High-Quality Pipeline Engineering Services

BRASS Engineering

Transporting fluids such as oil and water via pipeline is well known to many people, but the use of slurry pipelines to transport mineral concentrate is a niche in which many companies do not perform. Throughout the world, slurry transporting is BRASS Engineering’s specialty.

Founded in 1998 by President Brad Ricks, BRASS Engineering is a full service engineering company specializing in the design of fluid transport systems through long distance pipelines. Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of San Ramon, BRASS Engineering provides services to the mining industry for transporting materials such as ore, concentrate, tailings, water, chemicals, raffinates (products from which components have been removed) and acids. From the tundra of Alaska to the deserts of Chile to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, BRASS Engineering has the expertise for designing pipeline systems for some of the most extreme regions in the world.

“Not many companies can really do what we do,” says Mr. Ricks, simply. “We’re the best at it.”

With forty years of years of industry experience in slurry pipelines, he was encouraged to go out on his own and form his own company in 1998. He formed an LLC in 2000 and, after a year of working solo, he hired Roy Betinol, who is now Executive President and General Manager of the Chile office. “Most of the work that we initially did was in South America,” Mr. Ricks explains.

BRASS also has a presence in Brazil, China, Peru and the Philippines. Dr. George Shou manages the Chinese office in Beijing; Mauricio Rios heads the Brazil office in Belo Horizonte; while Fernando Sajona oversees the Philippine office in Quezon City.

Over the years, the company has grown as its reputation has been spread by word of mouth. It is often used as a subcontractor by major engineering companies with global connections and earned its reputation by providing stellar, quality service.

BRASS has a number of services to meet the needs of its clients. These include pre-feasibility, feasibility, engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) projects. It performs laboratory services for the characterization of slurry materials, testing to verify slurry flow behaviour, operation simulation modeling, transient and hydraulic modeling, pipeline route selection and survey, alternative and conceptual studies, operator training and operation support as well as pipeline acid cleaning and pigging. (Pigging allows devices known as “pigs” to perform maintenance operations such as cleaning or inspecting to be done in a pipeline without stopping the flow of the product.)

The company provides procurement support for its pipeline projects. It works with suppliers to obtain pumps, pipes, slurry valves, ceramic chokes, rupture discs and other major components of its projects as well as the electrical and instrumentation needed to build installations safely and economically. These procurement services in factory and field fabrication inspection and testing services have been developed in China, USA, Chile and Brazil.

Over the years, BRASS has been involved with several major pipeline projects for the mining industry throughout the world. Minerals transported include copper, iron, bauxite, nickel, phosphate and coal.

One notable project is the completion of the Toromocho Project in the Yauli Province in Peru. This project is based on mining copper, molybdenum and silver. The ore reserve is estimated to be 1526 million tons and the project produces one million tons of copper, ten thousand tons of molybdenum and four million ounces of silver annually. The mine impoundment is located in a box canyon with a dam constructed across the entrance. BRASS completed engineering for the tailings pump station and distribution pipelines. Currently, the system is in the pre-operational phases: mechanical completion, pre-commissioning, commissioning and start-up. The company will also assist in post start-up training for the site.

The starting elevation of the Toromocho Project is at 4523 metres above sea level and it terminates at 4777 metres above sea level making this the highest operating pump station in the world, as well as the world’s largest pump station of this kind. Due to altitude and pressure requirements, the pump station uses ten of the world’s largest positive displacement pumps.

The company has also engaged in long distance water transport, engineering a high pressure pipeline transportation system for seawater, desalinated water and high saline solutions. “There has been a slowdown in the mining industry,” says Mr. Ricks. “So we have to do other things such as water transport because water will become a more high demand commodity in the future.” BRASS is successfully completing the pre-commissioning, commissioning, and start-up phases of the Sierra Gorda seawater pipeline from the ocean 140 km to the mine at 1800 masl elevation. It is operating with the booster station feed directly from the upstream stations.

“The ocean is an abundant source,” says Mr. Ricks. “Mining is cyclical; it often depends on the demand for certain types of metals. Once demand goes up, we’ll do the work, but meanwhile, we can do other types of pipelines, and seawater may become a principal part of business in the future.”

The company has developed a group of experts for its field support services, dedicated to supporting client operations and maintenance activities. Some of these services include pipeline chemical cleaning, operator training, operation support for production optimization, development of a pipeline integrity program, installation and calibration of leak detection systems and developing preventive maintenance programs.

The company’s dedication to safety has not gone unnoticed. BRASS has been certified with ISO-9001-2000 since 2008, as well as implementing needed criteria for ISO-14001 and IS0-18001 for certification in 2012. The company has also implemented in-house management of carbon footprint in both corporate and project design.

The company has also demonstrated its commitment to environmental management through its in-house energy conservation programs and by ensuring that its pipeline projects in development are evaluated with the utmost consideration for reduction carbon footprint. The company’s conservation program includes installation of motion detectors to automatically control lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation.

BRASS was one of the first engineering companies that implemented a program to identify the equivalent carbon footprint of an engineered pipeline project. The calculated equivalent of gases emitted includes all levels of engineering from construction to startup. It also considers emissions spent for drawing and document production, equipment fabrication, transportation, construction and installation in addition to energy spent during startup.

This commitment to quality and safety is emphasized by Mr. Ricks. “We’ve had clients ask to relax standards and we won’t do it,” he asserts. “We’ve developed our own software. We’ve had clients ask us where we bought it; many have never seen anything that impressive. We’re the leader in pipeline technology.”

Some of this advanced technology includes computer modeling that predicts slurry transport velocities and hydraulic pressure losses. It has also developed a leak detection system for slurry pipeline transport systems. The company also has modeling capability for flexibility analysis and 3D graphical representations.

BRASS performs extensive laboratory testing to measure slurry properties and study the flow of materials. Lab work also includes determining the solids and slurry properties, internal corrosion estimates, and transport handling characteristics. These tests are key factors in the successful design and operation of a long distance slurry pipeline.

With so many complex operations, Mr. Ricks says that the company is always looking to promote from within. “Advanced education is a must. We’ll pay [for] books and tuition – provided our employees pass the course. It’s for the good of the company. We always emphasize that our employees improve themselves. For instance, we sent our South American employees to New York City for managerial seminars so they can learn best practices and take what they’ve learned and apply it to their jobs.”

This results in a high retention rate of which Mr. Ricks is particularly proud. “People like working for us,” he shares. “We have a good atmosphere. There is a spirit of creativity, and we make sure we comply with the strictest standards, but we allow our employees to be innovative and provide good ideas.”

The company is dedicated to working with the community, further establishing a good reputation with its stakeholders. During the design concept of its projects, consideration is made for development of company procedures to ensure operational safety and environmental protection. The company also ensures that its projects comply with local legislation, codes and standards.

For over a decade, BRASS has been an industry leader in pipeline engineering. Mr. Ricks says that his company’s success can be summed up simply:

“We want satisfied clients; we listen to them and their needs. We do not pretend to know everything. We’re on top of technology. We’ll do best job for our client. If they want less, we suggest a better way they can do things. We promise to deliver on-time and under budget. We deliver on our promises because honesty is important and we like to give our client more than what they expect because that makes them a happy client. We want to have repeat customers, make them feel happy and satisfied and feel that they have good value by working with us.”

For more information about BRASS Engineering, please visit http://brassengineering.com/

June 20, 2021, 8:00 AM EDT