The speed of change in the mining industry today can mean potentially profitable efficiencies are being overlooked in the rush to meet production deadlines.
Because of pressures on staff to cope with day-to-day issues as production expands and changing production needs, it can often happen that some technologies and equipment end up operating on duties different to those originally specified.
This can result in some plants losing thousands of dollars per day, or per hour, simply by failing to ensure their processes and equipment are performing at optimum levels, says the manager of the Australian Service Centre of Outotec (formerly Outokumpu Technology) Jason King.
To provide an independent and authoritative review of plant efficiencies, Outotec’s Australian Service Centre applies its minerals processing expertise and equipment knowledge to provide an audit and optimisation service to its customers.
“Even the very best process staff can’t keep abreast of all the technology and process changes sweeping through the industry globally as it gears up for the huge expansion currently underway,” says Jason King.
“We bring both global expertise and local Australian knowledge to bear in audit processes. Using their extensive process and mechanical experience, our After Sales Service engineers can quickly and accurately identify target improvement areas.
These include areas where:
- Plants have experienced changes to their original design – be that in ore type, throughput or even duty
- Operations that have no formal or systematic optimisation programme
- Plants that are running antiquated equipment
- Plants whose experienced personnel have left and new personnel are still untrained
An audit should be carried out before inefficient equipment and processes increase the plant’s risk of breakdowns but also before significant reductions in concentrate quality and recovery start to seriously affect the company’s bottom line:
Process and performance audits
A thorough audit is carried out by our engineers who work with you in assessing your plant’s current process.
“To enable an accurate and effective audit of your plant, our engineers work in total collaboration with your site personnel. The aim is to put ourselves in your shoes to understand your plant’s history and your company’s objectives. This is done during initial discussions with process and production personnel.”
During an initial 1-3 day site visit (depending on quantity of equipment) they observe equipment operation, review process trends, and record current equipment duty and performance. In some cases, testwork is performed onsite or at Outotec’s laboratory facilities.
If a full mechanical audit is required (in which all internals are inspected, drive monitoring systems and instruments are re-calibrated), then part of the audit needs to coincide with a plant shutdown.
Scoping studies commence using collated audit information as well as original specifications and test reports, as-built drawings and current equipment design and configuration.
After establishing differences in original specification and current duty, a new duty statement is compiled and used to determine changes that will result in more efficient equipment performance.
To further enhance its service, Outotec uses an advanced design software system that complements the company’s years of practical experience, to provide accurate design calculations for specific plants.
Deliverables included in the scoping study may comprise any combination of the following:
- General arrangement drawings, plant layout drawings and P & ID’s
- Geotechnical investigation and reports
- Definitive capital estimate for the proposed changes including design, supply, construction and commissioning
- Relevant technical information such as technology data sheets, project management plans and construction program
After determining the required modifications to the process and equipment, a process sample from the plant is obtained and lab-scaled dynamic testwork is carried out.
Upon completion of the tests, the optimal equipment performance is determined and a comprehensive report is provided that includes all testwork data and any recommendations or modifications to the existing technology.
Once the scoping study is accepted and a decision is made to proceed, Outotec provides a proposal outlining all aspects of implementing these recommendations.
The scope of this implementation can range from a simple modification or upgrade, to a full turnkey project including civil works, structural works, pumps, piping, electrical work and control systems.