High-headpumps are the workhorses of many fluid control systems, and their role can often be mission-critical in dewatering applications in construction and mining, where the control and removal of surface water is a primary safety concern, says industrial equipment manufacturer Atlas Copco Industrial Southern Africa.
In such applications, it is vital that the pump operates reliably for extended periods, says Atlas Copco power technique business development manager Sarel Bekker.
The company’s high-head, high-pressure units, known as the PAC H range, were launched at the end of 2019, while the PAS and VAR surface pumps range was launched in 2015.
“To date, the market response to these ranges, from the mining industry, especially opencast mining, has been satisfactory and positive, owing to the product being low maintenance and having an extended product life span,” adds Bekker.
Maintenance outages need to be kept to a minimum at mines in terms of the mean time to repair and the time required to complete any necessary servicing. This can be challenging, as maintaining high-head pumps can be difficult because they are often located in remote environments.
As a result, there are few opportunities for visual inspections, which would enable staff to identify early signs of suboptimal performance such as excessive vibration or unusual wear and tear.
Any unexpected outages – owing to the failure of a seal or premature corrosion of the impeller, for example – can have serious consequences, impacting on productivity, operational efficiency, operational safety and, therefore, on profitability, highlights Bekker.
Further, the design of the pump must be considered. To perform effectively, a pump needs to be built for maximum flow and minimal leakage. A unique feature about Atlas Copco’s units are the hinge doors which allow for easy access to service and repair their units, reducing downtime and simplifying maintenance. The hinge doors also allow for easy access to the pump’s internal workings and a single bolt to remove the impeller. The semi-cartridge seal allows for changeout without dismantling the pump and makes the lip seal and impeller easily accessible.
The new PAC H pump is a centrifugalpump that can handle liquids containing solids of up to 89 mm in size, such as water transfer in the oil and gas sector, quarrying and surface mining,as well as construction and municipal applications. The pumps can pump liquids at up to 1 200 m3/h at a maximum head of 150 m.
Bekker explains that the bolted wear rings are used for a simple replacement, compared with pressed alternatives, and link belts are used to allow for changeovers without having to dismantle the entire wet-end of the unit. In combination, these features on the PAC H range can reduce mean time to repair in full by up to 30%.
To prolong pump operational life and protect the seal, Atlas Copco has developed an exclusive closed impeller that is equipped with deflector vanes. This provides two benefits: it improves thrust balance on the shaft and impeller to minimise wear and keeps the mechanical seal clean. The vanes create a vortex that prevents the accumulation of detritus.
To further support minimal downtime, the PAC H pumps take advantage of digital technology. They are equipped with QR codes, which ensure that essential information about parts and spares is just a scan away. Users can also take advantage of the secured fleet link, and remote monitoring feature that ensures constant control of pumping operations.
Bekker says improvements to pump design can only achieve so much in the drive to improve efficiency and optimise uptime – the availability of spares and adequate training are also essential, and these support services are provided by the aftermarket team locally. They also offer stainless steel on some of the wear parts and can build trailers for the pump units to the customers specifications, which can also be done locally.
“We put a lot focus on making products that are smaller and lighter, with features that make them easy to move, meaning that ten units can be loaded on a 13 m truck, which results in a carbon footprint reduction of up to 30%.
“Our PAS, VAR and PAC H ranges are great products with market relevant pricing. Customers and potential customers are becoming more aware of Atlas Copco as a pumps manufacturer. I’m looking forward to the future of our pumps and the opportunity to continue developing such a valuable product,” he concludes.