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The challenge

Transporting slurry at a high throughput

CSIRO senior engineer, Dr Rueben Rajasingam, says the drag reduction technology makes industrial pumping more efficient.

Almost all mineral processing plants need to transport ‘slurry’ – a semi-liquid mixture that can include water, ore and other material – through pumps at various process steps.

A thick slurry is prone to friction or a 'drag effect' in the pipes, making it more energy and capital-intensive to pump, as well as susceptible to blockages.

To overcome this, water is typically added to dilute the slurry, but this has the drawback of lowering the ore throughput achieved.

Finding ways to reduce water content, power demand and capital requirements for slurry pumping will result in significant operational and cost improvements for companies.

Our response

Trialing a new lubrication technology for drag reduction

We have developed a new technology that takes the energy-sapping drag out of industrial pumping. It introduces a thin, uniform and long-lasting ring of fluid between the slurry and the inside of the pipe so that thick material can be efficiently pumped without friction at a high throughput.

The technology was first trialed by Glencore's Minara Resources when their feed ore slurry pumping systems began overloading as they steadily increased their ore throughput.

The company's initial response was to operate both the duty and stand-by pumps in parallel, however this quickly became constrained. The alternative of further diluting the slurry was not an option because it would reduce metal recovery and impact on reagent use in the downstream process.

We worked with Minara Resources to identify a low cost installation point with good potential to address their challenge. We quickly installed our drag reduction technology and it was an immediate success, providing a 20 per cent reduction in pressure to free up capacity in their slurry pumping system.

The results

Adopted by industry to reduce costs and increase productivity

[Music plays and text appears: Introducing our ‘drag reduction’ technology]

[Image changes to show a metal disk with a number channelled rings cut into it labelled quarter speed]

Narrator: CSIRO’s drag reduction technology offers a cost-effective and sustainable solution for pumping constraints in the minerals processing and construction industries.

[Image changes to show the channels filling with a red fluid]

The technology works by lubricating the pipe. It introduces a thin, uniform and long-lasting ring of fluid as demonstrated here in red. This acts as a sheath on the inside of the pipe, allowing material such as slurry or concrete to move through the pipe more smoothly, reducing blockages and power demand.

[Image continues to show the channels being filled with red fluid]

It is a more efficient way of pumping. It is better than conventional lubrications methods because it coats uniformly, whereas other methods tend to coat sporadically.

[Image changes to show the disk with water flowing through. ]

CSIRO’s drag reduction technology is simple, easy-to-implement and can help companies save on costs, water and energy use, while boosting their productivity.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears alongside text: Big ideas start here]

Watch a demonstation video of our drag reduction technology.

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Minara Resources has now adopted our drag reduction technology at its Murrin Murrin nickel operation, adding it to their toolkit for onsite slurry pumping constraints.

Implementation of the drag reduction technology meant that the company could avoid an expensive upgrade to existing plant to meet throughput demand.

This technology can save mining companies millions of dollars on energy and water use each year, while boosting their productivity.

It's simple, cost-effective, easy-to-implement and could be applied to a broader range of industrial processes where there's a dewatering aspect that results in a sludge, slurry or paste that needs to be transported, such as in construction, waste management, coating services and food processing.

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