From 20 February to 22 March, the teams at the Alma Works casthouse carried out the region’s largest shutdown ever on refractory furnaces. This project involved a total of 12,550 consecutive hours of work over 31 days. In addition to completely refurbishing the furnaces, the teams completed eight other projects at the same time, including installing filtration units to increase metal cleanliness so as to meet market requirements. In 2022, $6.7 million was pumped into this major project. The careful planning of every hour worked and the commitment and availability of employees were the key factors that made this exceptional project a success and kept everyone motivated and in good spirits.
The casthouse’s furnaces #4 and #5 for horizontal casting machine 1 were nearing the end of their lives and had to be rebuilt from scratch, which required a major shutdown. “The shutdown allowed us to do quality work as quickly as possible and keep people safe,” said Steeve Perron, Major Shutdown Coordinator. “A successful major shutdown depends on several key factors, including preparation, daily meetings, and the cooperation of everyone involved.”
“I have worked through major shutdowns for 20 years, and this is one of the few times where people looked significantly less exhausted after such a work sequence,” said Richard Gauthier, Superintendent, Casthouse. “I would like to emphasise that the success of the work done is due, among other things, to the exemplary coordination of the teams and everyone’s positive attitude. Even in difficult times, things never got heated, and everyone remained in problem-solving mode.”
The additional challenge with this project was to integrate and install new production equipment while the casthouse continued to operate. Jean-Michel Gagnon, Maintenance Engineer, said, “It was a bit like a choreographed dance, coordinating our work and looking for ways to free up time for everyone to do their job. Ultimately, the success of this project was no accident, as we had been preparing for months.”
Mathieu Sauvageau, Section Leader, Casthouse, said, “We established a good communication routine by holding two meetings a day during the shutdown. This helped us get the right players around the table to plan for upcoming work and address problems in real time.”
Alongside the main project, the teams worked on installing and commissioning two filtration units and related equipment. Jean-Philippe Côté, Project Leader, Casthouse, said, “Initially, the purpose of the ceramic foam filter project was to improve the cleanliness of the metal and automate the filtration line to prevent HSE incidents in the future. With the installation of a bypass on the casting line, the metal is filtered to a higher level of cleanliness. This was a highly complex project that required many technical changes, including the addition of gas lines, sensors, and instrumentation. All of this was done to capture potential new markets and to meet a customer demand for high-quality filtered metal.”
No HSE incidents occurred during the shutdown. What the employees remember after a project of this scope is the thoroughness and high spirits that prevailed on the site over the 31 days worked.
The project in numbers:
- 31 days
- 12,550 consecutive hours worked
- $7 million invested
- 0 HSE incidents