8 February 2017

Werra Potash Plant

Major components for the future of potash – KCF Mammoth Project on Schedule

The permit for injecting saline water, month-long interruptions in production and short-time working – those were the issues that overshadowed all other areas of the potash industry in the Werra Valley over the past 14 months. What receded into the background as a result of this was that K+S KALI GmbH is working intensively on potash production and on numerous projects. All this means that work is continuing on shaping the future. One of these projects, the so called kainite crystallization followed by flotation, referred to as the KCF plant in short can easily be described as a mammoth project given its scale (length 74 m, width 20 m, height 58 m) and the related costs of about 180 million euros. Against a backdrop of numerous challenges, work is proceeding intensively on ensuring that the new processing facility at the Hattorf plant will become operational in 2018 as announced. Huge equipment units were lifted, in spectacular fashion, into their position in the KCF plant today.

Especially at a time of insufficient means of disposal and dependence on the water flow of the Werra, the KCF plant is of particular importance, and is so for the future too. Commenting on this, plant manager Roland Keidel said: “The KCF plant will reduce the volume of saline wastewater at the plant by a further 1.5 million cubic meters to 5.5 million cubic meters annually and will also allow additional resources to be recovered for use in the production of fertilizers. Consequently, the KCF plant marks a further milestone in the efforts undertaken by K+S to reduce the burden on the Werra/Weser river system. At the same time, the KCF will reduce the risk of having to limit production at the Werra plant sites in the Hesse-Thuringia potash district from 2018 onward, as it will be possible to significantly reduce the volume of wastewater once again.”

Work Is Proceeding on Schedule

Anyone who regularly passes the Hattorf site on the B62 in Philippsthal can see how the construction site is changing almost daily. Alongside the two towers, which have shaped the contours of the new plant since April 2016, the flotation part has been completed in just under seven months following the roofing ceremony for the steel structure. Up to 250 workers from 20 companies were busy at the construction site, and during icy temperatures at times, to ensure that the work is on schedule. About 400 people will be involved in carrying out installation work from March onward.

One Unit Weighs as Much as 90 Mid-Range Vehicles

Currently, the major components are being installed in the steel structure. They include evaporators, heat exchangers, mixing condensers, vapor and circulation piping systems – 17 items of equipment in total. It’s a well known fact that there is little that can be got “off the rack” in the mining industry. What is needed is customization and the exceptional at times. Devices have to be modified to meet special requirements. Thus, in the case of the large-scale units for the KCF plant, big, not small, is beautiful: The largest unit, a heat exchanger, weighs 110 tonnes – that corresponds to the weight of about 90 mid-range vehicles. A total of 35 kilometers of piping has been laid – enough to encircle 100 football fields. The largest unit, the V1200 evaporator, has a diameter of seven meters, is 16 meters long and weighs 82 tonnes when empty.

These items of equipment, which, in the light of their dimensions, are new territory for K+S and for the companies that have been hired to produce them, Ebner GmbH & Co. KG, Anlagen und Apparate, Eiterfeld, as the general contractor, and Messer Industriemontagen und Apparatebau GmbH, Heringen-Lengers, as the engineering company producing the equipment. “Everyone involved had just a pretty tight timeframe available for design and production. Logistics at the construction site was and is a challenge, because everything has to be delivered just in time given the particular features and limited size of the space,” said K+S project coordinator Heiko Spaniol. “However, we have already successfully tackled some large-scale projects, such as the evaporation plant at the Wintershall site, together with Ebner and Messer.” He added that it was great to have such experienced companies almost next door. In awarding contracts, the Werra plant likes to draw on the experience of local companies. K+S also used local companies for the package of measures on water protection from 2011 through 2015.

Most of the equipment for the KCF plant had to be delivered as heavy or night transport by CC Bäuml, located in Schlitz. The world’s largest telescopic crane, which had itself to be delivered on 15 low-loaders, causing some eyes to light up, slowly and calmly raised the heavy items and placed them exactly into the plant at a height of 41 meters. “It is a particular challenge to hinge equipment of this size and weight at such a height,” explained Matthias Jacob, subproject leader, “and such a project is a real stroke of luck for any engineer involved.”

KCF in figures

  • 35 km of piping
  • 180 km of cabling
  • 82 items of equipment and machinery
  • 86 pumps
  • Over 800 measuring points
  • Over 1000 valves
  • 6000 tonnes of steel structures

How the KCF plant works

The Werra plant currently generates 7 million cubic meters of process and tailings pile water per year. Part of this volume, containing relevant reusable substances – 3 million cubic meters of saline solution from upstream production processes at the Hattorf site in Hesse and the Unterbreizbach site in Thuringia – can be recycled in the KFC plant. This is possible thanks to new technology, mainly developed by K+S researchers who spent a good four years on developing for practical use. Compared to other processes, another benefit is the much more efficient utilization of energy produced during the evaporation phase.

Evaporation (evaporization part):

Saline solution is vaporized with thermal energy from the Hattorf power plant. This produces a salt mixture comprising kainite (potassium chloride with magnesium sulfate), sylvite (potassium chloride) and halite (rock salt).

Crystallization and flotation (processing part):

In next processing stage, magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) and potassium chloride (KCl) are removed from the salt mixture and are used to produce fertilizers containing sulfate (SOP).

A total of 5.5 million cubic meters of saline wastewater per year, instead of the previous 7 million, will remain for discharge into the Werra river or injection into the plate dolomite layer. The KCF marks an important steps toward a future reduction in the conveyance of salt by the Werra.

Note to editors

Additional information about the KCF plant can be found at:


Press pictures can be found at www.k-plus-s.com.

The K+S KALI GmbH Werra plant

The Werra potash plant, with its Hattorf and Wintershall sites in Hesse and at Unterbreizbach and Merkers in Thuringia, is the largest K+S KALI GmbH plant. Alongside fertilizers, the Werra potash plant also produces intermediate products for numerous technical and industrial applications as well as for use in the pharmaceutical, foodstuff and animal feed industries.

The plant employs almost 4,400 people, of whom 300 are trainees. This makes the plant an important employer and training enterprise in the area between the cities of Bad Hersfeld, Bad Salzungen and Eisenach. In addition, it is an important source of work for local medium-sized businesses as well as a significant taxpayer for the local municipalities. This makes the plant a key element in the economic and demographic development of the region of eastern Hesse and western Thuringia.

Ivonne Balduf

K+S KALI GmbH - Werk Werra
Postfach 1163
36267 Philippsthal

Phone: +49 6620 79 4050
Fax: +49 6620 79 4002

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