Design and commissioning of a long-distance pipeline transporting thickened tailings in laminar flow

By A. Vidal, J. Chapman, R. Lima, C. Dias & D. de Sá

1 min read


Pipeline transportation of mineral slurry is widely used in projects around the world. For most operations the transport flow is turbulent, requiring a relatively high transport velocity to hold all particles in a suspended state. Our team’s ingenious solution to this challenge is characterised in the following case study.

A Brazilian mining company with two independent bauxite beneficiation plants increased production from 9.9 million tonnes to 14.9 million tonnes per year, resulting in a need to construct new tailings storage facilities. A conceptual study identified a need for a new pumping system. Two new and longer pipeline routes were identified, which the pumping system was required to accommodate:

  • 5.6 km main pipeline + an 8.7 km extension (Phase 1)
  • 6.5 km main pipeline plus a 13.2 km extension (Phase 2).

A study was conducted to identify the best pumping system to accommodate the higher velocity of mineral slurry flowing through the pipe over the extended distance. This study provides an overview of initial lab tests undertaken to define key parameters such as:

  • Solids concentration by weight
  • Slurry pH
  • Particle size distribution
  • Solids specific gravity
  • Rheological characterizations.

The lab tests indicated that for particle sizes less than 100 microns and with appropriate sizes level, the pipeline could operate in laminar flow regime. The results of these tests also identified positive displacement pumps as the best solution.

During commissioning in 2017, new tests were carried out to compare the conceptual study results with commissioning parameters. Test results confirmed the success of the commissioning phase for the project expansions. The system has been operational since 2017 without any pumping issues.

To learn more about these results and our detailed lab tests, read the full paper.

For more information, please contact Alisson Vidal.