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Local benchmarking in mines to locate inefficient compressed air usage

du Plooy, Daniel, Maré, Philip, Marais, Johan, Mathews, Marc J.
Sustainable Production and Consumption 2019 v.17 pp. 126-135
air, case studies, energy resources, platinum, regression analysis
Compressed air is a vital source of energy for deep mines. It is therefore alarming that leaks, wastages, and losses are the highest contributing factors to the deterioration of compressed air network efficiency. However, locating these losses in the extensive underground compressed air networks are both challenging and time-consuming. This study therefore introduces a novel method to locate inefficient compressed air usage in an underground mine. Local benchmarking using the correlation between the compressed air supply and production was thus employed to identify inefficient usage. The methodology was applied to the underground network of a platinum mine as a case study. The proposed local benchmarking methodology was able to identify levels with sizeable compressed air inefficiencies. Verification was then done by implementing wastage reduction initiatives on the entire underground network and comparing the results with the identified levels. It was thus verified that the methodology could be used to identify and prioritise local compressed air inefficiencies in an underground mine. Regression analysis was used to visualise and quantify the improved efficiency of the entire underground compressed air system. Implemented initiatives reduced compressed air consumption while an increase in productivity was observed, which highlights the importance of energy management in an underground mine. The proposed methodology provides a practical support tool that can be used by mine managers for underground compressed air networks. The methodology identifies the potential for compressed air wastage reduction and guides improvement efforts within individual mines.