Metal price still long way from Alcoa restart hopes

The annual report on emissions and the periodic update on aluminum production were discussed when the Community Advisory Panel to Alcoa (Rockdale Operations)— CAPARO— met in Taylor in October.

The status report showed the price of aluminum has risen from the $1,300 per metric ton rate, which was a factor in the curtailment of production, to $1,870 on Tuesday.

Alcoa officials have said if the price reaches $2,400-2,500 a metric ton, restarting the smelting process may be considered.

But officials have also said the major factor in any restart contemplation would be a resolution of the power supply issues between Alcoa and Luminant. A lawsuit between the two corporations is pending.

CAPARO facilitator Diane Sheridan said remaining employees are working safely, with one reportable environmental incident year to date, a spill from a barrel in storage.

The facility is being maintained and permits are in place so Rockdale Operations is ready to start up if the world market improves sufficiently for them to make a profit.

Data from calendar year 2008 were added to graphs CAPARO uses to track trends in emissions, based on data the Rockdale facility reports to state and federal regulatory agencies each year. The shutdown of Alcoa Power Plant Units 1, 2, and 3 at the end of 2006 resulted in major reductions in emissions in 2007. Curtailment of aluminum production in 2008 caused further declines, though pot lines were in operation for most of that calendar year.

Total releases reported on the Toxics Release Inventory dropped from 2.3 million pounds in 2006 to 1.2 million pounds in 2007 to 675,000 pounds in 2008. Releases to landfill on the plant site declined from 1.2 million pounds in 2006 to approximately 3,000 pounds in 2007 and 2008 without the ash from the closed power plant units.

Most air emissions come from the smelting process rather than from the atomizer. In 2009, only the atomizer was operated, so emissions in next fall's report will be markedly lower than in 2008.

Next CAPARO update is Monday, Jan. 11 from 6- 8:30 p.m. at a location to be determined.

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