Energy efficiency opportunities in mine compressed air systems
Schroeder, Frederick William
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Demand Side Management (DSM) is one of the most viable and sustainable short term methods to address the shortfall in electricity generation in South Africa. This is because DSM projects can be implemented relatively quickly and inexpensively when compared with alternative generation options. This specifically applies to the mining industry. South African mines presently consume 15% of Eskom-generated electricity. Mine compressed air systems are some of the biggest users, consuming approximately 21% of mine electricity consumption. Electricity savings on compressed air systems are therefore important. With this study, various Energy Efficiency methods on compressed air systems were investigated. These methods include variable speed drives on compressor motors, temperature control of compressor discharge, minimising pressure drops in the air distribution systems, eliminating compressed air leaks, and optimising compressor selection and control. The most efficient strategies were identified, taking into account factors such as financial viability, sustainability, and ease of implementation. The best strategies were found to be the optimised control and selection of compressors, minimising compressed air leaks, and the optimal control of system pressure. These strategies were implemented and tested on large compressed air systems in gold and platinum mines. Savings of between 10% and 35% on the maximum demand of the systems were achieved. In present monetary terms this translates to as much as R108 million savings for the mines per year at the end of 2009 tariffs. If total mine compressed air electricity consumption can reduce by 30%, it will result in nearly a 1% reduction in total Eskom demand. This shows that mine compressed air savings can make a significant contribution to the drive for Energy Efficiency in South Africa.
- Engineering