BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) will trial a fibre laser cleaner designed by Laser Technologies to remove surface corrosion at its Hay Point coal terminal near Mackay in Queensland.
Perth-based joint venture Laser Technologies was selected following a competitive proposal and evaluation process to trial a hand-held one-kilowatt fibre laser.
The end result was capable of removing old paint and surface corrosion from metal surfaces to a depth of 6mm and burning the waste product into harmless vapour.
Laser Technologies was chosen through BHP’s Supplier Innovation Program, when a challenge was launched with businesses in the Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector.
The challenge was to propose alternatives to pressure blasting that would achieve the same results, while minimising waste and reducing the risks to personnel from exposure to high pressure and noise.
The laser cleaner will replace pressurised blasting using water or sand that has previously been used to remove surface corrosion and prepare metal surfaces for repainting to ensure protection from the elements.
Hay Point maintenance manager Bevan Gostelow said the Laser Technologies laser cleaner had the potential to be “a real game-changer” for industry because of the reduction of risks to personnel and reduced environmental impact.
“High-pressure blasting has been effective in asset integrity maintenance for many years, but the process requires a lot of controls to ensure the safety of our people doing the work, and to prevent the spread of the waste product to protect our environment,’’ Gostelow said.
“The laser cleaner is safe, quiet and easy to use and will not require all of the scaffolding and shrouding to catch waste product, because it is all burned off at the laser head.’’
Laser Technologies co-director Brendan Tritton said having the opportunity to present the product to BHP through the Supplier Innovation Program was a “foot in the door that was worth its weight in gold’’.
“We have participated in a few innovation programs in the past, but the BHP program has been by far the most effective. The team at BHP were really clear about their objectives for this challenge from the start, and that made it easier for us to develop a suitable proposal,’’ Tritton said.
“I think it’s brave of BHP to be running a program that invests in METS businesses because there is the element of risk and reward when you trial new products and technologies.’’
BHP group procurement officer James Agar said the identification of Laser Technologies for the challenge was the perfect example of what the Supplier Innovation Program was designed to achieve.
“The Suppler Innovation Program was designed to provide Australian METS businesses with opportunities to showcase the new ideas and technologies they are developing, while helping BHP challenge what is possible to improve safety and performance at our operations,’’ he said.
The Supplier Innovation Program was launched in Australia in 2020 as part of a $450 million commitment made by BHP to increase support and engagement with METS sector businesses.