It was an overly normal Tuesday morning on the 4th of October when 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 was this that turned our week upside down in finding a solution and prompted us to do what it took 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, like always. We started searching through our pumps in inventory, of which we have thousands, and selected one that was nearly perfect for this application, already rebuilt and waiting to be used. It did have a baseplate under it that had been manufactured when the pump was rebuilt, but the motor had been sold off of it since then, so that was the next challenge. We did have a 700 horsepower 2 pole electric motor in stock, but considering the modifications to the pump base that would need to be done 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 see just what kind of adapters would need to be made in order to make it all work. That was determined quickly, as well as the modifications needed to the shaft coupling. Fabrication and machining of the adapters and parts was well underway even before the design was complete.
A crate was built around the pump package, and 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, and 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, 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 was a different set of challenges. The pump was to be lowered to the mid-level pumping station, about 2500 feet below 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, where it was then loaded on the trolly and railed back to the pump station. The pump followed in the same manner, and in a few days, all the equipment was in the pump station and the reassembly began. When the time came for me to return home, the pump and motor were successfully installed, with the exception of the pipe modifications and baseplate grouting, which was to be done by the customer after my departure.
Yes, it was hot, humid, uncomfortable and quite challenging, but in the end, all the things that really matter worked out well. The pump started up and is operating fine, no flood damage was done to the mine, and, most importantly from our perspective, the customer is a happy one that we look forward working with again in the future.