Innovation is at the forefront of the K+S Potash Canada Bethune facility

Figure 1 – KSPC Bethune Processing Plant.

K+S has mined and processed minerals for more than 125 years, with production sites in Europe, North and South America, and distribution networks across the globe. K+S is the world’s largest salt producer and one of the top potash providers worldwide. K+S Potash Canada (KSPC) is headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with its Bethune solution potash mine near Regina, Saskatchewan, and a potash handling and storage facility located in Port Moody, British Columbia.

KSPC just opened its Bethune facility in May 2017, its first new mine in Saskatchewan in nearly 50 years. A five-year project, it was a partnership with design and project management partner AMEC Foster Wheeler. The total investment, approximately $4.1 billion, was the single largest project in the history of K+S. The Bethune mine produces potash crude salt, which will be further processed into three potassium chloride products, and will have a two-million-metric-ton annual capacity once fully operational.

KSPC’s goal was to develop one of the most innovative and efficient plants in the world, and to do so they needed to reduce their footprint in the loadout section. The loadout area is where finished product is reclaimed from storage and screened to remove agglomerated, and/or broken and fine particles prior to railcar or truck loading.

Initial designs called for eight loadout screeners to meet KSPC’s target loading capacity. KSPC and AMEC Foster Wheeler questioned whether the target loadout capacity could be done with half the number of screeners. Such a reduction would significantly lower cost – not only through the number of screeners required – but also by eliminating added material handling equipment, chute work, and by reducing the overall height of the loadout building. This was a daring approach not yet seen in potash plants, and it would require the largest loadout screeners ever produced.

Figure 2- KSPC Fertilizer Product Loadout Area – Two Rotex mineral separator model MM5430-2 units.

Rotex Global was one of two screening companies evaluated as a potential screening partner for the Bethune plant. At that time, the largest minerals separator Rotex had provided for potash loadout was for a 500-metric ton/hour rate. Meeting KSPC’s requirement for a 650-metric ton/hour feed rate would require a larger version of the minerals separator, one that currently did not exist in the Rotex product line. Both KSPC and AMEC Foster Wheeler were willing to give Rotex the opportunity to develop a larger screener, with the ultimate goal of meeting the increased capacity and plant footprint requirements.

KSPC’s trust and commitment to innovation led to a successful partnership for the Bethune project. Rotex delivered four new minerals separator models – a model MM5430-2 for the fertilizer products, and a model MM5430-1-S for the industrial grade product. Two models were provided for each loadout circuit, with each minerals separator handling 650-metric ton/hour per unit. The total screening area was 40-metres-squared (430-square-feet) per separation, a 40 per cent increase in area over previous models.

KSPC has experienced great success with the innovative Bethune plant design, as they are currently progressing through the startup phases and continue to stay on schedule for full production before the end of 2017. Bethune has a smaller footprint than originally considered, with higher plant capacity and less equipment. The reduction in screening equipment boosts the efficiency of the plant by reducing maintenance and energy consumption costs, while maintaining the same screening efficiency as the previous design.

With innovation at the forefront, expect to see continuous improvements and upgrades to help KSPC achieve their vision of “creating a legacy”.

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