MRO Magazine

Alcan facility in Quebec to save $1 million a year using new dynamic analysis process

Jonquiere, QC -- Emerson Process Management of Austin, Texas, was recently selected by Alcan to help improve proces...


November 3, 2003
By MRO Magazine


Jonquiere, QC — Emerson Process Management of Austin, Texas, was recently selected by Alcan to help improve processing operations at its Alumina and Specialty Chemicals facility at the Jonquiere Complex in Quebec. The plant produces specialty hydrates, which have to be manufactured with very stringent quality requirements — a process that leads to challenging dynamic process control applications.

Previous loop-tuning work had been undertaken with little business impact. Emerson’s team applied a dynamic analysis process to reduce variability and Alcan experienced significant production increases.

In February 2003, Alcan engaged the services of Laurentide Controls Ltd. of Montreal and Emerson’s Process Solutions division with the objective of improving the washing and drying operations within the plant. Laurentide is a local business partner for Emerson and is the largest supplier of automation solutions in eastern Canada.

Using Emerson’s EnTech Diagnostic Toolkit, the team quickly realized that process optimization would more likely be achieved by a revision of the process control strategy and design than by loop tuning.


Following the implementation of the initial modifications in the mill’s Provox system, Alcan recorded a 60% reduction in the dryer temperature variations, as well as a 12% production increase. In financial terms this production increase will be worth over $1 million dollars a year.

The control loops were re-tuned in a very conservative manner by using the systematic Lambda method. The reduction of variability at its source (before it reaches the PID controller) allowed for a much more robust tuning and reduced resonance to a minimum.

The next phase of work will have a different aim. The overall objective is a 15% reduction of natural gas usage per ton produced. In the interim, it is likely that Alcan will install advanced motion control tools such as Model Predictive Control (MPC) to further enhance its operations.

Alcan is a multinational, market-driven company and a world leader is aluminum, packaging and recycling with 2002 revenues of US $12.5 billion. With world-class operations in primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum as well as flexible and specialty packaging, Alcan is well positioned to meet and exceed its customers’ needs for innovative solutions and service. Alcan employs 53,000 people and has operating facilities in 41 countries.

Emerson Process Management, an Emerson business, is a leader in helping businesses automate their production, processing and distribution in the chemical, oil and gas, refining, pulp and paper, power, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and other industries.