Various ecological and environmental changes underscore the need for resilience, growth and competitiveness in the pump industry. As the global economy shifts toward a low-carbon future, the significance of pump technology in promoting sustainability and achieving net-zero objectives will escalate. By embracing and introducing innovative approaches, investing in energy-efficient solutions and adopting science-based targets, companies can simultaneously diminish their environmental footprint and unleash fresh avenues for growth.

According to Franscois Steenkamp, CEO of Mechanical Rotating Solutions (MRS), implementing water recycling and reuse measures is one of the most effective ways in ensuring sustainable water resources. “In South Africa, a water-scarce country, the mining industry accounts for approximately 15% of the nation’s electricity supply and 10% of diesel consumption. Furthermore, among the world’s six largest mining companies, 70% of their projects are situated in water-stressed regions. These statistics highlight the critical intersection between mining operations, energy consumption and water availability in South Africa.”

Pumps are crucial for managing water in mines, preventing flooding and ensuring access to clean water for communities surrounding the mines. Proper maintenance of these pumps ensures efficient water management, reducing the risk of contamination and ensuring sustainable water resources. “Installation of water recycling and treatment systems to capture and treat water discharged from mining operations allows it to be reused for various purposes within the mine, thereby reducing the demand for fresh water – this is critical for any mining operation.”

The potential water savings from a recycling and reuse system would primarily depend on the efficiency of the system in treating and recycling water. Such systems typically capture water used in mining processes, treat it to remove contaminants, and then reuse it within the mine for various purposes such as dust suppression, ore processing and equipment cooling. The amount of water saved would be equal to the volume of water that would otherwise be discharged or drawn from external sources for these purposes.

In recent years, MRS has helped its clients saving millions of litres of water by installing AESSEAL’s environmentally friendly SW Range Systems, which connect directly to the plant water line – using it as its fluid and pressure source. The SW Range Systems not only conserve water but also contribute to the overall sustainability of mining practices in water-stressed regions. By prioritising water reuse and efficient pump technologies, MRS has played a crucial role in safeguarding its clients’ precious resources.

One may overlook the significance of a single pump, which typically consumes around 60 to 100 litres of gland service water per pump per minute. If you have gland packing for sealing your pumps, you could be using somewhere in the region of 6.3 million litres of water a year. When considering the cumulative impact across numerous pumps in a plant or factory, the scale of water consumption becomes concerning. Fortunately, through the adoption of appropriate technology, such as efficient seals and seal support systems, this wastage can be mitigated. By implementing these measures, excessive water consumption can be dramatically reduced to less than 1 litre per month. Moreover, by preventing the ingress of excess water into processes, mines can avoid additional treatment expenses such as those associated with evaporation and reheating, which inevitably lead to heightened energy usage. This is especially important, as mines have to adhere to South Africa’s Mine Water Management Policy that outlines guidelines for sustainable water management in mining – emphasising minimising water pollution, promoting water reuse, and protecting water resources.

Mining activities can have significant impacts on nearby communities, including water pollution and disruptions to infrastructure. Properly maintained pumps help mitigate these impacts by managing water resources responsibly, reducing pollution and safeguarding the well-being of local communities. According to Steenkamp, the use of high-quality pumps and components such as mechanical seals that are designed for durability and reliability reduce the likelihood of leaks and failures – critical to any operation.

“Although there has been a marked improvement in packing, it still leads to visible or hidden leakage, impacting safety, environmental compliance and maintenance costs. If your pumps are sealed with gland packing, you may be consuming around 6.3 million litres of water annually. Likewise, if you rely on water instead of process fluid to cool and clean seal faces in a single mechanical seal, you could be using a comparable amount of flush water. If the process fluid isn’t suitable for cooling or cleaning, consider opting for a double mechanical seal with a seal support system. A dual mechanical seal and system could potentially slash water consumption by up to 99.9%.”

Having serviced the mining industry for close to 20 years, MRS has a long and respected relationship, having supplied AESSEAL sealing solutions reducing water consumption and improving reliability. The AESSEAL line of specialised mechanical seals has sealed nearly all major slurry equipment types and models. Solutions for some of the more commonly encountered manufacturers include Warman, Denver Orion, Goulds and KSB.

“The AESSEAL Component Seal range has been developed over many years, and offers solutions capable of sealing a diverse range of industries and applications. With some 10 000 product lines available from stock, MRS has access to seals to suit an extensive range of pump types and applications,” says Steenkamp. AESSEAL component seals are designed with modularity at their core, allowing faster service while also incorporating design features that reduce the lifetime cost of the product.

Pumps in mines often rely on energy sources such as electricity or diesel. Proper maintenance can improve energy efficiency, reducing the energy consumption of pumps and promoting the use of cleaner energy sources where possible, contributing to more sustainable energy practices.  Maintaining pumps in mines ensures the reliability and functionality of critical infrastructure. This supports sustainable industrialisation by enhancing productivity, reducing downtime and promoting innovation in pump technology for more efficient resource extraction.

“At MRS, our commitment to water conservation and contributing to Net-Zero Goals surpasses mere business objectives; it embodies our sincere dedication to catalysing behavioural change and fostering environmental stewardship. Acknowledging our collective responsibility to safeguard natural resources for future generations, we advocate for proactive water conservation measures,” concludes Steenkamp.

Image credit: Markus Distelrath/Pixabay

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