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:: Research Could Overhaul Pumping Pipelines
From mining orebodies to moving leftover residues from processing operations, transporting slurries through vast tracks of pipelines is an essential process for the minerals industry. And with millions of tonnes of ores transported via pipelines each year operating costs can be high.
It is where a new industry-supported project aims to make a difference by continuing fundamental research efforts into high concentration slurry transport, and, through this optimising the designs for solids transport in several areas.
Dr Jie Wu, from CSIRO’s Minerals Down Under Flagship, leads the new AMIRA International P599B project. He says transporting ores, concentrates and residues in a slurry form is an essential part of industrial processes.
In an effort to reduce both water and energy consumption and improve the slurry transport’s reliability, researchers have built a fundamental understanding of slurry flow design - particularly for highly concentration slurries - via two previous AMIRA International projects, P599 and P599A.
Although a goal is to use less water in the transportation process, doing so creates thicker, more ‘paste-like’ slurries, which in turn creates other issues, says Dr Wu. On one hand more product can be moved at a time at lower velocities, but on the other, pipes and associated infrastructure have to be designed to handle the thicker flows.
To address these issues, researchers will use and fine tune methods embodied in PipeTools, a software program developed in the previous P599 projects that provides a more accurate prediction of the behaviour of concentrated suspensions compared to existing tools.
Dr Wu says there are huge errors - up to 600 per cent - associated with conventional designs of these high concentration flows, which result in pipeline transport failures or the inability to pump the desired amount of solids. “Being able to make more accurate predictions will help the industry to optimise design and achieve a much better outcome."
As well as extending PipeTools, the new project aims to help industry sponsors apply this technology and in turn reduce energy use, water use and capital design costs, while operating pipelines with better reliability.
As such, Dr Wu says further research will be undertaken into high concentration, wide-size distribution suspensions through horizontal and inclined pipes at energy consumptions comparable to conventional conveying techniques.
Vertical hoisting, where material is lifted straight up and out of mines, will also be researched. “The anticipated benefits of vertical slurry pipelines as a future technology for deep mine transport include less in-ground manpower, less maintenance, potentially lower capital and running costs, and it will be inherently safe," Dr Wu says.
Research will focus on developing optimum designs to convey ore solids via vertical pipes at reduced energy cost and with high reliability. Blending of crushed ore with carrier fluids will be used to achieve stable, low speed and safe conveying.
* This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Process magazine.
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