Kalium Lakes’ Beyondie Sulphate of Potash (SOP) project in Western Australia has reached a number of major milestones in recent months, with construction work of major infrastructure completed or entering the commissioning stage, and reaching nameplate capacity at its brine extraction and supply infrastructure. Here, we take a look at these milestones and some of the equipment being used throughout the project.

Brine supply and evaporation ponds

Since 2019, more than 93,000 tonnes of contained SOP has been pumped from the bore field and trenches into the primary evaporation ponds.

Nameplate flow rates were reached in October following the completion of brine extraction and supply infrastructure, including brine production bores and pump stations.

Brine is supplied from two resource locations – Ten Mile and Sunshine – and each of the brine extraction areas includes a series of production bores to extract brine from the paleochannel and sandstone aquifer resources located between 10m and 140m below ground level.

Actual flow rates achieved from commissioning and test pumping matched modelling for the bore field within each of the extraction areas.

Two trench pump stations are installed at each of the resource lakes to extract brine from the shallow brine resources contained within the lakes.

The pumps have a combined flow rate in excess of the planned 100L/sec, with average grades to date of 12,470mg/L potassium against the mine plan of 8,970mg/L.

Power station commissioning complete

In March, the first major commissioning activity for the project was completed, with gas being introduced all the way to the delivery station near the SOP processing facility.

From the high pressure gas delivery station, gas will be supplied through low pressure pipelines to the power station, boiler and other process equipment. This milestone was followed by full commissioning and completion of performance testing for the project’s 7.5MW gas power station in May.

Following on-site performance testing, the three 2.5MW gas engines and the associated equipment were fully operational, and all operating licences and permits are in place.

Rudolph van Niekerk, CEO at Kalium Lakes, said, “The power station for the Beyondie SOP project has now been commissioned and is ready to provide power for the process plant commissioning…This milestone, combined with harvesting activities that are in full swing and an operations team that is ready for production, represents a major step forward and significantly de-risks the project in meeting its first production targets.”

SOP purification plant. Image: Kalium Lakes.

Purification plant in final stages

Engineering and design work for the SOP purification plant was completed by April and all key process equipment supplied by Ebtec delivered to site including flotation cells, agitators, cyclones, conveyor packages, centrifuges, pumps, cooling crystalliser package, feeder, hammer mill, tanks, thickeners, piping and instrumentation.

The standard grade SOP plant entered the final stages of construction in May, with the focus moving to piping, electrical and instrumentation works. Erection of the granular SOP plant also began and is on schedule to be completed when the first standard grade SOP is ready for granulation.

There are only a handful of similar brine based SOP mines operating across the world and as a result access to specific equipment design, supply, construction and the necessary operating expertise is limited.

Kalium Lakes formed a partnership with German engineering and equipment supply consortium Ebtec, which has completed similar services for a successful SOP plant in Austria, ensuring it is uniquely positioned in the Australian SOP development space.

SOP purification plant – installation of floatation cells. Image: Kalium Lakes.

Increasing production

Work is also underway to increase production beyond 100ktpa and Kalium Lakes has identified the potential to increase throughput up to 120ktpa through several short-term, low capital intensity improvements.

“We are pleased to announce that a ‘debottlenecking’ style review of the plant design for the Beyondie SOP project confirms that an annual steady-state production rate of at least 100ktpa is achievable.

Additionally, the current evaporation ponds’ performance indicates that this production rate can be achieved by mid-2022,” Mr van Niekerk said.

“The company is also confident that a production increase to 120ktpa can be achieved without the need for substantial plant modifications and is currently examining pathways to deliver this outcome. “Every key milestone de-risks the project for completion on budget and on schedule.

“Methodically and deliberately we are working through this project’s construction phase, making sure everything is aligned for successful commissioning and commencement of production in the third quarter of the 2021 calendar year.”

Gas engine in power plant. Image: Kalium Lakes.

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