MRO Magazine

Crop nutrition has a vital role

The United Nations estimates that the world’s population will climb from seven billion to nine billion by 2050. This means higher demand for food for the growing population, and more work for the farmers to produce more food.

February 8, 2021 | By Adam

PHOTO: Getty Images/iStockphoto

PHOTO: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Farmers will need fertilizers to do it, which is where potash comes in, as 96 per cent of the worlds production of potash is used in fertilizers. The 10 potash mines in Saskatchewan presently account for over seven million tonnes of potash, about 25 per cent of the annual world production.
The mission of these potash mines is to help the world grow the food it needs. By striving to produce and deliver high quality, innovative crop nutrition products, helping farmers rise to the challenge.
The simplest measure of the health of the potash industry is the price it commands on the world market. Whether the price per tonne dips to $150 USD, as was seen in 2005, or skyrockets to $900 USD, like in the heady days of 2009, the true guarantor of success in the industry depends on cutting unnecessary expenses, ensuring safety, and benefiting from long-term planning made possible by market-leading processes, equipment, and technology.
Challenges: Potash is a Beast
Potash is not easy to process; demanding material characteristics combined with unique processing requirements, make it a challenge to mine. Since potash is a corrosive material, it can progressively destroy metal through chemical action. Potash creeps its way into nooks and crannies to eat into equipment, and hardens into sharp crystals that can cut and tear into seals.
When Scott Paish of Rittal, and Jonathan Petryk of E. B. Horsman & Son, visited potash mines in Saskatchewan, doors of traditional Nema 4X enclosures were falling off due to caustic dust lodging inside the hinges, causing corrosion. The potash mines were looking for an enclosure to protect valuable automation, instrumentation, and electrical equipment that comes into contact with potash during processing.
“Our main goal has been to find an enclosure that can withstand the corrosive atmosphere, offer all-round protection, and last longer in potash mines‚” said Petryk. “This will help keep the bludgeoning costs in this potash mining industry down, if the enclosures have
some longevity.”
After evaluating and introducing hygienic design (HD) enclosures in two of the potash mines in Saskatchewan, they became convinced that they could have hit upon the perfect solution.
Secure blue seal: The seals around the enclosure doors often fail due to the corrosive potash destroying them. The HD enclosures offer the ability to replace just the distinctive blue seal, not the entire door, thus saving huge costs. Furthermore, the one-piece secure air-tight silicone seal does not leave a gap around door for potash to seep through.
“Usually, the mine workers have to use a screwdriver or sharp tool to chip away the corrosion and build-up around the seals, and often, the enclosure gets damaged,” said Paish. “With the HD enclosures, this does not happen, leading to savings in time and costs.”
Inner hinges: Exposed hinges pose a significant problem, and keep rusting, disintegrating and falling off on all enclosures, no matter who the manufacturer is. HD enclosures are located on the inside of the box, protecting against corrosive dust prevalent in the potash mines.
Easy mounting: HD enclosures do not have additional holes for mounting, as they are able to be mounted any way needed by welding directly to the enclosure. This enables them to be fitted into any space or orientation, and the absence of holes means less apertures for harmful potash dust to creep into and destroy.
Steep sloping roof: The 30˚ roof angle allows liquids to run off so the enclosures can withstand frequent high pressure wash downs, and the steep slope and smooth surfaces prevent bacteria and harmful build-ups on the surfaces.
In potash mines, it is important to ensure that the critical automation equipment housed inside the enclosures is working efficiently at all times. After all, reduced downtime leads to more potash for fertilizers, and ultimately, increased food production.
“The good news is that so far, weve had nothing but positive feedback on their performance and we are looking forward to expanding their use,” said Petryk.
Article and photos provided by Rittal Systems Ltd.


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