'Beast' of a dredge is 400,000 pounds of power

Hagler dredge going to Canada

"The Beast" is leaving North Augusta.


This is the official name that a Canadian-based company has given a 400,000-pound dredge that was custom-designed by Hagler Systems in North Augusta.

This week, a fleet of 10 trucks is leaving Hagler Systems bound for Canada, each carrying a portion of the $4.5 million dredge built by the South Carolina-based company.

"It will take 30 days. They can only drive in the daytime, and they can only go on roads they've been told they can travel on," said Ben Hagler, a co-owner at Hagler Systems, which designs, builds and packages custom mining equipment.

Fully assembled, the dredge is 24 feet high, 27 feet wide and 84 feet long. It's the largest dredge the company has ever made, Hagler said.

The main pump on the dredge comes from GIW Industries in Grovetown, he said.

Hagler Systems, at 890 W. Five Notch Road, constructed the dredge for Suncor Energy Inc., a Canadian integrated energy company that extracts and upgrades oil sands into high-quality, refinery-ready crude oil products and diesel fuel. Oil sand is a mixture of bitumen, sand and water. It does not flow like conventional crude oil, so it must be mined or heated underground before it can be processed, according to Suncor's Web site.

Suncor recovers bitumen through surface-mining and steam-injection technologies and upgrades it into refinery-ready crude oil products. The process leaves fine clay particles, or tailings, which are so fine they can't be separated from the water.

"They end up making all these big ponds called tailings ponds," he said.

When tailings are released, the heaviest material -- mostly sand -- settles to the bottom. The middle layer consists of "mature fine tailings." Some of these particles settle, but many remain suspended in water. It could take hundreds of years for these ponds to dry out, Hagler said.

As a result, Suncor has needed more and larger tailings ponds over the years. The company is pumping refined tailings from the bottom of a pond using the dredge and other equipment provided by Hagler Systems. Then, a polymer is added, and the tailings are deposited over sand beaches to dry.