With Digital Twins, Hatch sets industry benchmark

A sustainable solution for copper mines

A resource-rich area, Katanga is a remote province located in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It boasts abundant reserves of copper and cobalt, with copper accounting for 50% of all DRC exports. To leach copper oxide minerals, the copper mines need sulfuric acid, and the supply in Katanga is constrained, having to be hauled long distances over sections of unpaved road to reach the secluded area. This situation causes high environmental risks.

To sustain one of the largest copper mining operations in the DRC, a new sulfuric acid plant is being built in Katanga that will manufacture thousands of tons of acid daily. Global professional services company Hatch was retained as the engineering, procurement, construction, and manufacturing contractor to deliver the facility.

The USD 245 million project features a 1,400 ton-per-day manufacturing facility and an electrical waste heat power generation system with a steam turbine unit, critical to plant operations due to the limited power grid supply in the area and complex integration with the existing electrical network. In addition to these technical challenges, the project presented logistical and environmental difficulties, given its remote location. A further challenge was meeting the client’s fast-tracked schedule.

To overcome these complexities and accommodate the accelerated timeline amid a team of engineers distributed globally across five offices, Hatch sought a sustainable technology solution, digitalising all workflows and deliverables. Upon completion, the DRC plant will be capable of making all the sulfuric acid that the copper mines need while exceeding world standards for sulfur dioxide emissions, optimising environmental sustainability.

Open applications in a connected data environment streamline workflows

Hatch implemented a collaborative digital strategy using Bentley’s open applications, streamlining workflows and facilitating quality engineering processes that saved time and costs. The project team used STAAD to model and analyse the structural steel components, and OpenPlant and OpenBuildings Designer to create a digital twin model of the entire acid plant. ProjectWise served as the collaborative platform to establish an open, connected data environment to manage and share information across five globally dispersed engineering offices.

“Bentley’s industrial plant products, and specifically ProjectWise, assisted the teams in executing the project following the same work-sharing principles out of our offices in Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, and the DRC,” commented Johan Palm, project manager at Hatch.

Bentley’s open applications provided flexibility within the design environment, enabling a single 3D model to be used for layout, analysis, design, and fabrication. This flexibility also optimised coordination throughout all stages of engineering and construction, as well as presented opportunities to capitalise on digitalisation to improve efficiencies.

The interoperable digital technology allowed operations teams to interact in the model environment for hazard and operability study checks, improving operations reviews and enhancing operational safety. Integrating Navigator facilitated digital communication with on-site personnel, commissioning teams, and installation contractors through mobile devices and tablets.

Providing field teams with real-time digital access to the accurate 3D model eliminated time otherwise needed to deliver drawings on site, facilitated quality engineering, and enabled issues to be resolved prior to construction and installation. Overall, leveraging Bentley’s intelligent design and analysis applications within the connected data environment enabled Hatch to upstream quality processes, improve procurement and logistical strategies, and minimise construction rework.

The digital solution allowed geographically dispersed teams to jointly move the discrete paper isometric drawing production process into continuous digital delivery sets for site fabrication. This capability optimised coordination between global delivery teams and site fabrication to accommodate the aggressive schedule.

By working in the connected data environment with Bentley’s open applications, Hatch was able to accelerate project delivery, streamlining workflows to cut six weeks from the schedule and resulting in substantial return on investment for the client.