Black & Veatch project wins Desalination Plant of the Year honors

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Recognizing its size and technical complexity, the Escondida Water Supply (EWS) project in Chile was selected Industrial Desalination Plant of the Year at the 2017 Global Water Summit. The plant increases water supply by creating purified water from seawater and delivering it to the largest copper mine in the world.

Black & Veatch served as engineer of record and led the engineering design, procurement, resident engineering, pre-commissioning and commissioning for the marine and desalination components of the EWS project. The Escondida copper mine is majority-owned and operated by BHP Billiton.

The EWS project delivers 2,500 liters of water per second (57 million gallons a day) to support operations at the Escondida mine. The EWS desalination plant is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Black & Veatch’s engineering solutions promoted safe construction and operations, such as innovative marine tunnels, modular large-scale process units and high levels of automation and process safety controls.

Special offshore and underground construction methods for the marine works greatly reduced the impact to a littoral zone, which is near the shore where sunlight penetrates to the sediment allowing aquatic plant growth. Technologically advanced slurry tunneling machines drilled beneath the littoral zone from a shaft onshore straight to the marine works intake and outfall locations deep beneath the ocean. The largest diameter offshore drill in the world bored the shafts in the hard rock seafloor, eliminating the need for more disruptive offshore construction techniques.

“We leveraged our global experience in large-scale desalination plants to help provide needed water supplies in an environmentally sensitive manner,” said Rene Dominguez, Black & Veatch associate vice president and project manager in the company’s water business. “There was strong collaboration among the parties involved in succeeding to deliver a landmark project with an expansive scope.”

Project execution began in July 2013 and project mechanical completion was achieved in December 2016.

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