Tshwane-based industrial solutions provider RTS Africa Engineering (RTS) believes that Zambia offers a “strong and vibrant mining economy” and is currently in the process of entering the Zambian mining market to provide increased safety at mines through its hydrogen detection solutions.
These solutions, RTS MD Ian Fraser believes, are well suited to the Pan-African mining environment, including Zambia, helping mitigate fire or explosion risks at mines.
“At this stage, we would supply to Zambia directly from RTS’s office in Pretoria. However, we would be interested in appointing a suitable and competent agent in Zambia, in the future,” he enthuses.
He explains to Mining Weekly that hydrogen is generated through the increasing use of battery-powered electric vehicles in underground mines, where they are used to eliminate air pollution associated with diesel exhaust emissions.
However, Fraser notes that using these vehicles also presents an inherent risk through the large multibattery underground charging bays required for their operation.
“During the charging process, hydrogen escapes from the banks of batteries to form a potentially explosive mix. “This could result in a potentially catastrophic hydrogen gas explosion, which constitutes a very real health and safety risk for mining companies.”
In addition, Fraser notes that, in a ‘fiery’ mine, such as a colliery, hydrogen combustion may potentially trigger a more serious secondary coal-dust explosion.
These industrial health and safety challenges can be mitigated through the use of hydrogen detection instruments from RTS’s California-based principal H2Scan. The company’s Hy-Alerta 500 and Hy-Alerta 600B or 610B models serve as a “valuable safety aid in hydrogen gas detection within battery charging stations in underground mines”, he says, noting that prices are between R75 000 and R200 000, depending on operating conditions.
The Hy-Alerta 500 instrument is a “highly versatile” hand-held detection device and can detect the widest range of hydrogen gas concentrations without the need for any peripheral equipment. The product’s versatile hydrogen sensor probe has a unique visual light-emitting diode array to effectively help an individual navigate to the source of a hydrogen leak emanating from where hydrogen gas is produced, used, transported or stored, Fraser explains to Mining Weekly.
“With two sensing elements on the same semiconductor die, the Hy-Alerta 500 can detect hydrogen leaks as low as 15 parts per million (ppm) and will not saturate or be destroyed when detecting high hydrogen concentrations of up to 100%,” Fraser adds.
H2Scan’s Hy-Alerta 600B or 610B fixed-area hydrogen monitors are better suited for area monitoring and can provide hydrogen-specific leak detection and measurement for hydrogen concentrations as low as 4 000 ppm.
These monitors can be scaled to any concentration of up to 5% hydrogen by volume, a range representing 10% to 125% of hydrogen’s low flammability limit.
“This instrument can be connected to a flashing light or an alarm siren and, if need be, can communicate with a mine’s existing supervisory control and data acquisition-type control system,” Fraser points out.
Both the Hy-Alerta 600B and 610B models have been designed for either ceiling or wall mounting and have an RS422 communications interface capability that extends the interface from the sensor to the controller to several hundred feet.
“In addition, H2Scan’s hydrogen-specific sensor technology has no cross-sensitivity to any other combustible gases, thus eliminating false-positive alarms and increasing system reliability,” Fraser enthuses.
He points out that hydrogen is the only gas for which RTS’s principal H2Scan makes analysers. Although methane gases are also a risk in mines, particularly coal mines, RTS does not offer instrumentation to detect methane.
Fraser further notes that the company’s hydrogen analysers and leak detectors are based on patented, solid-state core hydrogen sensor technology, which is exclusively licensed from the US Department of Energy and supported by 15 years of research and development, as well as field verification work.
In terms of occupational health and safety certification, H2Scan’s instruments conform to the highest international standards.
“Ultimately, with the improved measurement capability provided by these solutions, industries, such as mining and petrochemicals, will be able to operate with the added peace of mind that the risk of hydrogen combustion has been eliminated,” states Fraser.
Offering a range of globally sourced, high-quality solutions that include spin filtration, laser-based gas detection and electrolysers for hydrogen production, RTS provides product delivery and technical consultation throughout Southern Africa for a range of clients operating in various sectors, including glass, steel and energy.