Watering the World's Largest Dairy Farm
At the world's largest integrated dairy farm in Saudi Arabia, submersible turbine pumps from Goulds Pumps are supplying reliable service while pumping extremely hot and aggressive water.
If farming is difficult to picture in the desert, a booming dairy farm challenges the imagination even more. Yet more than 29,000 head of cattle are raised at Al-Safi farm in Saudi Arabia. The Al-Safi farm comprises 14 square miles in the Al Sahba Valley, some 60 miles southeast of Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. Al-Safi enjoys international recognition from the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest integrated dairy farm in the world. All the dairy's operations, including 29,000 head of cattle, production of feed, milking parlors, processing and packaging plants, and the distribution system, are on-site at the Al-Safi farm. All basic feeds needed by the herd -- such as alfalfa, Rhodes grass hay and sorghum Sudani silage -- are grown on the farm.
Al Safi dairy began as an ambitious, seemingly impossible project -- importing cows and locally producing milk rather than importing it. Notwithstanding arid desert realities, temperatures in the Kingdom can drop to freezing in the winter and soar to 115 degrees F in the summer.
Importing the world's finest stock of cows from Europe and Canada (Holstein Friesian cows), a large team of scientists, veterinarians and laboratory technicians literally conquered nature by drilling wells 6,600 feet deep. Today, Al-Safi dairy stands as an agricultural/science marvel.
The farm is huge by any standards. Production levels are up to a staggering 100,000 gallons of milk a day. But the amount of water used in the operation also is staggering. In addition to water required for the irrigation of crops, a great deal of water is needed for the dairy herd itself, with each of the milk cows requiring 20 galons to 30 gallons of water per day.
Besides consumption by the herd and irrigation, water at Al-Safi also is used for cooling the herd. To protect the cattle from the intense heat, especially during the summer, Al-Safi has equipped its cattle pens with evaporative cooling systems. Using the latest technology, air-droplet cooling fans cool the cattle that take shelter under special awnings.
Hot and Aggressive WaterAccording to Fred Clise, export manager for Goulds Pumps' water technology division, "The water for this operation currently is being pumped from four onsite wells, some as deep as 1 mile." A submersible turbine pump from Goulds Pumps Texas Turbine unit already is pumping water from deep inside one well with another pump that is being installed in a newly drilled well.
Even though there is plenty of water in the deep aquifer beneath the dairy, the nature of the water itself presents problems for both pumping and its use in the dairy operation. "The water from the aquifer is extremely hot and extremely aggressive," says Clise. "The water comes up almost at boiling point, heated by the underground geothermal activity in the area. The water also is aggressive, containing minerals such as calcium and magnesium."
The new Goulds Pumps turbine pump, as well as the one currently in use, are 11-inch CHC submersible turbines. The aggressive nature of the water necessitated the use of special metallurgy, employing nickel and bronze in the pump. The 10-stage pump (with an impeller in each stage) is powered by a 1,000-Hp motor and pumps 1,200 gpm. Clise notes that the motor was designed specially for these corrosive and very hot conditions. "Usually, a submersible well water pump and motor works in an environment that ranges from 85 degrees F to 105 degrees F," says Clise. "Because these conditions are much hotter and more corrosive, we've employed a special motor that usually sees work in oil production." Clise went on to say that this combination of turbine pump and motor normally is used for salt water injection in oil fields, where sea water is injected into wells to retrieve the last bit of oil.
To provide a sense of just how aggressive this underground water source is, the cost of the new well at the dairy is $1 million -- a great deal of that due to having to line the well with 3?-inch stainless steel in order to resist the corrosive effects of the water as it is pumped to the surface. Even though the full depth of the well may reach below 2,000 feet, the Goulds Pumps turbine pump will sit at a depth of approximately 1,000 feet below the surface at water level.
Once the water is pumped to the surface, it must be cooled before it is consumed. From the well, the water is sent either to a large cooling pond where the heat evaporates off, or it is sent to a large stainless steel storage building where the water is circulated until it is cool enough for consumption by the herd or for irrigation.
Energy SavingsEven in a country where there is a surplus of energy, the efficiency of pumping systems still is very important. Clise notes the high energy efficiency of the CHC pump: "The 11-inch bowl has as 87 percent bowl efficiency, which is extremely high for that size bowl." Clise goes on to say that the efficiency of the bowl determines the size of the motor. The higher the efficiency of the bowl, the smaller the motor and the greater the energy savings.
Growth in the DesertDairy farming probably is the last thing that springs to mind when people think of Saudi Arabia. However, the country actually is a world leader for innovation in the sector. Today at the Al-Safi dairy, every phase of the operation is well integrated -- from plantation, irrigation, breeding, feeding and milking until trucks roar out to support Al-Safi's control over 33 percent of the Kingdom's dairy market. The success of the dairy farming industry has also made Saudi Arabia a prime exporter of dairy products in the Middle East.
Al-Safi's promise continues to lie in its abundant -- although very hot -- fresh water supply. With reliable submersible turbine pumps on the job, Al-Safi will continue to keep its herd cooled and well watered as it runs the largest dairy farm in the world.