Transporting slurry at a high throughput
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.
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.
Adopted by industry to reduce costs and increase productivity
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.