Bauer builds cut-off wall in Jordan’s Dead Sea potash extraction dikes

Dam remediation works over 16-month project for Arab Potash Company saw Bauer International overcome several challenges of terrain and environment

Bauer has carried out a project to build a 112,000 square metre cut-off wall over a length of 4.2km on one of the main dikes on the Dead Sea coast in Jordan where potassium salts are mined.

Bauer International FZE, a subsidiary of Bauer Spezialtiefbau GmbH, was commissioned by the Arab Potash Company of Jordan to build the dikes in 2018. According to a press release from Bauer, the project actually started in April 2019 and posed several challenges, one of which was that it had to be carried out in just 16 months and another the complicated logistics, mobilisation of specialist staff, harsh weather conditions, extremely salty environment and other allied factors.

Potash salts are an essential part of fertilisers. The Dead Sea is rich in potash salt and APC in Jordan uses this natural resource as the basis for the production of Carnallite. This is obtained in several earth basins with an area of 112km2 at the southern end of the Dead Sea, in which the pumped salt water evaporates and the raw material is left behind. What is special about this is that the basins are located around 400m below mean sea level and therefore at the lowest point on earth above water. However, the dikes that surround the basins have become porous over time and must now be repaired and rebuilt.

According to a statement from Bauer, in the preparation phase, Georges Abdo, MD Bauer International FZE, built a complete construction site organisation from scratch in the Jordanian desert, with the active support of Site Group, a Bauer subsidiary, already present in the country.

Among the other challenges of the project was the subsoil with its hard crystalline salt layers, which required “two cutters to be used instead of grabs to build the cut-off wall”, said Bauer. “In addition, the high salt content had a negative effect on the support fluid and the setting properties of the concrete.”

Bauer said that its experts solved this problem and developed support fluids for the two-phase system based on salt-resistant clay mineral and polymers. Various worldwide deposits of bentonite were tested, until the suitable composition could be developed. The novel inclinometer-guided sheet pile installation concept proved its reliability in achieving continuous interlocking.

“The trustful and highly cooperative relation with the owner, who provided all his remarkable support, was a crucial factor in overcoming a multitude of administrative and organizational hurdles,” said Abdo.

A further challenge was posed by the coronavirus reaching Jordan. During the lockdown, and after compulsory breaks, the client extended additional support and managed to get a special permit to start the work on the site while observing strict precautionary measures. A central crisis committee led by Bauer project manager Hassan Farhat ensured the implementation of the rectification measures so that all obstacles could be overcome while also making it possible to make up for the delays. Bauer was able to complete the project ahead of the planned schedule in October 2020.

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