Manufacturer and supplier to the mining, smelter and mineral processing industries Dickinson Group established a dedicated rotary kiln division last year, focusing on all the furnace industries that use rotary kilns.
CEO Trevor Dickinson tells Mining Weekly that this is in line with the company’s diversification strategy.
“Owing to the challenge of power constraints and high power costs to the furnace industry, not many new plants are being built. We recognised the need to diversify to keep doing well and interface better with our clients.
“It was considered beneficial to establish the rotary kiln division, as we carry out refractory work on furnaces, as well as anchor and furnace demolition and rebuilding. The new division enables the group to provide a fully integrated service for our customers,” he says.
He adds that the company sees further potential for the division, owing to the growth of the cement industry in South Africa.
The division has already carried out work for companies, including global diversified mining company Xstrata, cement producer Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) and steel manufacturer Highveld Steel.
Dickinson says the division recently completed and is working on some noteworthy projects, the first of which is being carried out for mining company Richards Bay Minerals, which is owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto.
“We completed the first phase of the project at the end of last year and are working on the second phase,” he notes.
The first phase of the project involved the demolition and rebuilding of the minerals company’s six-in-line furnace at its plant in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal.
“The furnace had a premature failure a month before the planned demolition period. The project involved the demolition of the furnace using Brokk machines, excavators and mining equipment. We lanced the blocks into segments, which involves forcing oxygen through a pipe to sustain the burning of the pipe, resulting in temperatures in excess of 3 000 ºC and a blowing force equal to the pressure of the oxygen, and dragged them out.
“We also carried out the erection of all the steelwork, which had to be completed to fit the new furnace. We installed all the piping, rebuilt the water-cooled roof and installed the copper cooling system, along with a scrubber and gas cleaning system on the side of the new furnace,” says Dickinson Group director of furnace services Anton Briedenhann.
Dickinson Group began work on the R100-million project on April 16, 2012, and completed the project in January, when the furnace was switched on.
Briedenhann notes that Rio Tinto appointed Dickinson Group as the complete turnkey project manager for the first phase of this project, which he says is not the usual process.
“Usually, the client will allocate a portion of the project to us and then employ its own subcontractors, but we were in charge of the first phase of the project and all subcontractors were essentially employed by Dickinson Group.
“We have been awarded the demolition and rebuilding of the second six-in-line furnace at the plant, although we will not be the turnkey project manager,” he says.
The company completed the demolition in March this year, after starting in February, and installation is planned for July.
Dickinson Group executive for the furnace demolition division Marius Steyn points out another noteworthy project carried out earlier this year, for Highveld Steel, which involved the demolition of a furnace measuring about 14 m in height and about 20 m in length.
“The furnace was built at Highveld Steel’s Witbank plant in 2010 and became redundant for many reasons. We managed to complete the demolition in 39 days, which was mostly done by lancing.
“Owing to the fact that the furnace was still relatively new, large and had a lot of product inside it, this was not a [the usual type of] project for us,” he says.
Meanwhile, Dickinson notes that local packaging company Nampak recently announced a billion-rand expansion project at its Roodekop plant, in Johannesburg, where it will construct a third furnace.
“The construction has been awarded to German glass-melting specialist Horn Glass, of which we are a local partner and agent for sub-Saharan Africa. We are excited to be involved in the project, which will be a prestigious project for Dickinson Group,” he says.
Further, Dickinson Group executive for the furnace projects division Wynand Boshoff notes that the company is also carrying out a furnace-rebuild project for platinum mining company Lonmin, where it will be responsible for the overall project management.
“The project began in March and is due for completion in June. It involves lifting the 122 t roof up by 300 mm and securing it from the top. As it will hang over the men while they are working, it involves a lot of safety precautions.
“The project entails the complete demolition of the furnace, refractory works, the furnace shell and bottom plate, and the rebuilding,” he says.
The company manufactures precast shapes, refractory bricks and large modular components for use in furnaces, which are custom-built for each application.
Dickinson adds that the rotary kiln division has also established partnerships and alliances with global companies specialising in different areas of work, which allows Dickinson Group to offer its clients the latest technologies and products.
One such partnership is with German infrared software and solutions company Grayess, which has appointed Dickinson Group the exclusive distributors of its infrared monitoring system for rotary kilns – a first in South Africa.
“The shell monitoring system, called IRT KilnMonitor, is based on microbolometer infrared camera technology. It allows for real-time kiln data acquisition, analysis and control, including temperature, operat- ing conditions and production. Local condition monitoring company Yellotec combines the IRT KilnMonitor software with the infrared camera, resulting in a turnkey solution that is more affordable, simple and functional than existing solutions.
“The technology integrates several cameras for each kiln and also allows several kilns to be monitored simultaneously. We carried out extensive market research and found that several of our customers have been receptive to the new technology and are incorporating it into their businesses; we are submitting formal proposals to them,” says Dickinson.
In line with the new division, the company hosted its inaugural rotary kilns seminar at Sun City, in the North West province, from May 20 to 23, titled An International Rotary Kiln Seminar.
“Ten international companies and guest speakers attended the seminar. The purpose of the seminar was to bring together our alliance partners and the companies offering products and services of interest to our rotary kiln customers.
“This was the first major event hosted by Dickinson Group and we hope to host it yearly in other African countries. We are discussing the possibility of holding next year’s seminar in East Africa with our partners, and have received positive feedback,” says Dickinson.
He adds that sponsoring companies hailed from the US, Poland, France, Sweden, Israel, Austria and Germany, while other companies that attended came from Australia, South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and Zambia.
“The seminar focused mainly on the cement industry, although we did have some mining clients attending,” states Dickinson.