Canadian Consulting Engineer

2020 #CCEawards Showcase: Vaudreuil VB 2022, Phase 1

“This project will have positive, long-lasting impacts for the environment and become a global benchmark for the industry.” – Jury

November 23, 2020  By CCE

Vaudreuil VB 2022 - Phase 1

Photos courtesy Hatch.

Category: Project Management

Award of Excellence Winner: Hatch

Rio Tinto wanted to find an alternative to closing its Vaudreuil Works alumina refinery in Saguenay, Que., in 2022. The refinery is the largest centre of inorganic chemistry in Canada, converting bauxite into alumina, using the Bayer process, and storing discarded bauxite residue in a special residue disposal area (RDA).

Constrained by the RDA’s capacity, the mining company engaged Hatch in 2016 to provide full engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services up to pre-operational verifications (POVs), from a prefeasibility study (PFS) to final project delivery, to either expand the RDA or open a new one, achieve filtered residue with at least 70% solids content and maintain the facility’s operations.

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The team delivered the project one month ahead of schedule and below the estimated cost, ensuring the plant’s viability.

Key priorities

With the RDA’s capacity posing a constraint to the expansion of the operational life of the plant, the scope of the project’s first phase—launched in 2018—involved transporting the residue via pipelines to a filtration facility and moving disposal to existing RDA sites by conveyor.

The entire plant’s operations depended on timelines. Any delay in project implementation and any future operational issues would affect the refinery’s production, due to its limited storage capacity for residue.

In June 2019, the client asked Hatch to accelerate the delivery of the first filtered residue, to assist operations. Once a detailed execution plan was workshopped, the first red mud was filtered on October 24 of that year, four weeks ahead of the baseline deterministic schedule.

The budget was also important to the client. Hatch was awarded a mandate to complete the PFS with an incentive to reduce the project’s total installed cost (TIC). The final cost was well below the approved budget.

Another key priority was zero harm. A customized health, safety and environment (HSE) mobile app was developed to simplify declarations while matching Rio Tinto’s own management systems.

Another initiative, the Stop and Seek program, encouraged employees to stop and ask for assistance when confronted with potential hazards. Participants were rewarded with a symbolic medal. For each medal, a donation was made to a local charity. In total, the program provided $32,450 to the community.

The results of these initiatives included no recordable or lost-time injuries for approximately 550,000 hours worked.

Environmental measures

The project involved a variety of environmental initiatives:

  • Designing and delivering a project in compliance with environmental permits obtained from Quebec’s ministry of the environment and the fight against climate change, which required conservation and protection of wetland environments and noise reduction throughout construction and for the new facility.
  • Investing in compensatory measures by cleaning, developing and enhancing the Saint-Damien rangeland wetland, in accordance with the ministry.
  • Providing a dedicated environmental resource on-site during civil works activities to ensure wetlands protection and compliance with soil and material management requirements.
  • Promoting the vision with local contractors to deliver a successful project with no harm.

Bauxite residue dewatering

Bench tests, plant visits and research resulted in the selection of industrial filtration as the facility’s new bauxite residue dewatering technique.

Filtration applies mechanical pressure to dewater bauxite residue, so it can be stored more easily. The technique has the advantage of allowing dry stacking to reduce the site’s footprint, but also takes only 17 minutes, rather than the three years required for the previous storage process. And it is the most environmentally friendly technology in the alumina industry, to date.

Early filtration results showed solids content of just over 73%, exceeding the minimum target of 70%.

Vaudreuil VB 2022 - Phase 1, dry stacking

With industrial filtration enabling dry stacking, the site’s construction footprint was reduced.

Award-winning firm (EPCM): Hatch, Mississauga, Ont. (Sébastien Lévesque, Ing. (OIQ); Marc Dubois; Steeve Simard; Bruno Gauthier, Ing. (OIQ); Louis Barriere, Ing. (OIQ); Michel Bouchard; Franck David, P. Eng.; Philippe Orsini, Ing. (OIQ); Luc Lepage; Bernard Courchesne, P.Eng.; Guillaume Leblanc; Isabelle Lajeunesse, P. Eng.; Giacomo Corbo; Beatrice Nazui; Lérie Labrosse; Louis-Antoine Johnson, Ing. (OIQ); Stéphane Raymond, Ing. (OIQ); Joe Petrolito, M. Ing., PMP).

Owner: Rio Tinto.

Other key players: n/a.


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