Even with 40 years of custom barge solution expertise under its belt, Weir Minerals says it is continuing to innovate with new designs for applications in oil sands, tailings management and tropical and cold climates.
Developed over the decades, the Weir Minerals range of Multiflo® barges provides a solution for numerous applications, according to the company.
Water reclamation for oil sands market
Reclaim water barges are an integral part of tailings management solutions in oil sands applications, where tailings contain high percentages of water that can be recycled back through the process plant.
Upon identifying the need for reliable systems which were easy to manage and maintain, Weir Minerals developed its mega-barge exclusively for the oil sands market. This all in one package includes pumps, valves, hoses, and piping.
“This is where our turnkey value proposition really took off,” Kris Kielar, Product Manager for engineered-to-order dewatering products at Weir Minerals Canada, explains. “Our largest barge system includes a fully integrated electrical control houses that powers 9,000 hp (6,711 kW) worth of pumps, overhead cranes, remote monitoring and control, and the longest floated walkway we’ve ever provided, with ‘warm-up’ stations every 150 m for one kilometre.”
Mega-barges are the ideal solution for unique applications, such as the scale of water reclaim needed at some of the world’s largest oil sands operations, according to Weir Minerals.
“A typical oil sands operation requires nine barrels of water per barrel of bitumen produced,” continues Kielar, “so the more water that can be reclaimed, the better. The larger the operation, the bigger the water saving potential.”
In addition to the mega-barges for the oil sands market, Weir Minerals also developed modular barge packages as a fully customisable solution for ease of shipment, and a reduction in both capital costs and onsite installation costs. The introduction of both static and mobile, land-based, booster stations and pumphouses further expands the Multiflo barge solution capability while maintaining a single point of contact for customers, the company says.
The need for custom barge solutions for tailings management has increased in recent years. Where previously dewatering pumps in tailings applications were “set-and-forget”, the increased focus on tailings dam safety has shined a new spotlight on barge solutions that can provide heavy-duty, reliable pumping, Weir Minerals said.
Not only must sites revisit current arrangements to consider how their tailings will be handled in the future, they also need to empty the old dams decommissioned by environmental and mining authorities, the company said.
Ricardo Menezes, Barge Systems Specialist at Weir Minerals Brazil, said: “We are equipped to provide the entire solution. From initial consultation and design, to manufacturing, commission, and training and supervision of site operators. We work hard to bring our customers the best possible solution for their site, and we do it all under one roof.”
These all-in-one Multiflo packages eliminate the headache of integrating civil construction, electrical control rooms, control systems, pipes, cables, and mechanical and electrical works, according to the company. Weir Minerals engineer these dewatering barges in-house and employ naval engineering consultants to create tailored solutions for its customers.
Menezes continues: “Sites are being asked to transport tailings on a larger scale than before. An off-the-shelf solution might not work with their existing site infrastructure and that is where our fluid transport expertise comes in.”
Reliability in any situation
Applications in tropical environments, which experience heavy and sometimes unexpected rainfall, often require barge-mounted dewatering pumps to handle the rapidly rising water levels.
Multiflo land-based barges are built to float, protecting the pump unit from being flooded as often happens with a traditional skid pump unit, Weir Minerals says.
These land-based barges are fitted with integrated skid runners that allow them to be towed around mine sites and launched or retrieved with the use of dozers or excavators. The integrated skid runners also provide the added benefit of using the barge as a skid pump operating at the pond edge with easy land access for operators and servicing, the company says.
Marnus Koorts, Product Manager for dewatering pumps at Weir Minerals South Africa, says the company gets very specific requests for these land-based barges.
“We recently completed a project for a customer experiencing regular high wind speeds and tropical storms,” he said. “We needed to account for wave action and wind loading to ensure our solution would minimise risk of structural damage during these storms.”
Other considerations such as water quality, where pH can range from very low through to high, and water content, such as high percentages of suspended solids and floating debris, are also key to maintaining dewatering equipment on site, according to the company.
“Multiflo barges maximise reliability through innovative protection systems chosen specifically for the environment that the barge will operate in,” Weir Minerals says.
For one customer in South Africa, the Weir Minerals team needed to account for more than just water, according to Koorts.
“One of the design requirements for this particular installation was for the handrails and other structures to be engineered to prevent crocodiles from gaining access to the deck space.”
Dewatering in cold climates
In the last year, Weir Minerals barge specialists from Canada have been working with teams in Russia and Finland, to establish a European centre of expertise specifically for dewatering barges in cold-climate applications. Key environmental factors such as wind, snow and seismic loading can affect the buoyancy and stability of the barges, which they looked to address.
“We’re building on the work of the North and South American teams,” Artem Filippov, Dewatering Product Manager at Weir Minerals Russia, said. “Working together and using insights gained from their years of experience have allowed us to create unique barge dewatering systems for our European customers.”
Weir Minerals’ cold-climate expertise comes from experience in floating barge systems at temperatures below -45°C, de-icing systems and winter barge access systems. In addition, Multiflo barge systems are fully marine naval certified under all weather conditions and are marine architect certified, the company says.