The tenth of November marked the end of the major project of refurbishing 52 anode baking furnace chambers at Arvida Works, an achievement that has been a source of pride and satisfaction for all involved. The successful completion of this ambitious project, which lasted two years, is testament to everyone’s hard work, agility and skill.
The technical, operations, engineering and contractor teams met to mark the occasion and acknowledge the major job they had just completed. Since November 2020, everyone had worked together on a common goal to create the right conditions so that the refurbishment work could be carried out without compromising production.
Installed in 1986, the anode baking furnace had reached an advanced state of deterioration. To prolong its lifespan, it had to be rebuilt. And while this was being done, operations had to continue as normal—something that had never been attempted before.
“Initially, we knew that the furnace was in an inoperable state,” explained Kathia Rainville, Process Supervisor. “There were too many HSE issues to continue using it. The technical team was tasked with identifying the issues so that we could take the next steps. With our experts, we developed a method to repair the furnace and continue to operate it safely, which had never been done before.”
“There was a lot of uncertainty around refurbishing the furnace,” said Jean-François Leblanc, Head of Arvida-AP60-PLS-Dubuc. “But we decided to take a chance and carry out the work. At first, it seemed like a near-impossible feat. And it did prove difficult. But now it’s all done. The results were amazing and far exceeded expectations. We learned a lot doing this project and were shown the importance of teamwork.”
Jean-François Leblanc, Head of Arvida-AP60-PLS-Dubuc
(photo by Jeannot Lévesque, Le Quotidien)
Refurbishing an operating furnace
To minimise the impact on the facility’s production capacity, the refurbishment work took place during regular operations. “The biggest challenges was coordinating with operations, since work of this kind requires a certain amount of production lead time,” said Yves Tremblay, Refractory Maintenance Technician for Technical Services.
“We had to clear the site for about 100 hours, demolish the chambers and build new ones.”
The refurbishment of the anode baking furnace chambers was an important quality issue. Although the chambers had received maintenance work over the years, including the replacement of partitions, some parts dated back to the construction of the chambers.
“We returned the furnaces to their original performance parameters,” said Denis Bouchard, Refractory Technician at Arvida Works. “This resulted in improved safety, as we eliminated several risks.”
Building new chambers in an old furnace is no easy task. “We had to be really alert,” said Christopher Bolduc, Foreman for Réfraco, the main contractor for the work. “Many adjustments had to be made along the way. As the job progressed, we had to keep up by acquiring the knowledge and experience needed at every stage.”
Collaboration was key to ensuring that 52 chambers were refurbished one by one without any cancellations.
We cannot overlook the work done by the engineering services team to prepare the site beforehand. We also commend the integrated team of site supervisors, HSE technicians and cost analysts for closely tracking the targets (budget, schedule and health and safety) throughout the project. Thanks to the synergy of everyone involved, the project finished on schedule and met quality standards without any overspending.
“A lot of coordination was needed so that the workers and contractors could share a space while ensuring that production levels were maintained and the refurbishment work went forward on schedule,” said Xavier Boulianne, Maintenance Operations and HSE Manager at Réfraco.
“The creativity, resourcefulness, engagement and stability of our core team were key to this great achievement,” added Frédéric Truchon, Human Resources and Commercial Manager at Réfraco.
Thanks to the teamwork and the outstanding efforts of all the employees involved, the anode baking furnace is now at optimal performance in terms of both productivity and process safety.