Rio Tinto Aluminum Smelter – Kitimat Modernization Project

Kitimat Modernization Project – Aluminum Smelter Upgrade

project at a glance

  • 700
  • 5,000
  • 1,000,000
  • 140,000



  • Electrical
    From preconstruction to construction to post project support and service, Houle provides all your electrical construction and renovation needs.
  • Fibre Optics & Structured Cabling
    Houle performs the full breadth of structured cabling services and offer customized designs for CAT 5e, CAT 6, CAT 6A, and fibre optics.
  • Lighting
    Houle offers in-house lighting design, consultation, installation, and maintenance services. We focus on energy saving solutions so you can lower your electricity bill while reducing your carbon footprint.

Scope of Work

Completed: 2015

Owner: Rio Tinto Alcan

The Kitimat Modernization Project is a multi-billion dollar project for the modernization of the 60 year-old Kitimat smelter. It is one of the largest private construction projects in British Columbia’s history. The project will increase the smelter’s current production capacity by 48% to approximately 420,000 tonnes per year.

Houle was originally not invited to bid on this contract. Instead, Houle was awarded a smaller South Plant Electrical and Automation contract. Bechtel later awarded the remainder of the electrical works from the other contractors to Houle. In the three month period following the award of the remainder of the electrical work, Houle’s crew quadrupled in size and its systems were expanded to accommodate the growth, with peak manpower at 700 workers. Precise planning and strong leadership enabled Houle to take over all the electrical work site-wide within a few months, bringing the project back on schedule without sacrificing the quality of workmanship.

Houle’s electrical scope of work included but was not limited to: installing approximately 1,000,000 meters of above ground and underground low voltage and medium voltage cables, installing approximately 5,000 light fixtures and equipment, installing over 50,000 meters of cable tray, completing over 140,000 terminations, and installing over 5,000 instruments and electrical devices.

Houle’s automation scope of work included but was not limited to: installing over 330,000 meters of above and underground fibre optic cables, completing over 16,000 terminations of fibre optic cables, fabricating and installing over 80 network cabinets, and installing site-wide fire alarm loop and verifying the entire system in collaboration with Simplex Grinnell. Houle also switched over construction power and data of all the existing facilities to the new permanent feeds.

There were many challenges on the project due to heavy and complex equipment relocation moves on tight shutdown schedules, often in inclement weather. With location proving to be a challenge, impeccable organization of personnel and materials was necessary. Having multiple contractors on-site combined with the constant change of the project design was challenging, but flexibility and logistics on Houle’s part helped to work around the client’s schedules and changes. To ensure that the work was to Houle’s high standard of quality, extensive document control, quality assurance/ quality control, and attention to safety were required.

Houle was the only contractor to meet every milestone and turnover on the Rio Tinto site. By maintaining an exceptional performance factor of 10% below the contract requirements, Houle was able to save the customer $15 million on a cost reimbursable contract. At project close, Houle’s contract was valued at $160 million.

“The Houle Electric culture aligned very well with KMP project requirement and is well recognized by the project. Your ability to maintain schedule focus while absorbing increasing workload under often difficult conditions is testament to the above and I believe a key point of differentiation for your organization. In addition, your leadership, drive and passion were imbued within your team which contributed in no small part to the successes demonstrated.”

~Andrew Czornohalan, Project Manager – Aluminium & Energy Projects, Rio Tinto Projects, Technology & Innovation, Rio Tinto Alcan