Reducing energy consumption on RSA mines through optimised compressor control
South Africa experienced a severe shortfall in electricity supply during 2008. Eskom, the national electricity supplier, implemented several strategies to alleviate the situation. The Power Conservation Programme set the mining sector a mandatory target to reduce its annual power consumption by 10%. The quickest way to achieve these savings is by optimising the largest power consumers on the mines. Compressed air is one of these, constituting approximately 40% of total electricity consumption on platinum mines. Several methods to reduce power consumption on compressed air systems were investigated. The investigation revealed that centrifugal air compressors on the mines are typically manually operated at a fixed delivery output. Attempts to reduce electricity consumption by reducing air demand will therefore not necessarily lead to savings. A control system that will enable the compressor to automatically match the supply with system demand is required. An optimised control strategy was then developed and implemented on three compressed air systems. Measurements demonstrated savings between 13% and 49%. With the Eskom tariffs proposed for 2010, this implies a total saving of R 46 million per year for these three case studies. This will achieve, and may even exceed, the mandatory reduction in electricity consumption of the mines. These results demonstrate that one of the quickest ways to reduce energy consumption on South African mines is by implementing optimised compressor controls.
- Engineering