A variable water flow strategy for energy savings in large cooling systems
Du Plessis, Gideon Edgar
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Large cooling systems consume up to 25% of the total electricity used on deep level mines. These systems are integrated with the water reticulation system to provide chilled service water and cool ventilation air. Improving the energy efficiency of these large cooling systems is an important electrical demand-side management initiative. However, it is critical that the service delivery and system performance be maintained so as to not adversely affect productivity. A novel demand-side management strategy, based on variable water flow, was developed to improve the energy efficiency of large cooling systems like those found on deep mines. The strategy focuses on matching the cooling system supply to the demand through the use of modern energy efficient equipment, such as variable speed drives. The strategy involves the modulation of evaporator, condenser, bulk air cooler and pre-cooling water according to partial load conditions. A unique central energy management system was developed to integrate the proposed strategies on large cooling systems. The system features a generic platform and hierarchical network architecture. Real-time energy management is achieved through monitoring, optimally controlling and reporting on the developed strategy. The system is robust and versatile and can be applied to various large cooling systems. The feasibility of the strategy and energy management system was first investigated through the use of an adapted and verified simulation model and a techno-economic analysis. The strategy was then implemented on four large mine cooling systems and its in situ performance was assessed as experimental validation. The results of the Kusasalethu surface cooling system are discussed in detail as a primary case study while the results of the Kopanang, South Deep South Shaft and South Deep Twin Shaft cooling systems are summarised as secondary case studies. The potential to extend the variable water flow strategy to other industrial cooling systems is assessed through an investigation on the cooling system of the Saldanha Steel plant. Results indicate that, over a period of three months, average electrical load savings of 606-2 609 kW (29.3-35.4%) are realised on the four systems with payback periods of 5-17 months. The average electrical load saving between the sites is 33.3% at an average payback period of 10 months. The service delivery and performance of the cooling system and its critical subsystems are not adversely affected. The potential to extend the method to other large cooling systems is also shown. The developed variable water flow strategy is shown to improve the energy efficiency of large cooling systems, making a valuable contribution towards a more sustainable future. This thesis is presented as a detailed discussion of the entire research process. The key results have also been summarised in a series of five research articles attached as independent annexures. Three articles have been published in international scientific journals, one has been presented at and published in the proceedings of an international conference and one is still under review.
- Engineering