An integrated approach to optimise energy consumption of mine compressed air systems
Marais, Johannes Hendry
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The demand for electricity in South Africa has grown faster than the increase in generation capacity. However, it is expensive and time consuming to commission new power stations. Another approach is to reduce electricity demand through the implementation of energy efficiency projects. This alternative is usually less expensive. Compressed air on South African mines is a large electricity consumer with a reputation of wastage. This allows significant potential for electrical and financial savings. A typical mine compressed air system consists of multiple compressors at various locations, surface connection networks, underground distribution systems, thousands of users and leaks. The size, complexity and age of these systems provide a major challenge for electricity saving efforts. Simulating such an intricate system is difficult as it is nearly impossible to accurately gather all the required system parameters. Some initiatives focused on subsections of mine compressed air systems. This is not the best approach as changes to one subsection may adversely affect other systems. A new approach to simplify mine compressed air systems was developed to identify saving opportunities and to assess the true impact of saving efforts. This new approach enables easier system analysis than complex simulation models. Techniques to gather critical system information are also provided. A new implementation procedure was also developed to integrate different energy saving strategies for maximum savings. An electrical power saving of 109 MW was achieved through the implementation of the integrated approach on twenty-two mine compressed air systems. The savings is equivalent to a reduction of 0.96 TWh per annum that relates to a saving of 0.4% of South Africa’s total electricity consumption. Average compressor power consumption was reduced by 30%. The power consumption reduction relates to an estimated annual electricity cost saving of R315 million. A saving of 0.96 TWh per annum is equivalent to a carbon dioxide emission reduction of 0.98 million tonne. The implementation of the integrated approach could be applied to other industrial compressed air systems. A reduction in electricity consumption of 30% on all industrial compressed air systems has the potential to reduce global electricity demand by 267 TWh per annum. That is more than the total amount of electricity consumed in South Africa.
- Engineering