The Dune Express is a 42-mile long, fully electric conveyor system that is expected to transform the Permian Basin and substantially improve the unacceptable safety risk existing on the Permian roadways. Originating from the Kermit, Texas facility and spanning into New Mexico, the Dune Express is intended to eliminate millions of truck miles driven across the Permian resulting in avoided traffic, accidents, injuries, and fatalities within the communities.
Along with 42 miles of electrified sand delivery, the Dune Express offers two permanent loadouts at state line (Texas) and end of the line (New Mexico). The system offers flexible mobile loadouts to further shorten proppant transit to wellsites. There is also more than 75,000 tons of storage within the system.
Sand Supply and Logistics
In late 2022 Atlas Energy Solutions signed sand supply and logistics agreements with major oil companies, including a multi-year agreement with bpx energy, that includes the delivery of proppant via the Dune Express.
Bud Brigham, executive chairman and CEO of Atlas commented, “These agreements represent a validation of our differentiated logistics platform. We recognized from day one when we started Atlas that the intensity of sand delivery trucks on the road, and the associated societal and environmental consequences, was unacceptable. We therefore greatly appreciate the commitment of bpx energy to transform the Permian into a more reliable, prosperous, safe and environmentally friendly energy producing region, one that is so very vital to the future of our country and the world.”
Kyle Koontz, bpx energy COO of development, added “bpx energy is committed to safely producing high-margin barrels while driving down emissions. This agreement with Atlas is another step in our journey and shows that we can use the latest technology to fundamentally improve safety in the Permian by reducing truck traffic while enhancing our development program through logistics and planning initiatives like The Dune Express.”
Atlas Energy Solutions contracted Continental to supply the conveyor belt for the Dune Express. During the planning phase, the two companies worked closely together to solve various technical challenges that had arisen due to the size and complexity of the project. For example, the total system has an impressive 42-mile length, which includes a world record single conveyor belt flight length of 16.4 miles without a mid-booster drive.
The Dune Express conveyor belt is designed to optimize delivery of proppant from Atlas’ sand mine in Kermit, Texas, to the northern Delaware Basin in New Mexico. Reducing the mileage driven by frac sand delivery trucks, the new conveyer belt system is one-of-a-kind, and is expected to significantly reduce traffic accidents and enhance the safety of public roads. The conveyor belt will also significantly reduce fuel emissions caused by transportation.
“We’re very grateful to our partners at Atlas Energy Solutions for their trust in our expertise and for the great collaboration on this challenging project. We’re confident this conveyor belt approach will make an incredible impact on other customers and will support us in our strategy to further develop our industry business,” said Andreas Gerstenberger, CEO of ContiTech USA. “We’re incredibly proud of every department at Continental that had a hand in this milestone achievement. From our sales team to our engineers, and everyone in between, the teamwork and collaboration that got us to this point proved we understand the needs of our customers.”
The Dune Express will be equipped with the most advanced technologies to increase efficiency and prevent equipment error. With the best-in-class damage detection equipment, the system monitors in real-time for rips, tears, cord damage and splice degradation, to proactively avoid major maintenance events and maximize uptime. This is a remarkable achievement by Continental’s R&D team for developing a compound to enable Continental to pursue future overland projects similar to the Atlas Energy project.
Fluid Coupling Drives
Atlas Energy Solutions has selected Voith Turbo to supply a total of 21 TurboBelt 800 TPXL fill control fluid coupling drives (including spares) to power 42 miles of conveyor belt as part of Atlas Energy Solutions’ historic Dune Express project. ELIN Motoren, a Voith company, will also provide 21 customized low noise electric motors for the project, including spares. Once in operation, the overland conveyor system will serve as a low-impact transport system, taking sand from Texas to New Mexico while establishing a new world record for a single conveyor flight without a mid-belt drive at an impressive 16.3 miles overall single flight length.
“As planned, the Dune Express is enormous,” said Roland Hoet, vice president sales, HDC Voith Turbo Americas. “Conveyor CV-004, the last in the system, will be the world-record holder, and combined with the three conveyors earlier in the line, this 42-mile conveyor system will be the longest in North and South America, and the second longest in the world.”
The system’s size is an important factor in the overall project, as it allows the system to positively impact its neighboring communities through the reduction in traffic congestion associated with sand delivery. To achieve this, the Dune Express addresses an explicit need for operations within Texas’ oil-rich Permian Basin: To limit highway traffic and road-safety concerns related to such an active venture.
Once in operation, sand will begin its journey from Atlas’ Kermit, Texas, facility and the Dune Express will carry material into New Mexico for storage or delivery. By powering the extensive conveyor system, Voith’s TurboBelt 800 TPXL coupling drives allow Atlas to eliminate millions of truck miles driven across the Permian Basin. This results in lower emissions within the communities where the sand would otherwise be carried.
The multimillion-dollar project required significant technical work by Voith, ultimately developing seven different drive package designs for the install. Most significantly, the Voith drives needed to be designed to provide a specified acceleration time of 10 minutes for the conveyors. This extended start-up time was required to maintain belt tensions, especially along the lengthy horizontal curves for two of the system’s four belts. This start-up time is significantly longer than most large conveyors, which typically require 60 to 120 seconds.
“Voith’s new TurboBelt 800 TPXL fill control couplings are the latest design update to Voith’s TPXL family of fill control models,” said Hoet. “This new TurboBelt technology uses an advanced oil-filling control system which provides continuous fill-level control through a forward and reverse flow pump. It eliminates the On/Off function solenoid fill and drain valves of the previous technology “TPKL” fill control models.”
Commissioning and installation of the full conveyor system, complete with the Voith TurboBelt TPXL coupling drives, is anticipated in Q4 2024. Once complete, the Dune Express will have more than 75,000 tons of storage space for sand.
“The Atlas project is the largest Voith order in North America for complete drive packages,” said Hoet. “We are responsible for the main electric motors; the TurboBelt TPXL couplings; the gear reducers; the base frames; the connection couplings, both low speed and high speed; the air-to-oil coolers for the TurboBelt TPXL units; and the control system for the TurboBelts. This is an exciting project for Voith Turbo since it proves that hydrodynamic drive solutions can provide critical torque control for even the largest overland material handling conveyor systems.”
The Dune Express is expected to be up and running at the end of 2024.