It was an overly normal Tuesday morning on the 4th of October. We received a call from a gold mine in West Africa saying “our pumps are down, our mine is flooding, and we need help fast.” It turned our week upside down in finding a solution, and prompted us to do whatever it would take to ship the replacement pump package on Friday of the same week.
This was no small challenge, given the circumstances. The customer needed a pump that could do about 900 GPM at 2900 feet of head, and of course, it needed to be there quickly. We started searching through our pumps in inventory, of which we have thousands, and selected one that was nearly perfect for the application; Already rebuilt and waiting to be used. It did have a baseplate under it that had been fabricated for the pump package, but the motor had been sold since then. We did have a 700 horsepower, 2 pole electric motor in stock, but considering the modifications to the pump base in order to install it, this wasn’t the best option. We opted to use the customer’s existing motor instead. This saved the customer money, and helped with the quick turnaround we were looking for.
That motor didn’t fit, though. That would have been too easy. We had to go back to the drawing board and start modeling the customers pump onto our baseplate to create a functional system. The motor adapter plates and modifications needed to fit the shaft coupling were modeled quickly. Fabrication and machining of the adapters and parts began even before the design was complete.
A crate was built around the pump package as the components were assembled. By Friday morning, when my engineer and I wanted to create a drawing with as-built dimensions, we had to climb into the dark crate with our measuring devices to get them. All worked well though. By the time the last part arrived from UPS, the crate was ready to be loaded on the truck. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the truck pulled out at around 11:30 am that day on the 7th of October. It was headed to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to depart on Sunday for West Africa.
For me, though, the work wasn’t quite done. The next few days were consumed by preparing for a trip to West Africa to help install the pump package. On Thursday morning, I landed in West Africa, less than 9 days after we received the first call from the customer.
On-site there were a different set of challenges. The pump was to be lowered to the mid-level pumping station about 2500 feet below the surface, through what at the time seemed to be an extra small mine shaft. We quickly determined that it wouldn’t fit through the mine shaft in one piece, so some disassembly of the pump package would be needed.
Once the pump was removed from the baseplate and the ceiling was removed from the elevator, the base plate was upended and lowered down to mid-level. It was then loaded on the trolley, and railed back to the pump station. The pump followed in the same manner. When all the equipment was in the pump station, the reassembly began. When the time came for me to return home, the pump and motor were successfully installed. After my departure, the basplate was grouted, and the piping was installed.
Yes, it was hot, humid, uncomfortable and quite challenging, but in the end, everything worked out well. The pump started up and is operating. No flood damage occurred in the mine, and, most importantly from our perspective, the customer is a happy one that we look forward to working with again in the future.
Written by Carson Toews
Power Zone Equipment Operations Manager