the film
Economic and dam related articles

Alcoa Aluminum Smelter's
Road to Recommissioning

by Nichole Bastin
Metal Miner, April 11, 2022

Alcoa idled the facility in the spring of 2020.

The Alcoa Intalco aluminum smelter, as seen from the air Sept. 19, 2013, will remain open at least two more years after a power deal was announced Tuesday, April 11, 2022. The Ferndale smelter had been scheduled to have its operations curtailed in June, laying off 465 workers. (Bellingham Herald photo) Meanwhile, the currently idled Alcoa Intalco Works smelter faces one remaining hurdle for its recommissioning.

The smelter and its prospective owners secured taxpayer funding to update the facility. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a state construction budget with the $10 million line item to improve efficiency and reduce emissions at the Ferndale facility.

A restart of the smelter remains in limbo, however. The prospective buyer, Blue Wolf Capital, still must establish a preferential long-term power contract with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). BPA previously rejected a proposal for reduced-rate electricity at the facility. However, negotiations are ongoing.

The required industrial rate is about 50% less than the current market rate. Should Blue Wolf Capital secure a contract, the smelter could return online as early as this summer, according to one report.

Alcoa idled the facility in the spring of 2020. Plummeting metal prices eroded the smelter’s profitability.

The current tight aluminum market, however, incentivizes its return. Specifically, Intalco’s annual capacity of 240,000 metric tons could replace U.S. imports of unwrought aluminum from Russia. Those imports reached roughly 215,000 tons in 2021.

Keep an eye out for the full Monthly Metals Index (MMI) report later this week, which includes analysis of aluminum prices and aluminum market trends.

Rising demand

New capacity from the sector comes alongside growing global aluminum demand.

According to the International Aluminum Institute (IAI), from 2020 to 2030, forecasts for aluminum demand see nearly 40% growth. The transportation sector, specifically the transition to electric vehicles, will drive the lion’s share of that demand. The sector is projected to consume 31.7 million tons in 2030, up from 19.9 million tons in 2020.

Related Pages:
Speakers Address National Security Risk of Closing Intalco by Brent Lindquist, Lynden Tribune, 4/23/20
New Ferndale Smelter Energy Deal Made to Benefit Both BPA, Alcoa by Dave Gallagher, Bellingham Herald, 4/13/16
Alcoa in Power Deal that may Keep Intalco Aluminum Plant Open by Josephine Mason, Reuters, 4/13/16
Intalco Aluminum Smelter in Ferndale may Stay Open by Dave Gallagher, Bellingham Herald, 4/12/16
Alcoa Hiring Temporary Employees for Ferndale Smelter Work by Dave Gallagher, Bellingham Herald, 2/28/16

Alcoa Intalco Works' timeline of 54 years in Whatcom County

Alcoa Corporation announced Wednesday, April 22, that it will close its Intalco Works aluminum smelter near Ferndale amid declining market conditions, laying off 700 employees. Legislators said they will do what they can to save the facility that has been in Whatcom County for 54 years.

Sources: Bellingham Herald files, Alcoa Intalco Works

Nichole Bastin
Alcoa Aluminum Smelter's Road to Recommissioning
Metal Miner, April 11, 2022

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation