How do you train people to operate and maintain a brand new solution potash mine that’s never been switched on? Thoroughly and carefully are two words that come to mind.
“There are some pieces of equipment here that cost tens of millions of dollars,’’ says Trevor Dyck, Manager of Production and Start-up at K+S Potash Canada (KSPC). “There’s no room for failure – executing on well thought out plans is the only assurance to manage risk.’’
More than 100 Legacy site tradespeople and operators are undergoing intensive training on-site and at sister operations in Europe, where they’re training with equipment and systems similar to those they’ll be working with when the Legacy site reaches start-up at the end of this year. Some experts from European business units will be at the Legacy site in the fall to offer support during commissioning. A greater number of these people will arrive in time to help their Canadian colleagues bring more Legacy plant systems on-stream in January. Careful planning of these activities is essential.
“We’ve been doing a lot of commissioning planning – organizational planning – to fine tune our structure and specify who’s doing what,’’ says Sam Farris, Vice President and General Manager of Operations at KSPC. “There are many details to work out and a lot of things that have to come together at this stage.’’ Commissioning involves testing pieces of equipment to make sure they’re functioning properly. Start-up gets underway when the pieces are linked together to make sure they function cohesively as an entire area of operation.
Commissioning is proceeding in phases at the Legacy site and will get into full swing this summer, beginning with two of the plant’s three boiler systems. That will give operators time to heat the primary mining caverns in preparation for start-up, when hot water will continuously be pumped into the caverns and be “pulled’’ back to the process plant as a brine containing potash, salt and other minerals. Equipment required to process the brine would be commissioned and ready for use by that point, says Dyck.
The 18 caverns situated one mile beneath wellpads 2 and 3 will provide the first feed to the process plant, while feed from wellpads 4 and 5 will follow quickly thereafter.
“We’re on course to commission the plant this summer and produce the first tonne by the end of 2016,” says Farris.