IM February 2024 February 24 | Page 48


From head to tail

Paul Moore looks in depth at the record Dune Express conveyor system now being built in the US , plus reviews the latest developments with some key conveyor consultants , component suppliers and maintenance solution suppliers

This year , we start our conveyor technology report with an extended case study . Atlas Energy Solutions Inc . is a leading provider of proppant and logistics services to the oil and gas industry within the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico , the most active basin in North America . Its innovative Dune Express project will be the second longest conveyor system to ever be built . But the last Dune Express conveyor flight , CV-004 , at 16.4 miles from head to tail will be the single longest conveyor in the world without a mid-drive or boosters ; so it breaks the current record of 12 miles . As an overall system it is only surpassed by OCP ’ s Phosboucraa operations in Western Sahara , Morocco , where a 2,000 t / h , 62.1 mile conveyor connects its phosphate mine with the port at Laâyoune that has been running since the 1970s .

IM spoke at length to William Warner , Director , Dune Express and Chad McEver , Vice President , Operations at Atlas , for some detailed insight into the project and the partners and suppliers involved in bringing it together – construction is underway with completion expected by year end .
McEver states on the project background : “ Atlas is a pretty young company ; it was founded by Bud Brigham in 2017 , an oil and gas industry veteran who remains Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and remains very involved in the upstream side of the business . Since he started Atlas , getting into high quality proppant sand mining in the Permian Basin , one of his major goals was finding a more efficient way to deliver sand throughout the Basin rather than just putting it on trucks . That was the start of everything . He looked a lot of different options and settled on conveying for several reasons – they are already used widely in mines throughout the world ; plus they are generally viewed as one of the most efficient and reliable ways to handle material . We called it the Dune Express project and looked globally for a suitable expert to head it up , and found William Warner , now the project Director who was working for conveyor solutions company MMS Engineering at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia .”
Warner told IM : “ I joined in early 2019 and at that stage they had already run through multiple ways of potentially delivering the sand and had settled on a conveyor . When I came in it was really just starting to be designed from scratch . They had an idea and where they wanted it to end up – getting it through West Texas and all the oil wells we have there and then into New Mexico was a challenge just on its own . But once we found a conveyor route we could navigate we had to get all the land rights locked in which was a long process . But we did it , we are now in construction and should have it running by end- 2024 .”
The conveyor ’ s 42 miles starts at Atlas ’ s Kermit plant and goes northwest to the Texas-New Mexico state line then follows it for about 10 miles for which it is almost completely straight – then it crosses into New Mexico where it has four
The 42 mile Dune Express conveyor will be the world ' s second longest ever conveyor system , the longest ever in the Americas , and will contain the longest ever single conveyor flight without a middrive at 16.4 miles
horizontal curves initially as well as when it approaches the receiving plant in the northern Delaware Basin .
What is really unique about the project is the amount of work Atlas has done on the project itself on design , development and construction without engaging a major EPC provider . The inhouse team has 20 + years of conveyor design , operation , maintenance and engineering globally .
But it has also been a collaborative effort . Warner told IM : “ Conveyor Dynamics Inc is our main mechanical engineering company and they have taken care of all of the mechanical design of the conveyor ; then for structural steel and concrete foundations we have worked with M3 , another engineering company . But the general layout and approval of the design , that has all been in-house along with all of the procurement . For construction we have our own internal construction management and QA / QC team but they then outsource the actual labour to third parties .”
So what have the main challenges been to date ? Warner stated : “ Challenges change throughout the project – at first working out if it was even feasible over 42 miles , then finding a route we could use going across land owned by numerous private owners as well as public lands , all while avoiding the different oil wells and infrastructure that is out there . Then of course came COVID , and today now we are in construction .”
McEver added : “ The biggest challenge we have had to overcome with this project was undoubtedly securing the right of way for the 42
46 International Mining | FEBRUARY 2024