BRASS Engineering brings world-class engineering capabilities to the mining industry with multiple international locations.
A full-service engineering firm may have a number of innovative technologies available at its disposal, but success will stem from the people hired to execute projects for clients. BRASS Engineering has lived by this mantra since its founding in 1998, and Brad Ricks, chairman of the board and president, aims to keep it that way.
“We’ve tried to hire very good people and keep them,” Ricks says. “Even in tough times, our people are in demand.”
BRASS Engineering specializes in the design of fluid transport systems through long-distance pipeline.
The company’s core capabilities lie in the transport of ores, mineral concentrates, tailings, water and acids. BRASS has performed services for petroleum and gas pipelines as well. BRASS Engineering serves clients throughout the world from its headquarters in San Ramon, California, as well as subsidiary offices in Santiago, Chile; Beijing; Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil; and Quezon City, Philippines.
The company was founded in 2000 in California when Ricks – who started his career in the pipeline industry in the early 1970s with Bechtel – was encouraged by colleagues to start his own company. Later, Ricks was joined by Roy Betinol, who now serves as director and president of BRASS Chile S.A. in charge of South America. BRASS Engineering pursued work from some of the largest mining companies in the world as well as providing
subcontracting services to renowned engineering companies in the mining industry.
“We seemed to be blessed that these companies would entertain our proposals, because it’s usually based on reputation,” Ricks says. “There would be someone in the company that would say, ‘That’s a good guy, we did that project together.’ In the beginning, most of the work was in South America. Ricks and Betinol spent most of their time there. Eventually, Betinol decided to permanently stay in South America. We were determined to make BRASS permanent in South America.”
In the beginning, Ricks had acquaintances at ARB Inc., a pipeline construction firm based in California, which
offered to help BRASS get started in Santiago. ARB let Ricks use a couple spare offices in its Chile location and ARB also provided administration support in those early days, as well.
In 2004, Ricks once again was approached by another colleague looking to join the BRASS
ranks. This time, it was George Shou, who took over Ricks’ position when he left his previous employer. Today, Shou is director of Asia and President of BRASS Beijing. The three men serve as principal shareholders in BRASS.
Ricks says BRASS Engineering has a distinct advantage over its competition because of its technological advancements. The company has its own internal software used to simulate pipeline operation, which Ricks compared to flight simulators.
“We use it a lot for designing systems, and we can use it for anticipating startup activities,” Ricks says. “So we go to the field with a really good idea of how the system will operates. It is the basis for feedback and feed forward expert control systems.”
Through its software, BRASS is able to develop leak detection systems for slurry pipeline transport infrastructure. Also, BRASS has the capability for stress analysis and 3-D graphics. This helps immensely in what Ricks describes as BRASS Engineering’s “claim to fame” – longdistance slurry pipelines. These pipelines typically move a mixture of mineral concentrate, mineral phosphate or coal distances that can span as much as hundreds of miles.
“Mainly, our claim to fame is slurry, tailings and seawater in all its variations (strained raw seawater and desalinated seawater),” Ricks says. “Water is becoming scarce in a lot of areas.”
He cites Chile as an example of a region with water issues. Up to 200 kilometers inland, many mines and associated plant are becoming more dependent on the sea for their water source. The same can be said many other parts of the world as well.
Along with hiring the best in the business, BRASS Engineering does everything possible to retain top talent. The company offers tuition reimbursement for employees who pursue educational opportunities, for example.
“If someone wants to take a continuing education course, we’re all for helping them get trained,” Ricks says.
Based upon the forward direction from Betinol, BRASS has acquired ISO-9001, ISO- 14001 and ISO 18001 certications. Also, community relations are an important consideration. Lastly, BRASS calculates the carbon footprint associated with its designs.