The Legacy Project is in the crucial commissioning phase in which specialists begin testing equipment and systems in preparation for start-up in the spring of 2017.
“Commissioning is where we prove the equipment we put in place is ready for operation,’’ says Russ Hrapinski, Commissioning Manager for K+S Potash Canada (KSPC) and the man overseeing the process. “It’s tested, it’s proven and then it’s ready to go into production.’’ Commissioning at the Legacy Project is occurring in two phases. Pre-commissioning is the testing of individual pieces of equipment to make sure each meets specification and design requirements. Commissioning follows pre-commissioning and involves the testing of multi-component systems.
Various parts of the Legacy Project undergo pre-commissioning and commissioning at different times. Commissioning is complete on the early cavern development system, which features the massive underground caverns that will supply the plant with potashladen brine. “With the solution mining process you have to have that part of the system up and running first,’’ explains Gene Cochrane, Commissioning Execution Lead for KSPC.
“You develop the caverns first so that when the plant is ready, the raw material is available for processing.’’
Over 150 employees and contractors are involved in commissioning at the Legacy Project.
Pictured here are just a few of the men and women behind this crucial phase of the project.
KSPC and Amec Foster Wheeler (Amec FW), the Legacy Project’s management partner, are using an integrated team approach to commissioning. While Hrapinski oversees the process, Cochrane and his team of mostly long-term KSPC operations and trades employees focus on the commissioning phase, and Amec FW Pre-commissioning Manager Jaime Klein and his team are responsible for pre-commissioning. Amec FW team members overseeing construction of the Legacy Project “turn over’’ equipment to Klein once it’s ready to enter the pre-commissioning process. This includes the critical “backbone’’ of power, instrumentation, fire protection and other systems and sub-systems that must be in place before any equipment can function. “They ensure all the pieces are there and every line in the documentation is there,’’ says Klein. “When that point has been achieved, it enters into the pre-commissioning world.’’
Commissioning people are a rare breed. Hrapinski says they’re specialists who typically have a background in the trades and deep experience in their discipline. “The reason commissioning is a specialized trade is that the people that are in this know what the inherent risks are and they know how to manage those risks,’’ says Hrapinski, who has managed commissioning on projects that have a total value of almost $20 billion. “They know what to expect and they know how to troubleshoot.’’ About 150 such specialists are involved in the commissioning process at the Legacy site and Hrapinski and Klein have worked with many of them, as well as each other, on previous projects. “Russ and I go back probably 25 years,’’ says Klein.
Pre-commissioning is the most labour intensive and time-consuming portion of the commissioning process. Klein says that once a piece of equipment has passed the rigorous testing and inspection required at the precommissioning phase it’s given a certificate that basically guarantees that it’s ready for the next phase. Cochrane’s people then test each system comprising the equipment certified by the pre-commissioning team. “We take that group of components and we do a wet commissioning, where we put water into the process and run them together as a system,’’ says Cochrane. “By circulating water through the system we can make sure it’s operating according to design criteria.’’
While many of the specialists involved in precommissioning will set off for new projects once their work at the Legacy site is complete, the commissioning staff will transition to the start-up team and then operate the mine. Cochrane says this approach ensures KSPC’s well-trained employees are familiar with the equipment and systems they’ll be operating during production.