Countdown to Startup

from K+S Potash Canada's Spring 2017 Newsletter

Construction at the Legacy site was substantially complete at the end of March and much of the remaining work involves testing equipment and systems in preparation for startup in the second quarter of 2017. However, while the bustling outdoor activity accompanying peak construction last summer has lessened considerably, steam billowing from a towering boiler stack serves notice to all in the vicinity that the Legacy mine will soon be producing potash.

“That nice steam billowing out of the stack is a visual reminder that something’s really happening inside there now,” says Sam Farris, Vice President of Operations and General Manager at KSPC. “It’s no longer simply a construction project.”

The large boiler will be used primarily for potash processing once production is underway, says Farris. But it’s also used to provide heat for cavern development and warmth for employees in the process plant. It’s being used for both of those purposes right now. Farris says two additional boilers the same size as the first, and each with its own 66-metre boiler stack, were scheduled to be commissioned by the end of March.

Meanwhile, a 15-megawatt gas turbine electrical generator for use primarily as backup power for the process plant recently became operational. The generator operates continuously and provides a portion of the power required on site.

By the beginning of March, the on-site workforce had dwindled to about half of the more than 3,000 people who passed through the project’s security gates each day during the peak construction period in summer 2016, says Kevin Brown, Project Director for Amec Foster Wheeler, the contractor in charge of construction at the site. “And between the middle of March and end of April, we’ll have a fairly steep decline in those numbers, as well,” says Brown. Direct construction personnel such as pipefitters and electricians are still working on site but the main focus now is on the commissioning team, which is comprised largely of trades people and operations staff who are testing equipment and preparing for startup. Also still on site are the service contractors who operate the Legacy construction camp, security people and the emergency response team. “Site services personnel number about 150 people on a daily basis, so about 10 per cent of our overall complement,” says Brown.

He says Pre-commissioning, the testing of individual pieces of equipment, is well advanced and also the commissioning of the systems comprising those components has shown good progress over the last months.

“The further advanced we are on the pre-commissioning, the more commissioning fronts we have available to us.”

While the failure of a vessel support structure last July resulted in the startup date being moved to the second quarter of 2017 from the end of 2016, KSPC says the Legacy Project remains on schedule to reach its target capacity of 2 million tonnes per year by the end of 2017.