Optimizing the Selection of Bulk Transportation Systems

By Joel Shirriff, VP and Global Practice Lead Transportation and Terminals

In a typical mine or manufacturing process plant, the finished product is often physically located a considerable distance from either the domestic consumption market, or the marine terminal site where it may ultimately be exported. The mode of transport used to move this product to market will often depend on the commodity, the volumes being produced, and the distance that the product needs to be moved. Typical modes of transport for bulk cargo include:

  • Bulk trucking by road
  • Rail or unit train transport
  • Slurry pipeline transport
  • Overland conveyors
  • River barging

Ausenco has in-house technical specialists for each of these transportation technologies, and this diversified practical experience is a true differentiator in this sector. Our team regularly performs transportation trade-off studies for our clients, offering completely unbiased opinions on each mode of transport, and maximizing value on the recommended solution. While there may be general “rules of thumb” for where certain modes of transport are more efficient, there is considerable overlap in the ranges of volume and distance to be covered for each. When it comes to moving bulk cargo, there are no “one size fits all solutions”, and getting expert assistance is important.

In many cases, environmental or community issues may preclude the selection of a single solution, and the best option may actually be a combination of technologies. This type of multi-modal logistics system requires the cargo to be transferred part way along the route, which can be done in bulk or by using a containerized system. This may require additional infrastructure to be installed to manage the operation, but these extra costs are balanced against an optimized solution that addresses both technical and social challenges.

Regardless of the modes being considered for product movement, it is critically important to take a holistic approach in the analysis of the entire network from source to destination. The impact of modal interdependencies with both the production and terminal facilities is often underestimated. To truly understand the system capacity and optimize the solution, simulation modelling will be required. (See previous articles: Assessing System Throughput Capacity and Simulation Modelling for Bulk Terminals)

For more details on our transportation solutions click here.