The International Marine Terminal (IMT) in Port Sulpher, Louisiana acts as a transition point for millions of tons of coal transitioning from the Mississippi River to seagoing ships for export. To move millions of tons of coal each month the IMT has a Ship Loader system that is capable of moves 7500+ tons per hour (tph). This bulk material handling system employs a head-chute rated for this level of throughput. Bulk Systems, the vendor for Kinder Morgan brought Acensium into the equation when that head-chute continued to show blockages in various conditions. The coal head-chute getting plugged is not just an inconvenience that slows down operations, every hour in excess of deadlines incurs costly demurrage charges making flawless operation a key to maintaining low costs.

The head-chute, though rated for 7500+ tph, was operating at a mere 3500 tph and still experiencing intermittent blockages. Acensium is an industry-leading expert in industrial 3D scanning, engineering consulting and Discrete Element Modeling (DEM) for coal bulk material handling systems. Bulk Systems enlisted Acensium to scan and analyze the head-chute system, perform DEM analysis and oversee the installation and testing of the newly re-engineered head-chute. The IMT head-chute was one of many examples that Acensium has seen of coal bulk material handling equipment that did not take enough DEM scenarios into account during design. To ensure a design will operate as intended, computational models must be built with more than just the standard material DEM inputs. Successful, effective models take feedback data from multiple sites or projects, across multiple chute materials, and apply DEM ensuring that the model is robust. This model continues to be optimized to deliver the highest accuracy.

Acensium began the job by performing a 3D laser scan on the site using 3D building scanners that captured millimeter-accurate measurements of the head-chute and surrounding systems. Once the scans (called ‘point clouds’) were complete, the Acensium team went to work compiling the scans into a single comprehensive 3D ‘picture’, also known as a ‘fully registered’ point cloud. The resulting 3D representation can then be used to model the flow of material through the system. Analyzing this flow, Acensium changed the chute angles and overall design, decreasing the cross-section diameter but increasing the throughput capacity.

When it came time for installation, the IMT team from Kinder Morgan was surprised. How was a visibly smaller diameter chute going to handle more coal per hour than the original chute? Acensium reassured them; This chute was modeled to handle 9000+ tph of coal throughput.

The team went to work, installing the chute so tests could begin. Initially, the old ‘max’ rate was tested 3500 tph, with no blockage issues at all. The rate was upped to 4500 tph, 5500 tph, and 6500 tph, no blockages. The required 7500 tph was tested, again no blockage. Then the IMT team pushed the limits, testing well above 8000 Tph. The chute performed well beyond spec. Acensium’s experience and historic DEM dataset from coal projects all over the country provide a level of engineering expertise unmatched in the industry.

Acensium brings decades of material handling engineering and project risk management experience coupled with cutting-edge laser scanning and 3D analysis tools to deliver engineering services to both industrial and commercial clients. Acensium is an effective partner for engineering design and laser-scanning services because we approach each job as a unique task with a defined set of requirements. There are no cookie cutter solutions that work 100% of the time. Knowing this, Acensium leverages experience and data to deliver concrete analysis on every project.