OEMS, Technology

Roll on with Pulford

Pulford Air and Gas’ nitrogen tyre inflation system is helping to eliminate tyre explosions on mine sites across Australia.

Most people likely don’t think about the fact their tyres could explode. For miners, however, that kind of risk is just another day.

Vehicle fires are some of the more obvious ways for tyres to explode. But, in certain circumstances, combustion can also take place inside the tyre with no visible signs.

“Whenever excess heat is developed in or applied to a tyre, it can initiate a process within the tyre known as pyrolysis – the decomposition of a substance by heat,” Resources Safety and Health Queensland said in a safety bulletin on tyre explosions.

“This can cause a build-up of flammable gases and pressure within the tyre, which may ultimately rupture or explode.”

Welding on wheel rims, overheating brakes, oxyheating wheel nuts, wheel motor fires, and high-voltage electrical incidents are all common causes of tyre pyrolysis.

And when tyres do explode, debris can be projected hundreds of metres and carry enough force to cause severe injury or even death.

Fortunately for the mining industry, Pulford Air and Gas, a leading Australian air compressor and gas company, has a solution.

Having been in the compressed air and gas system industry for almost century, Pulford has learned a few things along the way – like the fact that by filling tyres with nitrogen, the company can drive down the content of oxygen, which has a much lower ignition point than nitrogen, within the tyre. This helps to eliminate the risks of a tyre explosion from heat.

Pulford uses its bespoke nitrogen tyre inflation system, built for harsh Australian conditions, to deliver this solution. The system can inflate even the largest haul truck tyres rapidly and with ease.

“With our nitrogen tyre inflation system, which drives down oxygen within the tyre to just 5.5 per cent, site operators can be confident that their workers and assets will be much safer during hot tyre events,” Pulford told Australian Mining.

Each Pulford nitrogen tyre inflation system is custom designed to meet a site’s specific needs.

“The system can be designed for any range or application from one to 3000 cubic metres per hour, with air purity ranging over 99 per cent,” Pulford said.

“Our nitrogen systems can also be fully containerised for ease of installation. This provides the freedom to easily move the system to a new location, should the need arise.”

In a confirmed or suspected hot tyre event, vehicles are typically required to be parked well away from workers and equipment and allowed to cool for 24 hours.

But Pulford believes that by eliminating the risks of a tyre explosion with nitrogen inflation, downtime from hot tyre events could be reduced. For a mine site, this translates to increased productivity.

Beyond tyre inflation, the nitrogen system can also be used for the degasification of coal seems in underground mining.

Pulford currently has more than 600 nitrogen systems in operation throughout Australia.

The company does all of this work with the backing of air compressor manufacturer and international powerhouse ELGi, which acquired the company in 2018. ELGi’s extensive range of diesel-powered air compressors has been the company’s hallmark over the years, providing a solution for compressed air requirements for drilling and exploration, while supporting temporary air requirements at mine sites across Australia.

Considering both companies’ similar approach to quality, and Pulford’s established presence in Australia, the acquisition was a logical one.

“We understand the mining industry has complex requirements,” ELGi Equipment’s executive director – OSEA (Oceania and South East Asia) Ramesh Ponnuswami said.

“Most of our competitors tend to predominantly anchor their design to European and North American conditions, whereas our designs are a lot more suited to the tropical and hot weather conditions you would find in Australia.”

ELGi and Pulford’s extensive Australian footprint is supported by distributors across the country who are not only able to supply the equipment but provide additional services such as installation support and ongoing maintenance.

This feature appeared in the March 2024 issue of Australian Mining.

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