Delivering a reliable, sustainable water supply
The Escondida Water Suppy project team will construct a new seawater desalination plant, which will be linked to the Escondida mine site in the Andes by two 112-mile (180-kilometer), 42-inch- (107-centimeter-) diameter lined pipelines.
Four high-pressure pumping stations will move water east from the port across the Atacama Desert and up to a reservoir at the mine, 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) above sea level. In addition, we will deliver 75 miles (120 kilometers) of new 220-kilovolt transmission line, build three new substations, and expand four existing substations to power the system.
The new plant will include an offshore intake and outfall system more than 65 feet (20 meters) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The system will bring seawater into the desalination plant, filter much of its dissolved mineral and biological content using a reverse-osmosis process, and circulate extracted brine and other material back into the ocean. The desalinated water will be pumped to the mine.
It will be the largest desalinization plant in the Americas and one of the largest in the world.
How dry is it?
The Atacama Desert, a portion of which is home to the Escondida complex, is the driest place on Earth.
Average annual rainfall in the Atacama totals some six-tenths of an inch, or about 15 millimeters. Some locations, including Iquique, to which Bechtel is no stranger, receive much less moisture―on the order of 80 percent less.
In some parts of the Atacama―which extends in a relatively narrow band, north to south, from southernmost Peru into northern Chile―humans have never recorded any precipitation. And yet more than a million people call it home.