The R49-million new coal sampling laboratory at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), in KwaZulu-Natal, which was opened last month, is designed to accommodate the RBCT’s expansion to handle 110-million tonnes a year – nearly 20-million tonnes more than the current capacity of the coal terminal – says South Africa-based LTS Consulting, which tested the feasibility of the project, and designed and managed its implementation
The laboratory will also be able to process samples at the same turnaround time, which has improved by 25%, as a result of the new laboratory’s process-driven design approach, even if the RBCT’s throughput has increased.
“The facility supports efficient coal preparation, sampling and certification, with a 60% size increase on the old facility at 2 203 m2,” Mining Weekly reported earlier this month, noting that certification for 55 000 coal samples a year will be provided for incoming rail consignments and export shipment requirements. The facility was built in partnership with leading sampling service provider SGS South Africa, whose services include inspection, testing, certification and verification.
Further, as one of the leading coal terminals in the world, responsible for more than a third of all coal production in South Africa, the new coal sampling laboratory provides the necessary credibility and assurance of quality that is sought in international markets, LTS Consulting director Menno Schagen says.
“[The laboratory] strengthens South Africa’s globally competitive position, while also ensuring that additional capacity can be managed without a negative impact on quality and throughput,” he stresses, adding that the upgraded laboratory also provides additional employment opportunities.
Further, the project highlights the emerging importance of process-driven design and capacity simulation, Schagen points out. Highlighting the laboratory’s state-of-the-art nature and efficient technology, LTS Consulting emphasises that the laboratory is a valuable addition to the credibility of the RBCT’s coal output as a whole.
“The state-of-the-art laboratory is a first for Africa and one of only three comparable facilities globally, with the other two situated in India and Australia.”
The laboratory was designed with a complex coal analysis process in mind and to ensure that the process is the most efficient, Schagen says, explaining that “form follows function – all processes are analysed and designed upfront to ensure the highest quality output”.
To enhance the process-driven design, LTS makes use of groundbreaking new methodologies inherent in PinpointBPS, a methodology for laboratory performance improvement.
Process and capacity improvements allow for better turnaround time as well.
As part of its key features, the facility has a unique service floor design, with each service, such as the mechanical, electrical and electronic services, located on a floor above the laboratories, making maintenance easier, while the lab makes use of high-specification environmental control in terms of temperature and humidity in dedicated lab zones – a significant feature for the quality of the laboratory output.
To mitigate safety risks regarding the presence of flammable coal dust and flammable gases, LTS considered and used world-class safety standards, incorporating technical specifications relating to gases such as hydrogen, oxygen, liquid petroleum, argon, helium and nitrogen, Schagen concludes.