Engineering best practice
Ultraspin, a new technology from Australia, has eased the tedious task of treating oily water on mines worldwide, improving environmental compliance levels. African Mining Brief finds out about its scale of applications.
It might seem preposterous that dealing with oily water separation still remains a big challenge in well-resourced mines worldwide that are under the management of ostensibly well-read personnel. But Barry Speirs, a representative of Ultraspin, an Australian company that has devised Ultraspin technology, a world first in oily water separation, is not surprised at all.
Worse than recorded
The reality, bemoans Speirs, is that the problem runs deeper than actually recorded, singling out several possible causes of this regrettable oversight. This was unearthed in a recent study by Ultraspin about oily water treatment practices globally.
1. Little understanding
Funnily enough, there is little understanding of oily water separation in the general engineering community. Thus, it is not surprising that it is overlooked during mine design. All the more bizarre, some believe that merely skimming off the top of still oil is sufficient treatment.
2. One-size-fits-all approach myth
Mistakenly, mines think a single approach would suffice, regardless of large variations in treatability which depend on source. However, Speirs points out, what they overlook is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. ”Appropriately, properly designed data collection sheets need to be completed to assess the applications and determine appropriate treatment methods,” he says.
3. Out of line with best practice
The design of surroundings is not in line with best practice. This leads to more emulsification of the oil droplets, which impedes the separator performance. Moreover, poor best practice in water sampling techniques lead to environmental compliance breaches.
4. Tedious maintenance demands
It has been established that the performance of other separator technologies fails over time as mines cannot keep up with their tedious maintenance demands.
5. Poor Procurement decisions
Speirs notes that poor procurement decisions when selecting equipment proves very costly in the long run. “Typically, the equipment will operate for 10 – 20 years, as mining companies focus too much on the capital cost and forget about lifecycle costs (which are more significant due to the length of ownership) when selecting equipment.”
Eventually, this adds unnecessary capital and ongoing costs, compounding the situation.
The wonders of ultraspin
Ultraspin technology has been developed after many years of Research and Development (R&D). According to Speirs, the innovation has been analytically proven to separate oil and water in demanding conditions in mining, as well as other industries, more effectively.
“It is not only just about the product, oily water engineering expertise is necessary to design and select the most appropriate solution for each particular application,” he says, adding that understanding a customer’s industry-specific needs is critical.
For greenfields, Ultraspin offers advice on site layout and oily water infrastructure to optimise performance and minimise lifecycle costs. As regards brownfield sites, it focuses on innovative design to fit into existing infrastructure without the need for major capital expenditure.
Ultraspin equipment performs remarkably in diverse situations, Speirs says. With a powerful separation force, it produces a separation force of 1,000 times gravity. In this way, it can remove the small emulsified oil droplets that other gravity based separators just won’t handle.
Ultimately, equipped with Ultraspin technology, the end user incurs low maintenance and operating costs, due to little operator involvement, low skill level required and no expenditure on consumables. To boot, it has a small environmental footprint.
Also, the little downtime required for maintenance and repairs translates into minimal interruptions to production and low ongoing costs.
Ultraspin equipment’s after-purchase full support for African countries is available through a South Africa distributor, IQ Oil Filtration. Amongst other services, customers can get on-site consultations, installation and commissioning, servicing and factory demonstrations. “All of our clients, current and prospective, can feel comfortable dealing with them knowing they are working with a local face which has full factory training and backing,” says Speirs.
Ultraspin technology could not have come at a better time as mining companies worldwide are under increasing pressure to conduct their operations in an environmentally friendly way, which includes maintaining minimum standards for their oily water discharges. The development means that mines can no longer get away with simply discharging untreated or poorly treated water into rivers and natural waterways. Additionally, due to their remote locations and increasing scarcity of skilled labour, they require robust, reliable and user-friendly equipment.
On the whole, Ultraspin has allowed companies to adequately address all of these issues. It is used by mines in Zambia, Burkina Faso and South Africa.
What might of interest too is that Ultraspin has just unveiled products which include OS Cube, HD Range, Two stage separation, Accelerated Decomposition Reactor (ADR) and remote monitoring. The company hopes to introduce them to African mining companies.