The Samarco project is an integrated open pit mine, pipeline and port operation in Brazil. The project includes the longest iron concentrate pipeline system in the world, which currently spans 1,197km with a peak altitude of 1,150 metres above sea level (masl). The original system was completed in 1977, and has since expanded to include two additional pipelines.
Ausenco has provided Samarco with a variety of services throughout the development of this project, ranging from laboratory testing, simulations and design work through to construction and start-up support. Though the original pipeline predates the formation of Ausenco, several key members of the design, construction, and start-up team are principals at our company today.
The original iron concentrate pipeline was designed to transport 12 mt/y of iron ore from the Germano Mine in Minais Gerais to the pellet plant in Espiritu Santo. The pipeline begins at an elevation of 950 masl, passes over a high point of 1,150 masl and ends at the port at sea level.
Samarco managed to operate this pipeline at 16 mt/y by improving system availability and increasing thickener underflow density.
The original pipeline also utilised Ausenco’s Pipeline Simulator™ software package, which generates simulations based on input pipeline conditions and customised pipeline models. The software is used for operations management, operator training and engineering design.
Original pipeline expansion
In 1998, we were selected by Samarco to evaluate the expected life, current capacity and capacity increase potential of the 398km, 20-inch diameter original pipeline. In addition, we also included recommendations for methods to prolong the life of the pipeline and its main components.
Following this work, Samarco chose Ausenco again to assess the pipeline and offer recommendations to further increase capacity. Of the options proposed, Samarco selected the addition of a centrifugal booster pump station, and we were then retained to complete a feasibility study for the new station.
When Samarco decided to further expand capacity with a second pipeline, we performed a screening study for throughputs of 8, 16 and 24 mt/y. Based on this work, we were then selected to provide basic engineering and detailed engineering supervision on the new 398km, 8.3 mt/y pipeline, which operates using just two pump stations.
Our controls group also provided Ausenco’s Pipeline Advisor™ software for process optimisation and leak detection for this pipeline.
Construction began in 2006 and system start-up commenced in June 2008.
In 2011, Ausenco continued its involvement in the pipeline’s expansion through contracts with Samarco and joint-venture construction partners GDK and Sinopec for the 401km, 22/24-inch, 20 mt/y third pipeline.
This third pipeline runs parallel to the first and second pipelines and links the Germano Mine in Mariana to the industrial complex at Ubú.
We performed basic engineering on the third pipeline under direct contract with Samarco, as well as detailed engineering for the pump stations.
We also performed detailed engineering as a subcontractor for GDK and Sinopec on 13 pressure monitoring stations, valve stations VS-5 and VS-6, and one terminal station.
Construction of this project was completed in mid 2014.