How do you design modular coal processing plants when, for decades, you’ve focused on engineering design for large projects? Principal Process Engineer Bob Drummond explained how the Ausenco QCC team designs modular plants differently.

“Modular coal processing plants are compact, low-cost, efficient, flexible, relocatable and simple to construct,” Drummond explained. “Their engineering design requirements are different from conventional, large-capacity coal processing plants, which we approach as a bespoke engineering design for standalone projects.”

“To develop a suite of modular coal processing plants and layouts, we had to ‘forget’ what a processing plant ‘should’ look like and reimagine what it could look like. Thankfully, our team draws on over 30 years of engineering design experience, both in Australia and on International projects. We’ve witnessed other ways of designing and laying out plant, and that combination of a deep understanding of plant design and diverse project experience drives innovation,” Drummond said.

Working with lower capacity mine operators in Latin America, the Ausenco QCC team has created a standard suite of modular coal processing plants rated between 50 and 350 tonnes per hour. One of their advantages is that they lower the capital cost for new miners, which is particularly important in an era of energy transition and cautious investment.

With a new miner’s feed and specifications, Ausenco QCC can tailor a standard modular design to meet specific project requirements. Potentially, the designs can also be customised for other uses, such as tailings processing and reducing the ash of coke fines (or breeze) stockpiled product. For existing miners, Ausenco QCC can modify the design to:

  • increase capacity
  • improve quality, and
  • reduce energy consumption

Ausenco QCC’s design philosophy is based on four core features to create a compact, lower-cost, flexible solution.

Standalone modules

The Ausenco QCC team has broken the coal processing plant into discrete, dynamically isolated standalone process modules that are each fixed in design and specification. These modules are the building blocks of the plant. They can be added, subtracted and duplicated to match the required duty and the raw coal feed type.


The discrete modules are connected by bridges, which provide pedestrian access and serve as piping and cable supports between modules. This helps to minimise the plant’s overall footprint.

Low head layout

The process modules are arranged to accommodate the site plan and the required duty. The distributed layout creates opportunities to reduce the erection schedule. This is particularly important where there is a limited workforce at a remote or geopolitically challenging site.


A flexible and interchangeable layout makes customisation and estimation simple, helping to reduce the time to market. It also gives clients the option to commence with a lower-cost, smaller capacity plant and ramp up capacity to meet future expansion requirements.

Ausenco QCC also offers a range of flexible contractual models to service this market.

To discuss what you can achieve with modular plants, contact Bob Drummond.

Read Modular plants – A different approach to coal processing