Client
Billiton Nederland and N.V. Northern Development JV
Location
Veendam, The Netherlands

Magnesium Oxide Plant

In 1978, the Client partnership selected Fluor Nederland to undertake engineering, procurement, and construction for the $100 million, 100,000-metric-tons-per-year magnesium plant, and the $25 million brine-solution mining facilities.

The scope of work included two main processing facilities, four 40-meter (132-foot) wide separation tanks, the brine plant (located 15 miles from the chemical plant), a pipeline connecting the two plants, and loading / unloading facilities.

Successfully completed in 1981, the magnesium oxide and brine-solution facilities provide over 150 permanent jobs and created a new economic resource base for the Northern Holland region.


Client's Challenge

Survey work established the existence of significant magnesium-bearing salt layers at a depth of 1,500 to 2,000 meters (about 6,000 feet) beneath the surface in the Veendam area. The deposit, which provides at least 40 years' reserve, is part of a large, evaporate-salts basin stretching from Scotland to the south of Poland.

Demand for magnesium oxide has climbed steadily with the need for better and more consistent quality of steel produced at higher temperatures. Magnesium oxide is used in a brick form as a refractory lining. The material can resist temperatures as high as 1,900 degrees Celsius.

After promising pilot-plant production of magnesium oxide, Billiton reached agreement with the Northern Development Company (NOM) to jointly create companies to mine and manufacture the mineral in the Veendam area.


Fluor's Solution

In 1978, the Client partnership selected Fluor Nederland to undertake engineering, procurement, and construction for the $100 million, 100,000-metric-tons-per-year magnesium plant, and the $25 million brine-solution mining facilities.

The scope of work included two main processing facilities, four 40-meter (132 foot) wide separation tanks, two massive dolime storage units, the brine plant (located 15 miles from the chemical plant), a pipeline connecting the two plants, loading / unloading facilities.

The Wildervank Canal will be used to transport magnesium to Billiton's customers worldwide.

To mine the magnesium, a steel-casing pipe (in which two others are suspended) is sunk through a bore hole to the deposit. Water is injected downward, forcing brine to the surface where it is pumped via the pipeline to the plant. Here, brine is combined with dolime, a material obtained by kiln-burning dolomite. In this wet-phase, the resulting magnesium hydroxide is thickened, washed and then filtered.

In the subsequent dry phase, workers heat the magnesium hydroxide to evaporate water content, leaving a white powder. To achieve the correct density and final product, the powder is compressed to form almond-shaped briquettes. These are fired at 2,000 degrees C.

Fluor Nederland project team worked closely with the Client and government officials to plan for environmental safeguards, particularly to dampen noise and contain dust particle from the manufacturing operation. Computer calculations revealed that the plant's extensive mechanical conveyor operated less than 45 decibels at the perimeter boundary. Dust is controlled by enclosing the dry section and installing air conditioning.

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Conclusion

Successfully completed in 1981, the magnesium oxide and brine-solution facilities provide over 150 permanent jobs.

There is also a related local employment effect, such as increased rail work, shipping, and maintenance that has engaged the local economy and community.

Billiton's capital investment has created a new economic resource base for the Northern Holland region.