For 40 years Weir Minerals has provided custom Multiflo barge solutions for applications all around the world.
By Mark S. Kuhar
The global team of barge and dewatering specialists at Weir Minerals provide custom solutions for everything from tailings management and water reclamation, to specially engineered solutions to meet the environmental demands of tropical storms, subzero temperatures, and even interference from local wildlife. Developed over the decades, the Weir Minerals range of Multiflo barges provides a solution for many applications.
Water Reclamation for Oil Sands Market
Reclaim water barges are an integral part of tailings-management solutions in oil sands applications, where tailings contain high percentages of water that can be recycled back through the process plant. Upon identifying the need for reliable systems which were easy to manage and maintain, Weir Minerals developed its mega-barge exclusively for the Oil Sands market. This all-in-one package includes pumps, valves, hoses, and piping.
“This is where our turnkey value proposition really took off,” explained Kris Kielar, product manager for engineered-to-order dewatering products at Weir Minerals Canada. “Our largest barge system includes a fully integrated electrical control houses that powers 9,000 hp worth of pumps, overhead cranes, remote monitoring and control, and the longest floated walkway we’ve ever provided, with ‘warm-up’ stations every 150 metres for 1 kilometre.”
Mega-barges are the ideal solution for unique applications, such as the scale of water reclaim needed at some of the world’s largest oil sands operations. “A typical oil sands operation requires nine barrels of water per barrel of bitumen produced,” continued Kielar, “so the more water that can be reclaimed, the better. The larger the operation, the bigger the water saving potential.”
In addition to the mega-barges for the oil sands market, Weir Minerals also developed modular barge packages as a fully customisable solution for ease of shipment, and a reduction in both capital costs and onsite installation costs. The introduction of both static and mobile, land-based, booster stations and pumphouses further expands the Multiflo barge solution capability while maintaining a single point of contact for customers.
Barges for Tailings Management
The need for custom barge solutions for tailings management has increased in recent years. Where previously dewatering pumps in tailings applications were set-and-forget, the increased focus on tailings dam safety has shined a new spotlight on barge solutions that can provide heavy-duty, reliable pumping. Not only must sites revisit current arrangements to consider how their tailings will be handled in the future, they also need to empty the old dams decommissioned by environmental and mining authorities.
“We are equipped to provide the entire solution,” explained Ricardo Menezes, barge systems specialist at Weir Minerals Brazil. “From initial consultation and design, to manufacturing, commission, and training and supervision of site operators. We work hard to bring our customers the best possible solution for their site, and we do it all under one roof.”
For our customers, these all-in-one Multiflo packages eliminate the headache of integrating civil construction, electrical control rooms (MCC), control systems, pipes, cables and mechanical and electrical works. Weir Minerals engineer these dewatering barges in-house and employs naval engineering consultants to create solutions that are truly tailored to the customers’ needs.
Menezes continued, “Sites are being asked to transport tailings on a larger scale than before. An off-the-shelf solution might not work with their existing site infrastructure and that is where our fluid transport expertise comes in.”
Reliability in Any Situation
Applications in tropical environments, which experience heavy and sometimes unexpected rainfall, often require barge-mounted dewatering pumps to handle the rapidly rising water levels. Multiflo land-based barges are built to float, protecting the pump unit from being flooded as often happens with a traditional skid pump unit.
These land-based barges are fitted with integrated skid runners that allow them to be easily towed around mine sites and launched or retrieved with the use of dozers or excavators. The integrated skid runners also provide the added benefit of using the barge as a skid pump operating at the pond edge with easy land access for operators and servicing.
“We get very specific requests,” explained Marnus Koorts, product manager for dewatering pumps at Weir Minerals South Africa. “We recently completed a project for a customer experiencing regular high wind speeds and tropical storms. We needed to account for wave action and wind loading to ensure our solution would minimise risk of structural damage during these storms.”
Other considerations such as water quality, where pH can range from very low through to high, and water content, such as high percentages of suspended solids and floating debris, are also key to maintaining dewatering equipment on site. Multiflo barges maximise reliability through innovative protection systems chosen specifically for the environment that the barge will operate in.
For one customer in South Africa, the Weir Minerals team needed to account for more than just water. Koorts continued, “One of the design requirements for this particular installation was for the handrails and other structures to be engineered to prevent crocodiles from gaining access to the deck space.”
No challenge is too obscure or tough for Weir Minerals.
Dewatering in a Cold Climate
In the last year, Weir Minerals barge specialists from Canada have been working with teams in Russia and Finland, to establish a European centre of expertise specifically for dewatering barges in cold-climate applications. Key European environmental factors such as wind, snow and seismic loading can affect the buoyancy and stability of the barges.
“We’re building on the work of the North and South American teams,” explained Artem Filippov, dewatering product manager at Weir Minerals Russia. “Working together and using insights gained from their years of experience have allowed us to create unique barge dewatering systems for our European customers.”
Weir Minerals’ cold-climate expertise comes from vast experience in floating barge systems at temperatures below -45°C, de-icing systems and winter barge access systems. In addition, Multiflo barge systems are fully marine naval certified under all weather conditions and are marine architect certified.
Over the years, Weir Minerals has supplied barge systems to customers across the globe. The barge specialists create tailored barge solutions to custom size, application, and environmental requirements.