Teck ticking along

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
June 13th, 2012

Teck Trail Operations are busy: they’re building a $210 million furnace to triple their electronics recycling capacity, a $125 million acid plant to replace two older ones, and have recently completed a $5.5 million “effluent spill reduction project” that modified 245 locations within their operations and significantly reduced the risk of spills.

The $210 million “No. 4 Furnace” is actually two new furnaces—one slag fuming and one settling—that will become operational in 2014 as part of the existing lead smelting process. We’ve included the architects’ before-and-after rendition of the plant from the Trail Bridge at the end of the article.

“The furnaces will triple our capacity to recycle end-of-life electronics such as old TVs, stereos and other common consumer electronics,” said Catherine Adair, the community engagement coordinator and author of the quarterly project updates.

Teck sometimes refers to e-waste as “urban ore,” since they can process it through the smelter to produce the same metals they already make and market from regular ores—metals such as zinc from zinc-alkaline batteries, or indium, germanium, gold, and silver from electronics.

The No. 4 Furnace will replace the old No. 2 Slag Fuming Furnace, and the additional settling furnace will create an additional product: black copper, a copper oxide also known as tenorite.

“A potential further development may be to construct a black copper refining plant to produce copper, nickel, and precious and platinum group metals,” Adair explained.

Teck will also construct a new “baghouse” to filter gas from the furnaces and remove particulates. Adair said that although the furnace’s production capacity will greatly increase, there will be “no net increase in sulphur dioxide emissions.”

In fact, taken alongside improvements in the $125 million “No. 1 Acid Plant” on the west side of Trail Operations—a project to replace two aging plants adjacent to the site—Trail Operation’s sulphur dioxide emissions will actually decrease overall.

Over the past two decades, Trail Operations’ investments have resulted in “more than a 95 per cent reduction of releases of metals to air and water,” Adair reported.

The No. 1 Acid Plant will be significantly more reliable as well, she said, integrating modern “best practices.” Excavation and demolition work on existing concrete slabs, bases, and substructures has begun, and the new plant is expected to become operational  as part of the zinc process in 2013. Excavation for the acid plant will likely run into early July, going Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For the No. 4 Furnace, site preparations are also under way. Some trees and vegetation were removed, several access roads have been installed, and a retaining wall was built in advance of laying foundations. Site preparation will continue during daylight hours, Monday to Saturday, until the early fall.

Trail Operations has also just finished modifications to 245 locations on their property to “significantly reduce the risk of spills,” Adair said.

In addition to the $5.5 million spent on spill protection, Teck has also recently changed the boiler water treatment system at Warfield Operations in response to a “pH excursion” in March 2011 when approximately 225 litres of excess caustic soda solution were discharged into the river.

This was beyond acceptable limits and significantly increased the water’s pH for a short period of time, but Masse Environmental Consultants out of Nelson reported that there would be “no long term effects” to the health of the river and its aquatic life.

“The new system will improve the pH balance of our water,” Adair said. “We are also nearing completion of a $1.2 million program to install on-line monitoring of in-plant process and effluent streams to allow for quicker detection and correction of any abnormal conditions.”

Looking forward to a couple years of intensive changes, Adair said, “We’re just trying to keep the community informed of everything as we go forward. We want to make sure the community can contact us if they have questions, so they know what we’re doing here in Trail.”

To receive Teck’s quarterly updates on the furnace and acid plant projects, or for other inquiries, contact Catherine Adair at Catherine.Adair@teck.com or 250-364-4878.

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