Breathing new life into a copper producer’s aging equipment and processes.

by Mario Portilla and Eric Haapamaki

Industrial operations around the globe often face substantial challenges with equipment and processes that rely on obsolete control systems. Because this equipment is typically critical to operations, it can’t incur significant downtime or be easily replaced. 

However, the productive life of this equipment can be extended by migrating obsolete control systems to the latest technology without major changes to existing mechanical, pneumatic or hydraulic systems. 

A copper producer in northern Chile recently engaged Tecnologias COBRA and The EPCM Group to extend the life of its equipment and processes by migrating their obsolete control system. The client was looking to increase the reliability of communications and have significantly better access to process data and commercial spare parts by updating devices and communication protocols.  

Mario Portilla, Leader of COBRA Engineering and Automation notes, “The advantage our solution provides is that we’re not just tied to one controls brand. We offer multi-brand migration capability including DCS, PLC and HMI. Integrating the best brands in the market will elevate our client’s processes and equipment to new levels”.

The COBRA/EPCM methodology focuses on risk mitigation and minimizing operational disruption. This approach reduces production downtime while the migration process takes place and prevents unanticipated problems on restart. 

The process starts with an extensive site visit to investigate the existing control system and operational parameters, meet with the client to discuss additional process parameters desired, and finalize the scope. EPCM selects new hardware, identifies potential safety improvements, and creates and tests new control panels and logic before installation and commissioning. 

“There are a number of key challenges to overcome with control systems migrations,” cautions Eric Haapamaki, EPCM’s VP of Business and Product Development. “These include addressing undocumented field changes over decades of operation to ensuring the continued function and performance of equipment to its original specs. Good planning is the key to success and we’re excited about the results our client will see. Helping our clients sustain their capital is rewarding work.” 

About The EPCM Group 

Established in 1980, EPCM is a global engineering, procurement, and construction management firm. We address our clients’ most difficult manufacturing and operational challenges by applying our bold thinking, industry insights, end-to-end services, and global capability. 

Learn more about EPCM’s mining and mineral processing solutions.