[MQP] Assessing the Feasibility of Increasing Water Capacity Between the Paraíso Pumping Station and the Miraflores Potable Water Plant

Sponsor: Panama Canal Authority
Student Team: Cindy Lin
Shelby Anne Miller
Abstract: The Panama Canal Authority has proposed a third raw water line and a connection to the Pedro Miguel Rainwater Catchment to reduce the current inefficiencies of the Paraiso Pumping Station, which provides the demand for the Miraflores Potable Water Plant. This project evaluated the feasibility of the proposed alternatives for two different demand scenarios, 50 MGD and 70 MGD, including determining theoretical energy consumption and cost of installation and operation for each alternative. The costs were compared using IRR and ANV and recommendations were made to install a third 36″ fiberglass pipeline, alleviating inefficiencies for a 65% energy savings for current operations and to install a connection to the Catchment if the demand should increase to 70 MGD.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

The Panama Canal has been a vital resource to the global maritime market since it opened in 1914 (Panama Canal Authority, 2012a). An endeavor initially started by the French in 1876 as a sea-level canal, the United States took over the construction in 1905 and worked on building a canal with a system of locks (Panama Canal Authority, 2012b; Panama Canal Authority, 2012c). The completion of the Canal allowed for ships, up to a certain size, to traverse through the Canal instead of travelling around South America to travel between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Due to the rocky terrain that makes up the Isthmus of Panama, a sea level canal proved to be challenging to excavate, leading to the ultimate demise of the French efforts. To reduce the amount of rock that would need to be removed, the Americans devised a lock system. An earthen dam was created to flood an area in the middle of the isthmus, creating Gatun Lake (Panama Canal Authority, 2012d). Gatun Lake is approximately 85 feet above sea level. Ships must travel through one set of locks on the Atlantic side known as the Gatun Locks, traversing through three chambers before reaching the elevation of Gatun Lake (Panama Canal Authority, 2012e). Ships must travel through two sets of lock on the Pacific side. Two chambers make up the Miraflores Locks and raise ships from the Pacific Ocean to Miraflores Lake. One lock chamber makes up the Pedro Miguel Locks and raises ships from the Miraflores Lake to Gatun Lake. Each lock features parallel lock chambers so that two ships may traverse a lock at a time.

Currently, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is undertaking a project to expand the Panama Canal so that there will be three lanes of travel for ships. The new third lane will feature larger lock chambers so that ships that are currently too big to fit in the locks may traverse the Canal. In addition to this large scale project, the ACP undertakes many other projects to improve the Canal, improve the ACP operations and improve the areas of Greater Panama

One such project is focused on reducing the energy usage at a raw water pumping station. Currently, the ACP produces the energy that they use to operate their facilities. Any excess energy that is generated and not used is then sold to the electrical utility. The project in question aims to reduce the energy used at the pumping station, which will allow the system to operate more efficiently, but it will also provide the opportunity for the ACP to sell the saved energy for a profit.

The goal of this project was to assess the feasibility of increasing water capacity between the Paraíso Pumping Station and the Miraflores Potable Water Plant. Two major options were considered. The first option that was considered was the addition of a third pipeline to run between these two facilities. The second option that was considered was a connection to the Pedro Miguel Rainwater Catchment line to a third pipeline. In order to determine the feasibility of each alternative, the following information was determined:

  • The flows within each pipeline: a model was created in Excel to calculate the flows within each pipeline based on the total flow demand to the Miraflores Potable Water Plant, the length and diameter of each pipe, and the pipe material. The flows were adjusted to ensure that the friction head losses in each pipe were roughly equivalent.
  • Energy that is used by the pumps at the Paraíso Pumping Station: based off of the flows that were calculated and the subsequent head loss in each pipeline, the pump head was calculated. The pump head was used to calculate energy used. The energy per pipeline could then be summed for all of the pumps in the system.
  • The cost of procurement of materials as well as construction and installation costs: in order to determine whether each alternative was financially feasible long term, the cost of materials and installation were calculated considering a 60% installation cost and a 25% contingency cost. This cost was then compared to the energy savings to determine at what point in the future, the project would be paid off.

This project also created a preliminary design for the proposed third pipeline, the rainwater catchment and the junction that occurs between the two lines. The design of the pipeline sought to find the shortest path between the Paraíso Pumping Station and the Miraflores Potable Water Plant that minimized bends in the pipe, road crossings and railroad crossings. The junction between the third pipeline and the rainwater catchment pipeline was designed with a junction angle that would reduce the head loss at the junction.

It was determined that for the current scenario, it costs approximately $1.56 million to meet the 11.2 million kWh that it takes to operate the pumps. The efficiency of the Paraíso Pumping Station is 69.2 %. The annual operating costs for the different alternatives were calculated and ranged between approximately $200,000 and $1,700,000. The procurement and installation costs for different sized pipelines ranged between approximately $1.4 million and $6.2 million. The procurement and installation costs were compared to the annual operating costs using an economic analysis spreadsheet that was provided by the Panama Canal Authority. This spreadsheet yielded the annual net value of each alternative and the internal rate of each alternative.

The optimal design of the third pipeline yielded a length of approximately 4320 meters. This path also minimized the bends in the pipeline, the road crossings and the railroad crossings. The junction angle that yielded the smallest head loss was calculated to be 165 degrees.

Based on the current flow demands from the Miraflores Potable Water Plant, it is recommended that a third fiberglass line is installed with a 36 inch diameter. This action will reduce the friction head loss in the pipelines which will reduce the need for pumping. For the time being, the energy savings from the Pumping Station can be sold by the ACP for profit. The installation of the 36 inch third pipeline will also prepare the Pumping Station to be able to handle increased flows that are anticipated in the future.

For the projected future flow demands from the Miraflores Potable Water Plant, it is recommended that a rainwater catchment pipeline be installed in the Pedro Miguel River sub-basin. This pipeline can be connected to the third pipeline and will supplement the flow within that line. The project was completed in order to fulfill ABET’s Capstone design Criteria needed for the successful completion of a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering for the both of the project authors. The project involved several consideration including economic, environmental, sustainability, health and safety, and political factors of the work performed.