Electrical Power & Protection


Optimised steam generation for ore beneficiation

November 2023 Electrical Power & Protection

Efficiency, reliability, maintenance, sustainability, fuel selection and procurement are just some of the challenges facing the mining sector. As one of South Africa’s leading operations and maintenance service providers to the steam and boiler sector, Associated Energy Services (AES) is perfectly placed to optimise these. AES commercial director, Dennis Williams points out that the company has walked a “long and well-trodden path” with many different industries, and is currently focusing on growing its footprint in this pivotal sector.

“Our ability to deliver efficient steam generation is based on reliability, continuity of operation, and the cost of production. Any opportunity to improve on production costs through reduced fuel usage will definitely have a positive operational and financial impact,” he says.

Superior energy from steam

Williams says that although steam is often taken for granted, or even relegated to history as having no part in modern industrial processes, it is in fact an important and useful energy carrier. Within the mining context, the energy generated from steam assists with everything from downstream ore beneficiation and specialist mining processes, to on-site cooking and heating for mineworkers’ accommodation.

“Typically while a mine’s steam plant is operating and supplying steam there is little concern. However, few mines operate their steam generation facilities with the same care as their core production equipment. Hence, this aspect of their operations and maintenance tends to lag behind the others. This is where AES can assist,” he says.

AES’s assistance encompasses many aspects, including operational efficiencies and maintenance planning, shutdown maintenance, and even supplementing the often limited steam boiler operation skills pool available to mines in remote locations. “How are you managing spare parts procurement? Can you locate a service provider? These are things that are part of our daily planning. Therefore, prospective mining clients can be sure that when challenges arise, we are able to turn things around in the shortest possible time,” he adds.

Efficiency and productivity are the key deliverables specified as part of its service level agreements, topped off with a performance guarantee for which the company is well known. Furthermore, Williams says that AES takes pride in partnering with clients to create bespoke solutions based on their specific operational challenges and objectives.

Bespoke mining solutions

Bespoke solutions often depend on the skills and management that have historically been on site, and the type of plant and equipment in play. “A key focus would be on areas which the mine finds particularly challenging, and also on their operational strengths. Potential clients in the mining sector will soon see just how far-reaching it can be to take something like steam generation out of their scope of management, and letting AES look after it. They will also see how the benefits flow upstream to their beneficiation process. If you have reliable, good quality steam, you can optimise your process to the maximum. You no longer have to account for outages or drops in pressure from the steam supply side,” he explains.

AES begins with a careful site analysis before coming up with proposed technical solutions. In some instances, for example, the plant in use may not be fit for purpose or may require changes in how it is used or configured. “From a skills and efficiency commitment perspective, we certainly can address challenges, whether they involve maintenance and reliability, or just understanding problems as a result of poor fuel selection or poor operations control. This can even extend to other areas such as sustainability, including carbon footprint reduction and reducing the consumption of water,” he notes.

Remote monitoring, valuable insights

AES’s remote monitoring system (RMS) also plays an important role here.

“When we arrive on site and share data through our RMS system, we can make a client more aware of the impacts that their operations have on our ability to supply them with steam efficiently and reliably. Our RMS system is an internet-based interface, and clients can even set up their own tailored dashboard to provide them with the key metrics that will influence their processes moving forward,” he advises.

Williams adds that AES is also able to assist with potential expansions. Many mines want to open new reserves and explore new operations, but they are constrained, as the national energy utility is not always able to supply them with sufficient power. In this case, AES will recommend and propose standalone power generation solutions to allow mines to develop such opportunities.

Health, safety and sustainability

AES is acutely aware of very specific issues within the mining sector, starting with stringent health and safety requirements. “AES can assist by ensuring that South Africa’s mines do not experience unnecessary downtime due to lost time injuries (LTIs). We have 25 years of experience in working with potentially dangerous pressurised steam and combustion plants, and have an inherent focus on safety. Our ISO 9001, 14 001 and 45 001 certification is testament to how the business is managed, and how it can contribute to the optimised operations and maintenance in sectors such as mining,” Williams adds.

He points out that another area where mines are under particular pressure is sustainability and environmental impact. Once AES understands a client’s objectives, whether reducing costs related to sustainability, mitigating these costs completely, or even rebranding their business as the greenest choice in its market, the viable options can be addressed.

He points out that each of these options will have a completely different trajectory. AES can look at the energy requirements on site and how these can be integrated, share information pertaining to the very latest technologies, and make solution-, technology- and fuel-agnostic recommendations. An example in this case would be using alternative, less carbon-intensive fuel sources such as biomass.

Most importantly, all of AES’s inputs are made with the unique objectives and geographical location of each mining business in mind: “For example, we make recommendations based on the geographical accessibility of fuels and the cost of transportation, and how they will impact on the operating costs within a reduced carbon footprint scenario. Then there is the execution strategy. This is where our many years of expertise and experience in the operations and maintenance space mean that mines can look forward to the myriad benefits of smooth, reliable steam generation and energy for ore beneficiation,” Williams concludes.

For more information contact Dennis Williams, AES, +27 21 532 3381, [email protected], www.aes-africa.com




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Power supply with scalability optimised
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Schneider Electric has introduced the Easy UPS 3-Phase Modular to the South African marketplace. This robust uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is designed to protect critical loads while offering third-party verified Live Swap functionality.

Read more...
Prioritising arc flash safety
Comtest Electrical Power & Protection
Comtest has developed a range of thermal imaging and wireless testing tools from Fluke, designed to ensure safety is the top priority for engineers working in potentially dangerous arc flash zones.

Read more...
Step into the visual factory
Turck Banner Southern Africa Editor's Choice Electrical Power & Protection
At Banner, the visual factory comprises three key applications for lighting and indication in industrial settings. These applications include the ability to help machines and workstations quickly communicate their status to people nearby, to use light to guide workers to perform certain tasks such as part picking, and to provide illumination for work areas and tasks.

Read more...
The commercialisation of battery energy storage systems
RJ Connect Electrical Power & Protection
According to the ‘Electricity Market Report 2023’ published by the International Energy Agency), 98% of new power will be generated from renewable energy in the next three years. We need megawatt-level battery energy storage systems (BESS) with fast responses.

Read more...
No more shocking, inaccurate insulation testing
Comtest Electrical Power & Protection
Fluke has introduced the Fluke 1535 and 1537 2500 V insulation resistance testers, engineered to simplify frontline troubleshooting, whether on the factory floor or working in the field at a solar installation.

Read more...
Monitoring the voltage drop in cables
Turck Banner Southern Africa Electrical Power & Protection
With its new M12Plus connectors, Turck Banner is directly shifting the condition monitoring of cables subject to severe stress to the connection technology. The connectors, which come with voltage and current monitoring and a Bluetooth chip, enable measured voltage and current values to be sent wirelessly to a controller.

Read more...
Mesh networks: a multidirectional electrical superhighway
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Today, many power industry stakeholders are faced with mounting requirements for improved grid reliability, resilience and distribution efficiency. It’s a challenge which requires power service providers to rethink their infrastructure. Enter mesh networks, which can overcome the limitations of traditional star networks.

Read more...
Versatile flexible copper busbar
Electrical Power & Protection
Referro Systems specialises in the supply and support of industrial electrical, automation and global software and hardware brands, and is now able to offer the Cubic range of Cu-Flex flexible copper busbars.

Read more...
Trafo Power Solutions upgrades DRC mine transformers
Electrical Power & Protection
With its experience in Africa and its agility in executing projects rapidly, Trafo Power Solutions is supplying three mini-substations and two transformers to a copper-zinc mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read more...
Acquiring locally-manufactured transformers
ACTOM Electrical Machines Electrical Power & Protection
Speed and efficiency are of the essence in the fast-evolving power generation and distribution space; but a significant challenge is the prolonged lead times associated with acquiring transformers – key components in any electrical infrastructure.

Read more...