CSIRO’s new drag reduction technology saves water and energy costs

Dr Rueben Rajasingam

The CSIRO’s new drag reduction technology for industrial pumps has been adopted by Glencore’s Minara Resources following successful full scale trials.

The technology saves energy and water usage while also boosting productivity.

Paul Wiltshire, Minara’s technical and engineering manager, said it was installed at the Murrin Murrin nickel operation in Western Australia, to improve the feed ore slurry pumping capacity, which was constraining throughput.

He added that together with the CSIRO they were able to find a low cost installation point with good potential for reducing the slurry drag effect in the piping system.

“The technology freed up capacity, which meant we could avoid an expensive plant upgrade to meet throughput demand,” he said.

“It was an immediate success and CSIRO’s drag reduction technology is now part of our toolkit when considering other slurry pumping constraints on site.”

CSIRO senior engineer Dr Rueben Rajasingam said reducing power demand, water content, and pumping inefficiencies always results in operational and cost improvements.

“The thicker the material, the more friction or ‘drag effect’ you get, which makes it hard to pump and more energy and capital-intensive,” Rajasingam said.

“Water is typically added to dilute the material before pumping, but only as a last resort because the more water you add the less throughput you achieve.

“Our technology combats both these challenges: it introduces a thin, uniform and long-lasting ring of fluid between the slurry and the inside of the pipe so that thick material can be efficiently pumped without friction at a high throughput.”

The technology can be applied to a range of industries that use a dewatering aspect to produce a sludge, slurry or paste for transportation.

It enables management of variations in the ore’s viscosity or water content, and provides a solution to backfill.

“The idea of using a lubricant is not new, but we’ve come up with a better technology that overcomes issues with coating uniformity,” Rajasingam said.

“The way we introduce the coating creates a thin, uniform sheath around the slurry, whereas other methods coat sporadically.”

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