Pump testing in the mining industry

Our director, Tom Clifford, delivered a paper at this year’s MEMO conference in Canada on the use of thermodynamic pump testing for maintenance and energy efficiency in the mining industry

The annual MEMO conference – which stands for Maintenance, Engineering and Reliability / Mine Operators – was held in Ontario in October by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM).

With 14,000 members and counting, CIM is the leading not-for-profit technical society for professionals in Canadian minerals, metals, materials and energy industries.

Extracts from Tom’s conference presentation – The principle and case history of using the Poirson method of in-situ pump efficiency measurement – follows below.

Poirson method for in-situ pump efficiency measurement

The Poirson method of hydraulic efficiency measurement is a method of determining the hydraulic efficiency of a pump via measurements of only two parameters; pressure and temperature changes across the machine.

Based on the premise that any thermodynamic process can be characterised through observations of pressure and temperature (and knowledge of the working fluid) – the process measures pump efficiency directly without the need for a flow meter – which can be a very difficult parameter to assess in-situ.

The methodology, first put forward by French scientist A. Poirson, in 1912, has not found application until now due to the very high specific heat capacity of water producing only small temperature differences across the pump.

However, over the last 10 years, using the latest semiconductor technology, we have pioneered designs, manufacturing techniques and calibration methods in difference thermometry to achieve the required 0.001’C differential temperature measurements in a live industrial environment, enabling this methodology to be enacted in industrial environments like processing plants and mines.

The benefit if measuring pump efficiency in-situ is two-fold:

  • Energy efficiency: Pumps wear with use and reduce on average between 0.5% and 3% per year. So, obtaining the current (as-is) pump curve (and system curve) is an essential part of developing a business case for rehabilitation measures or for renewal.
  • Reliability: Some characteristics of hydraulic issues can be interpreted from the pump curve. The working life / rate of deterioration is also linked to the operating point of the pump relative to the duty point, which can also be assessed via a pump test.

Case study: Hydraulic mining pressurisation pumps

Within his conference presentation, Tom discussed our work with a mining company in the UK. We’ve completed pre / post refurbishment tests at one of the company’s most significant sites, which involved testing a quarry’s four pressure pumps (duty: 120m @ 818m3/hr; 355kW). These are used in the kaolin wet mining process.

Energy savings have been achieved through pump scheduling – by operating the pumps differently through knowledge of the pumps’ performance and system curve. Further savings have also been achieved through targeted rehabilitation investment.

Obtain a full copy of the UK mining company case study

Other work with the mining industry

  • We are working with Exeter University in the UK on the European project – Mine Smart Grid – within which we are contributing the pump efficiency measurement work package. Part of this collaborative research project is taking place at a test mine, to verify the accuracy of the Poirson method against a conventional flow meter.
  • We are working with MIRARCO in Canada on HAC performance measurement.
  • Tom Clifford is currently undertaking a PhD with Laurentian University in Canada on the topic of ‘Difference thermometry for turbo machinery performance measurement’.

Explore our pump efficiency testing approach

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