Exactly 1-year ago the General Recycling Industries, Ltd. (General Recycling) team celebrated a major milestone. After two years of consultation, design work, coordinating, planning and construction, the team was ready to turn on their new cutting-edge, multi-staged scrap metal processing facility. With the ‘flip of a switch’, to boil a very intricate process down to a simple concept, the recycling facility worked flawlessly. Capable of processing over 100 tons of mixed scrap per hour, the facility is nothing short of incredible, a true engineering marvel.
General Recycling trusted Arrow Engineering a division of Englobe (Arrow) to engineer the complex mechanical, electrical, and structural designs needed to bring their vision of ‘shredding for a better tomorrow’ to life, and a year later we are still proud of this accomplishment.
Reflecting on this project, Kevin Mattai, Senior Project Manager, considers it one of the coolest of his career to date. To recognize the 1-year anniversary of the scaled-up recycling facility we talked with Kevin to learn more about the engineering behind such a unique project.
Q. What made this project so special?
A. The phrase is used often but this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime project. One of the most technologically advanced systems of its kind in Canada, with the impressive capacity to process 80 cars per hour, the facility is comprised of 2 unique buildings that function together as a formidable recycling operation: the automobile shredder building, affectionately dubbed ‘the Shredder’, and the Auto-Scrap Residue (ASR) building known as the ASR plant. As a united system the operation’s sophisticated equipment fragmentizes, sorts, and reclaims recyclable materials from scrap cars, appliances, and other metallic waste.
The overall environmental impacts for the project are just as impressive as the operations itself. The upgraded processing plant diverts waste from landfill, resulting in a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction of more than 700,000 tons annually, all while supporting manufacturing demands for steel, aluminum, and copper. Further, anticipating an influx of materials volume correlating with population growth, designs for the integrated shredder and reclamation system account for increased processing capacity, ensuring the plant will preserve natural resources, save energy, and reduce GHG emissions for years to come.
As a bonus, General Recycling purchased a decommissioned shredding plant on the west coast to serve as the heart of its new recycling operation, upgrading and repurposing the dormant plant to suit their needs.
Q. What were the engineering achievements for the project?
A. A facility of this magnitude has an enormous electrical load requirement needing a utility substation on-site. Prior to working with Arrow on the project, the client had a power study completed advising that the new shredder would not be possible due to the high current draw and existing electric utility capacity. Our team worked closely with stakeholders to find a solution and were able to confirm that using the shredder during off-peak hours while other buildings were unoccupied would allow them to operate the shredder. A year later the shredder is operating at peak performance with the impressive capacity to process 80 cars per hour. It is really such an impressive system.
Of course, we wanted to deliver a better system than the one originally purchased. Instead of one 5000 horsepower motor, we recommended two 2500 horsepower motors, as well as integrated facilities for operations and maintenance to support the daily activities onsite. To account for the local climate and yard conditions, the mechanical team added upgrades for localized heating, largescale cooling, air filtration, and ventilation into the design.
Looking back, the fact that we were able to work as such a cohesive, multi-disciplinary team to deliver the work was a huge accomplishment. I learned a lot from working on this project, especially the importance of trusting yourself and not being afraid of a challenge.
Q. What was the biggest challenge the team faced for the project?
A. I’d say one of the greatest challenges faced was designing a structure that could safely house and stabilize the equipment over the long life of the facility. The structural design for the shredder building was complex because to propel the shredder equipment, we needed the help of gravity meaning the motors, two 2500 horsepower motors, for the machinery had to be housed on the second level. Adding an extra element of difficulty was the shredder machinery itself and we had to account for, and isolate, forces generated from the shredder’s twelve 500lb steel hammers that swing at 600RPM. To support the massive weight of the motors and hammers we proposed a mega floating concrete block that extended all the way from the ground up to the second level completely encasing the system. The rest of the shredder building was constructed around the concrete block, ensuring that all parts of the shredder were supported by a separate solid foundation, unaffected by shock and vibratory forces generated by the motors.
Another element that the team had to overcome was the reality that this was a unique and complex project with few engineering precedents to draw on for reference. Other than the architectural design firm and the Arrow team of engineers, the list of project partners was international spanning the globe from the United States to Europe. For this one-of-a-kind recycling facility, we didn’t have a standard design template that we could follow. This type of project had never been completed by our team and we had to develop our own design for a complex group of specialized equipment. To predict and engineer a positive outcome, everyone involved had to rely on experience, structural data, and information specific to the equipment. The designs that were engineered for this project were just as unique as the new facility, and that is something the entire team can be proud of.
Q. What makes this project so memorable for you?
A. When the integrated multi-stage reclamation system was finished, something a bit out of the ordinary for the industry happened. Our Client, the General Recycling team, invited me and the entire engineering team, to come for a tour of the facility. Seeing firsthand the entire system in action was an amazing experience that reinforced that this project was special. It was incredible to see how our work has enabled the Client to make a significant environmental impact. From an extreme scale-up in the volume of materials that will be diverted from landfill to the quantity of usable metals that will be returned to the market, to the enormous amount of GHG reduction annually, this project makes a big difference.
As a young engineer you always think about the future and hope that you will be able to make a difference, or change the world, and with projects like this I really feel like we accomplished something special. I am incredibly proud of our team and to have contributed to the engineering designs for such a cool facility. With no other design like it in Canada, and the continued move towards engineered systems that are sustainable and in balance with the environment, this project really captures the impact engineers can have on a community.
Kevin Mattai is a Senior Project Manager and electrical engineer working with the Arrow team in Edmonton, Alberta.