SKM wins awards for bulk handling projects

Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) has been rewarded for its bulk handling expertise at the recent Australian Bulk Handling Awards.

Senior Mechanical Engineer, David Rea, was joint winner of the AW Roberts Award for a Young Engineer who has made a significant contribution to bulk solids handling in the areas of research, design and practice.

The Dampier Port Upgrade in the Pilbara, Western Australia, undertaken for Rio Tinto Iron Ore subsidiary Pilbara Iron, won a Highly Commended in the category of Bulk Handling Facility of the Year (Resources and Infrastructure).

At Rio Tinto’s Dampier Port Upgrade Project in the Pilbara, Western Australia, as part of the A$2 billion EPCM contract, SKM developed a solution to modularise the construction of the wharf, while ensuring the port remained fully operational and record tonnages continued to be shipped during this period of unprecedented global demand for iron ore. This solution has resulted in the sustainable development of the project by improving the environment, building local capacity and introducing safer working methods.

The upgrade, which began in 2003 with feasibility studies, and is due for completion at the end of the year, has doubled the port’s capacity from 72 to 140 Mt/y, while the creation of a multi-wharf facility enables it to berth four 220,000 t (dead weight) large ‘Cape’ type ships.

The project was undertaken in two phases, with Phase A completed three months ahead of schedule in September 2005. The upgrade included extending the wharf by 600 m (450 m in Phase A and 150 m in Phase B), 7 km of rail track, incorporating two new car dumpers, a stockyard extension, four stackers, a reclaimer, two new shiploaders, two lump re-screening plants and associated conveyors, some up to 1 km in length.

SKM’s WA/NT regional manager Malcolm Greenway said that by adopting techniques historically used in the off-shore oil and gas industry, the project had set a new benchmark in heavy wharf construction. “SKM developed a method of prefabricating 4 x 54 m wharf topside modules in Phase A and a further 3 x 54 m modules in Phase B, which were shipped as finished products and placed directly onto the pile caps installed on site, over a period of three days for each Phase. The modularised approach was adopted in response to critical labour shortages combined with an unprecedented resources boom, which placed construction schedule pressure on the project. By doing so, labour shortages were overcome and the project was accelerated, resulting in record shipments during the construction phase and several million tonnes extra in early ore sales that otherwise would have been foregone.”

Mr Greenway said the project had also set a benchmark in sustainable development, by delivering a cleaner asset, with a significant social premium, massive economic wealth creation and improved safety for workers.

“Traditionally, working over water carries a high level of safety risk,” Mr Greenway said. “By utilising modular construction and maximising the amount of work undertaken at the fabricator’s workshop, the project team was able to save more than 100,000 construction man-hours and record zero Lost Time Injuries.”

The project also deliberately set out to employ local expertise and resources, with the wharf main structural steel being supplied by OneSteel, while the fabrication and modularisation was undertaken by AGC in Kwinana and Henderson.

“What is most significant is that this simple, yet incredibly efficient Australian innovation has the potential to take months off the construction program for heavy wharf projects and leverage significant gains for the global seaborne resources sector,” he said.

Rea has worked with SKM since 2002, during which time he has provided research, design and delivery skills to major projects undertaken by SKM in Queensland. He has particular expertise in in-pit crushing and conveying systems, the design of bulk materials handling conveyors and the modelling of fabricated steel structures and mechanical components in Inventor 3D.

SKM’s Chief Mechanical Engineer (Qld), John Thomason, said Rea was integral to the design of a new dump haul trailer for Rio Tinto Alcan’s Weipa bauxite mine expansion. “More efficient trailers were required for this new deposit at Weipa, to optimise the productivity of the existing fleet,” Thomason said. “Through the use of 3D CAD and Finite Element Analysis (FEA), David worked as part of a team to design and fabricate the new trailer, which has proven to be highly successful. This was achieved just nine months after the award of the contract.”

Thomason said that Rea had also been a significant team member on the Clermont coal mine project in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, for which SKM has undertaken a feasibility study and is currently delivering the EPCM for Rio Tinto Coal Australia. The A$500 million project will utilise all SKM-designed systems and process, including a Coal Preparation Plant (CPP) and one of the first In-Pit Crushing and Conveying (IPCC) systems to be designed in Australia within the past 20 years.