Alcoa, Inc., introduces new locomotive, breaks ground on new recycling facility

Alcoa, Inc., recently showed off an addition that is fuel efficient and innovative. On the same day, company officials broke ground on a facility to recycle aluminum from drink cans.

On the morning of Dec. 6, company officials gathered with community leaders to break ground on a $22 million project at the company’s Can Reclamation facility at the Tennessee Operations property in Alcoa. Improvements include a new crusher and delacquering furnace and supporting building enclosers and environment systems.

The company said implementing the project would increase used beverage can molten output capacity by nearly 50 percent. Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy needed to make new cans. It can recycled over and over again, resulting in significant energy savings and emissions reductions. In 2007, Alcoa, Inc., recycled nearly 14 billion aluminum cans. The Can Reclamation Project is expected to be completed over the next 12- to 18-months.

After breaking ground on the new recycling center, dignitaries strolled over to a rail track where a new locomotive painted University of Tennessee orange was stopped on the track for the visitors to inspect.

The locomotive transports aluminum, has 25 percent more horsepower, 25 percent less fuel and cuts down on 85 percent of air pollutants. The train also has interlock brakes, automatic horns and lights, a GPS system and speeds that can be set like cruise control. The second locomotive is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2008.

“The new Delac and Crusher, plus our new locomotive are significant, not only for our commitment to the environment but also for our journey toward long-term viability,” said Malcolm Murphy, Alcoa Tennessee Location manager.

Murphy said the union employees with Local 309 United Steel Workers and the white collar employees at the plant all worked hard in the last two and a half years to put themselves in the position where the company would make the investment to help the Alcoa plant remain competitive around the world. “It’s global,” he said. “We have to be viable.”

Alcoa Mayor Don Mull said the Alcoa corporation saw how committed the Tennessee Operations employees were in keeping the plant competitive and the upgrades would ensure it competed with other companies around the world. .

“It’s so exciting. I think it’s a tribute to the employees that they are going to this expense,” Mull said.

The mayor said other plants owned by the company are working hard to get the same investment capital from Alcoa, Inc. “It shows you what we can do when we work together,” he said.

George Williams said the investment will help keep jobs in Blount County and the region for years to come.

The train is a big improvement over what was used when Williams’ father worked at Alcoa and their family lived a short distance away in the Old Field community. “We could tell when they started the train engine a mile away because of the smoke and noise,” he said.

John Kincaid operates the locomotive: “It’s much quieter than the old locomotive,” he said.

The other locomotives were made in 1960 and 1968. The old engine used 18 to 19 gallons of diesel an hour. The new locomotive uses 7.7 gallons and there is an 80 percent reduction in emissions, he said.

“We wanted one that was ecologically friendly and that used less fuel,” Kincaid said.

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