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Economic and dam related articles

Seven Regional Aluminum Plants Gone

by Richard Hanners
Hungry Horse News, August 31, 2011

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:

Richard Hanners
Seven Regional Aluminum Plants Gone
Hungry Horse News, August 31, 2011

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