Rio Tinto Potash Pipeline

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Potash slurry pipeline conceptual study

In 2004, Rio Tinto Industrial Minerals was investigating the development of a salt deposit at the Potasio Río Colorado Mine (PRC) in the Mendoza Province of Argentina for the production of potash.

Ausenco was selected to perform a conceptual study to evaluate two transportation options.

The first option comprised the transport of a heated potash brine solution approximately 277 km through a 26-30 inch diameter pipeline from the mine site to an evaporator/KCL crystalliser plant located at the railhead.

An intermediate heating station was included in the design to maintain the brine solution temperature above 40°C and keep all salts dissolved, thereby eliminating the need for dilution water.

In the second option, potash slurry from an evaporator/crystalliser plant located at the mine site was pumped through a 9.625 -10.750 inch diameter pipeline along the same 277 km route to a filter/drying plant at the terminal. This system required three pump stations housing three piston-diaphragm pumps (two operating, one standby). The second option also included a 277 km, 10.750 -12.750 inch water (brine solution) return pipeline. The return water system also included one pump station with one operating and one standby multi-stage vertical turbine pump.

Our study included hydraulic design, system component selection and sizing, pumping assessment, heating requirement determination and order-of-magnitude (OOM) estimates of capital and operating costs.

In 2009 Vale acquired the mining project from Rio Tinto and was expected to invest $5.9 billion in the project. Start-up was scheduled for 2014, and mine life was expected to exceed 50 years. However, in January 2013 Vale suspended works indefinitely.

Project details

Slurry pipeline
Industrial minerals
Mendoza, Argentina
Business line
Process Infrastructure
Rio Tinto Industrial Minerals
Solution phase
Concept Study (Evaluate)
Studies and technical solutions