Norgalv is a Canadian company that recently completed construction and began operation of a state-of-the-art galvanizing plant in North Bay, ON. The facility’s cutting-edge equipment and automation technology make it the most advanced and environmentally friendly such plant in the province.
The plant was initially slated to open in the fall of 2020, but the installation and commissioning of critical equipment supported by the requisite technical support team – all from Europe – delayed the launch to January. Andre van Soelen, Norgalv’s Managing Director, confirmed that a single shift is currently running, with the goal to increase to a two- and then a three-shift system by mid-2022.
The project was funded by private shareholders, with generous support from public funding agencies including Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), Fednor and the City of North Bay’s Economic Development department. Norgalv’s funding sources included Roynat and BDC.
The economic benefits to the surrounding communities include 20 jobs for the single shift and an expected 25 to 30 additional positions when the increase to three shifts is completed. In a city the size of North Bay, that’s a measurable impact. More broadly, as the first galvanizing plant in Northern Ontario, regional manufacturers can now become significantly more competitive with those in the south that have always benefited from the cluster of similar plants in their own back yard.
van Soelen says, “Getting a new greenfield galvanizing plant up and running is an immense challenge at the best of times. To do so during a global pandemic is a testament to the strong relationships we have with all relevant public and private sector stakeholders, and to the environmental, and health and safety bona fides of our plant.” The relevant authorities were always very clear about what it would take to remain in compliance while undertaking the work. As a result, Covid-19 presented a series of challenges that could be overcome, instead of a catastrophe.
Designed by specialists from Austria and Germany at Koerner KvK, the Norgalv facility is a semi-automated, single-line hot-dipped galvanizing plant that features a 8m x 1.4m by 3.5 metre kettle.
Manfred Schnell, Koerner’s Sales Director, explains that “the complete pre-treatment process is enclosed, so that no acidic fumes can escape into the environment. Meanwhile, the fumes are washed continuously in a scrubber that meets the most stringent environmental regulations. In addition, the zinc kettle itself is enclosed and the ‘white fumes’ generated in the process are collected and filtered in a zinc dust filter.”
Every floor in the acid-handling area of the plant is coated with an acid-proof material, in order to eliminate the risk of these compounds entering the ground.
Key to the advanced safety provisions of the facility is limiting human contact with the products in the process. Materials are manually rigged on a lifting/lowering station and moved onto a manual shuttle that moves it to the pre-treatment area. At the pre-treatment station, an operator assigning a recipe (a sequence that includes immersion times and dipping routines) and the automated process begins. From this ‘pickling’ stage on, no human handling occurs.
After pickling, a crane puts the jig on a chain conveyor in the dryer, then transfers it to the furnace area for drying and into the zinc bath. The galvanizing process itself is manually controlled, and then the crane moves the galvanized steel to a buffer area for manual unrigging.
Norgalv will focus on serving Northern Ontario-based manufacturers; however, the facility expects to work with customers beyond the region. The City of North Bay is partnering with the company to leverage the plant in attracting new investment that would not have been possible before Norgalv’s arrival.
According to van Soelen, “The crucial point is that a galvanizing plant makes businesses viable that previously would not have been. For instance, if a company wanted to manufacture any mass-produced item that requires galvanizing, such as guardrail, sectional poles, scaffolding, and many other items, they could now do so in North Bay, thanks to the presence of Norgalv.”
Norgalv is proof positive that Northern Ontario – and North Bay specifically – is a land of opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to do business in an environment that supports their ambitions and offers a lifestyle that’s second to none. van Soelen hopes that Norgalv’s success will serve as an example of the bright future possible in Ontario’s North.