In Southern Africa, power is becoming a far higher input cost in industries and processes than it was in the past, says mining ventilation solutions provider TLT Actom director Craig Johnston, highlighting that one of the major input costs at any underground mine or process plant is that of ventilation or air used in the process.
From the ventilation industry perspective, however, he mentions that the power crisis in the Southern African mining industry has to an extent shifted over the past five years, owing, for the most part, to State-owned power utility Eskom having succeeded in bringing mothballed and new generation capacity on line.
“We were in a situation where we undertook some sizeable contracts for major mining houses to install standby fan sets to ventilate mines during the periods of load-shedding. Here, diesel generators, or even directly coupled diesel-powered fans, were used to ensure that ventilation was maintained in the shafts.
“Out of desperation, Eskom also restricted the amount of power that was exported to neighbouring countries. This affected the Southern African grid and prices were raised in the entire region,” he explains, noting that, overall, continued load-shedding and its effect on productivity are seen in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The unstable and insufficient power supply in these countries, Johnston explains, also saw mines in the rest of the region forced to revert to diesel standby power solutions and reduce the power demand of their operations.
This, however, had the effect of increasing miners’ running costs “dramatically”, he says.
Johnston explains that this led to engineering managers of mines or plants questioning the efficiency of their operations and, in particular, that of large power consuming equipment – such as the main surface fans and their fleets of underground bulk air cooler, booster and auxiliary fans.
For the technology leaders in the fan industry, he notes that Southern Africa’s unstable power supply created some “new and exciting” opportunities. In the application of aerodynamic improvements, the leading companies are now offering superior products with high efficiency, enabling cost savings with attractive returns on investment.
This, Johnston adds, is where innovative thinking has led to savings.
“By measuring the actual performance of the fans that are currently employed for ventilation purposes and reassessing its actual needs, mine operators have witnessed that many main surface ventilation fans on mines are overspecified, with the installed capacity often higher than the operation’s requirements. Therefore, the equipment runs inefficiently and consumes unnecessary power.”
He further notes that, following an engineering study on the ventilation system of a mine, relatively cost-effective retrofitting can be undertaken to save capital on power as well as deliver possible short payback times on the investment.
Total Cost of Ownership Approach
TLT Actom, a joint venture between Germany-based firm TLT-Turbo and sub-Saharan Africa-focused Gauteng-based electromechanical solutions provider Actom, therefore, plans to offer Africa’s mining and power sector its customisable, holistic total ventilation solution that aims to reduce total cost of ownership (TCOO), while ensuring greater energy efficiency and safer working conditions.
The approach seeks to provide complete solutions to the challenges of subterranean mines, thermal power plants and numerous industrial process applications, including cement production and waste incineration.
TLT Actom believes this approach is ideal for addressing the power concerns of the Southern region of the African market.
TLT Actom’s total ventilation solution, according to Johnston, will mainly focus on making clients’ operations more efficient in terms of both performance and energy consumption, thereby having a significant impact on TCOO.
“Capital cost is one aspect that clients are most heavily focused on and TLT Actom strives for excellence in power efficiency, maintainability and life expectancy – all factors that can easily outweigh the initial purchase price. To do this, we rely on technology derived from TLT-Turbo,” he enthuses.
According to TLT-Turbo MD Rainer Redinger, maintaining consistent product quality and supply is critical to TLT-Turbo’s clients’ operations. “This total systems approach offers clients a single source for design, development, distribution, product support and customer service. Seamless integration of these elements means maximum client value and assures our clients that they are being supplied a [high-quality] product along with the highest level of long-term product support. This is also consistent with TLT’s approach of offering our clients the best total life cycle cost solution.”
Johnston suggests that the most innovative suppliers can help their clients look beyond the initial capital cost and consider the short-, medium- and long-term running costs, which include input power and maintenance.
“TLT Actom prides itself on applying innovative, lateral thinking to provide solutions that save energy by offering the best efficiency selections for the required application. We can supply products that are not only more efficient in their performance but are also tailored to deliver the required air at the required time. For example, we can supply a fan that is designed to have different degrees of control to meet the specific levels of ventilation required for increased ambient tempera- ture or activity, or when measured pollutants increase beyond a preset tolerance.”
With TLT-Turbo as its parent company, he says, TLT Actom has the ability to offer fans for the most arduous conditions, from cement plants, where wear and high temperature are factors, to mining fans, where water droplet erosion can cause damage to fan solutions.