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Vale slashes Sudbury nickel refinery emissions

November 14, 2016
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Sustainable Development

$75 million project reduces metal particulate emissions by 90 per cent

The $75 million Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery Emission Reduction Project brings Vale Sudbury Operations into compliance with new standards for nickel and total suspended particulate emissions. Pictured here is a new fan building and baghouse.

The $75 million Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery Emission Reduction Project brings Vale Sudbury Operations into compliance with new standards for nickel and total suspended particulate emissions. Pictured here is a new fan building and baghouse.

Vale has announced the completion of a $75 million Nickel Refinery Emissions Reduction Project in Sudbury.

The largest investment and facility upgrade at the Copper Cliff nickel refinery since it was constructed in 1973 brings the company into compliance with new provincial and federal government standards for the emission of nickel and total suspended particulates.

The new provincial standard took effect July 1, 2016 and is based on an annual averaging period as opposed to the 24-hour averaging period of the previous standard.

Most of the emissions come out of the stack and the rooftop, but there are also fugitive emissions from trucks and other traffic exiting the site.

The 90 per cent reduction in metals particulate emissions – from .14 micrograms per cubic metre to .04 micrograms per cubic metre – was primarily achieved by transitioning from electrostatic precipitator technology to much more modern baghouse technology, according to Jody Kuzenko, director of refineries for Vale’s Ontario Division.

“We’re in the process of completing the installation of 25 baghouses to capture emissions from the refinery. One of them we call a super baghouse. It’s one of the biggest in North America. Essentially, the technology is just what you might think if you had to guess what a baghouse is. It’s a big filter that captures the nickel and particulates and cleans the gas before it’s emitted to the environment.”

Vale has also installed a drive-through wash bay to clean trucks before they leave the site.

“The other thing we did is really old technology. It’s called paving,” said Kuzenko. “We paved the gravel surfaces and have a extensive road washing program to make sure the pavement is kept clean.”

The monitoring of nickel and total suspended particulates from the refinery is performed through a complicated modeling exercise that factors in wind direction, production volumes, metals in production and emission volumes.

“All of these modeled parameters get put into giant and complicated software that spits out numbers, so this isn’t like the SO2 world where we have monitors all over the community to measure actual ground level concentrations,” said Kuzenko. “This is very much theoretical and a modeled exercise about what companies are permitted to put into the environment. The numbers are just so small.”

Pöyry Inc., a Finnish-based consulting and engineering company, supplied the detailed engineering and construction site assistance services. Other major contractors included Copper Cliff Mechanical and Lopes Ltd., a full-service, Sudbury-based fabricator.

The project consumed two million pounds of steel, 50 kilometres of electrical cable and 3,200 cubic metres of concrete. It encompassed 300 goods and services contracts and at the peak of construction employed between 100 and 125 tradespeople.

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