Leidos, the prime contractor for the Antarctic Support Contract, chose Metso Lokotrack for its rebuilding project at McMurdo research station in Antarctica because it needed a dependable yet flexible crushing and screening solution given a long logistics chain with months-long intervals of no service.
In late 2019, Metso released details of its journey to deliver three Lokotrack crushing and screening plants for the reconstruction of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) McMurdo research station in Antarctica.
The McMurdo research station is located at 78° South and 167° East with temperatures ranging from -40 to +4 Celsius (-40 to +40 Fahrenheit). The station is being rebuilt under the Antarctic Infrastructure and Modernisation for Science (AIMS) project to upgrade the station for improved logistical and energy efficiency.
Leidos, the NSF’s prime contractor for the Antarctic Support Contract (ASC) as well as the AIMS project, selected the Metso Lokotrack LT106 jaw crusher plant, Lokotrack LT200HP cone crusher, and Lokotrack ST3.8 mobile screen for the job, which involves producing roughly 126,000 cubic meters (150,000 cubic yards) of engineered fill.
Equipment was retrofitted for extreme cold at Metso’s Tampere, Finland, facility and purchased through Colorado-based distributor Wagner Equipment. Metso’s equipment will be used for three years to crush ground materials for construction and expansion projects all over the base, including docks, runways, building foundations, and roadways.
The machines arrived in Antarctica last February.
“So far, Metso’s equipment is getting the job done beyond our expectations,” says David DesAutels, Leidos-ASC fleet analyst.
Weather conditions in Antarctica can make a logistics challenge for such a large construction project, with supplies only arriving once a year. There was over a year of lead time between contract award and delivery of equipment, so Leidos knew it needed the backing of a flexible plant design.
“Metso made a variety of changes, especially for the climate conditions, such as installing a central J-box to plug to external generators when not in use to help heat all fluids, batteries, etc.,” explains Richard Sack, crushing and screening sales, Wagner. “Metso also insulated all hoses and installed arctic belting to be ready for the harsh conditions.”
Under the AIMS project, Leidos is required to produce multiple products over a period of three years from a variety of parent materials. The production window spans just a few months during the Austral Summer each year of the contract.
Leidos is currently feeding basalt of unknown hardness <24” into the LT106 jaw crusher for primary reduction to <6”, with the LT200HP cone crusher providing final reduction to <2”, with a specific particle size distribution encompassing 11 different gradations. The hard basalt comes from an area near the station.
This is a closed circuit configuration that will allow for consistent high production requirements given the extreme conditions.
“Metso had to make sure the units would all operate running on ‘Jet A-1’ aviation fuel, as it is suitable for cold conditions and the only source available at the site,” says Sack. “As far as the long service intervals are concerned, Metso equipment is thoroughly engineered to work hard with minimal maintenance requirements.”
Project success will be defined by meeting production goals without undue environmental impacts or risk to personnel.
“Crushing in the southernmost part of the world, under such extreme and challenging conditions, was the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Michael Rakas, Metso technical support representative responsible for setup. “Both picturesque and remote, Antarctica delivered. A special thanks to David and Jeff from Leidos for an unforgettable experience.”