Dedication To ServiceDecember 15, 2022
Native American Heritage Month: Rudy AyalaNovember 30, 2022
Seen & Unseen
One is very visible, and one you can’t really see. But both of WIPP’s capital projects are making remarkable progress due to a determined, creative workforce that is overcoming the challenges of the multimillion-dollar projects.
WIPP’s utility shaft and the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) “are making very good progress and are overcoming supply chain issues with creative work-arounds,” said Steve Smith, NWP capital and infrastructure projects manager.
The utility shaft, upon completion, will be WIPP’s largest shaft at 26 feet in diameter and provide air into the mine, including mining on new panels to the west. The SSCVS will increase airflow in the underground from 170,000 to 540,000 cubic feet per minute, providing enough airflow to simultaneously mine, emplace waste and bolt.
Since the post-COVID recommencement of excavating at the utility shaft on June 13, workers have worked around the clock to reach 720 feet — en route to the final shaft depth of 2,275 feet. The shaft is concrete lined to 712 feet.
Debris is blasted one-half layer at a time; as of Nov. 30, 134 blasts have loosened enough rock for 2,285 buckets of muck to be removed to the surface. Muck is currently being hauled east across the WIPP access road to a salt pile north of the site, but the New Mexico Environment Department recently approved the use of a new salt pile on the west side of the road.
On order are two air intake fans — which will generate 520,000 cubic feet per minute of airflow, forcing air down the shaft and into the WIPP underground — along with the battery packs for a hybrid bolter and a continuous mining machine.
“The utility shaft is tracking to the schedule, progressing through some of the most difficult geology now and still maintaining the overall project schedule,” Smith said. “Though you can’t see it, as it is all subsurface, excellent progress is being made.”
More visible is construction on the SSCVS, which consists of two buildings, the Salt Reduction Building and the New Filter Building.
The SRB will use deduster filters and demisters to drop salt from the underground airflow as it reaches the surface.
Booster fans will then move the air to the NFB, where 1,000- horsepower fans (already on-site) will pull the air through 22 high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter banks before exhausting the air through a 125-foot stack. The switchable filter banks mean work in the WIPP underground will not have to slow during filter changes.
Workers have completed the installation of the NFB safety significant precast columns (25), roof beams (38), and spandrels (13), as well as 65 of 69 wall panels.
Also finished are all of the NFB’s cast in place structural concrete and parapet walls.
Additionally, the installation of 50,000- gallon condensate tanks is complete at both the NFB and SRB.
Workers have also finished the SRB HVAC ducting; main airflow ductwork; and the weather-tight, multi-layer, multi-material roof.
Nearing completion on the SRB are the water treatment system and the redundant air compressor system.
“Anyone can look at the SSCVS project and see the structures are erected and the majority of the Salt Reduction Building equipment is installed,” Smith said.