Since 2014, the Slurry Pipeline—an underground mineral pipeline—has continuously carried phosphate extracted from Khouribga mines in Morocco to the Jorf Lasfar phosphate port, over a distance of 187 kilometres.
The pipeline is far more than a simple tube connecting Khouribga to Jorf Lasfar; it is a link revolutionizing the industrial value chain, from mine to processed chemicals.
The changes included adapting Jorf Lasfar’s phosphoric acid lines, which previously received dry phosphate, and digitizing the whole industrial process.
“We were the first to have the courage and willpower to make this change. The study took three years, which is relatively long for a project, but it was such a disruptive technology that we had to take that time,” explains Soufiyane El Kassi, OCP’s Executive Vice President in charge of industrial development. OCP Group’s top management asked their American partner specializing in pipelines for an industrial pilot.
They had to see it to be convinced, and then had to convince their teams to believe in this somewhat outrageous project that would give rise to so many changes, direct and indirect. OCP teams speak in terms of before and after the advent of the pipeline, even with regard to mindset. “The pipeline got rid of silos that could create barriers between us within OCP. From mine to chemical processing, we operate as one. If a step of the process is experiencing problems, we take care of it together,” we were told at Jorf Lasfar.
Furthermore, because the pipeline generates considerable energy savings, the Jorf Lasfar site is now producing an energy surplus thanks to its thermal power stations integrated into various plants.
With changes in its legislative framework, OCP will henceforth be able to send a part of this electricity to Khouribga to supply draglines in the mines. In fact, the energy has already started being redirected to a seawater desalination unit at the Jorf Lasfar site. Once complete, it will produce 75 million m3 of water per year.
That’s more than what is needed for the fertilizer units, which recycle 80% of their water. With all of its comparative advantages, the Khouribga-Jorf Lasfar Slurry Pipeline had a natural multiplier effect. “A new pipeline passing through El Youssoufia that connects Ben Guerir to the new Safi platform is in the works,” explains Iliass El Fali, OCP’s Executive Vice President in charge of industrial operations. Just like the phosphate in the pipeline, OCP thinks of development as something that flows steadily.