started up a potline this year. The 277,000 ton per year plant was built by Alcoa in 1952. It gets half its power from a nearby hydroelectric dam owned by Chelan County PUD and half from BPA.
The CFAC plant was built in 1955 and enlarged to five potlines and 175,000 tons per year. Equipment in the original two potlines is dismantled, and the company's alumina unloading facility in Everett, Wash., is currently being used by Lehigh Cement Co.
Here's the rundown on the other seven regional plants:
- Alcoa built the first Pacific Northwest aluminum plant in Vancouver, Wash., in 1939. The 115,000 ton per year smelter closed in 2000. Glencore, the company that owns CFAC, acquired the facility in bankruptcy court in 2002 and then sold it to the Port of Vancouver in 2009. Site cleanup was completed in 2010.
- Reynolds' smelter in Longview, Wash., was the region's second aluminum plant. It fired up in 1941, about a month before Pearl Harbor. The 204,000 ton per year plant shut down in 2000 and was sold to two successive bulk terminal operators, which removed smelting equipment. Envirocon, of Missoula, started cleaning up the site in 2004. Alcoa, which still owns the land, says cleanup is 95 percent complete.
- Alcoa built the Mead smelter in Spokane, Wash., for the U.S. government in 1942, and Kaiser acquired the surplus World War II plant in 1946. The 200,000 ton per year plant shut down in 2000, and Kaiser filed for bankruptcy in 2002. A St. Louis-based company bought the facility in 2004 and stripped out all the equipment except for the carbon anode plant, which Ormet Corp. nearly bought last year. A hazardous waste pile containing spent potliner remains at the site.
- Alcoa built an aluminum smelter for the U.S. government in Troutdale, Ore., in 1942, and Reynolds acquired it after the war. The 121,000 ton per year plant was idled in 2000 and shut down permanently in 2002. TetraTech completed cleaning up the site in 2005 for use as an industrial park.
- The Olin Corporation ran an aluminum smelter in Tacoma, Wash., for the U.S. government during World War II, and Kaiser acquired it in 1947. The 81,000 ton per year plant shut down in 2000, and the Port of Tacoma purchased it from Kaiser in bankruptcy court in 2002. Cleanup was completed this year, including toppling the landmark smokestack and two steel domes used to store alumina.
- Harvey Aluminum Co., the same company that tried to build an aluminum plant in the Flathead Valley in 1953, built a smelter in The Dalles, Ore., in 1958. The 82,000 ton per year plant was sold to several companies before shutting down in 2000. The owner went into bankruptcy in 2003. Cleanup was completed in 2007 for an industrial park.
- Harvey Aluminum Co. also built a smelter in Goldendale, Wash., in 1970 that was very similar in size and type of equipment to the CFAC plant. The 178,000 ton per year plant stayed partially open following the energy crisis until the owner declared bankruptcy in 2003. The smelting equipment was removed in 2008, and cleanup was completed this year.
Seven Regional Aluminum Plants Gone
Hungry Horse News, August 31, 2011
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