Blocked chutes pose a downtime and safety hazard. This spillage was the result of a design failure in a transfer chute. A loss of production, clean-up cost and material handling hazard resulted.
A new generation of coal and ore materials handling technology is being introduced to Australasian and international markets by a group that engineers chutes and complementary systems to permit faster conveyor belt speeds, greater throughputs, fewer breakdowns and enhanced safety.
The Chute Technology engineering group targets problems common to many coal and ore plants and loading systems by addressing them with a combination of three skill sets, including advanced engineering analysis of flow, followed by upscaleable 3D Discrete Element Method (DEM) design processes and finally custom manufacturing to individual plant needs.
The combined technologies – which are applicable to existing as well as new projects – are complemented by the practical experience of each of the three Principal Partners in Chute Technology, who have combined experience of more than 80 years in a wide variety of resource industries including coal, iron ore, alumina and limestone across Australia, the USA, South America and South Africa. The technologies are also applicable to gold, nickel and other bulk minerals and ores.
Major benefits of the chute design technologies have already been demonstrated in service with a West Australian iron ore producer which increased production by several million tons, or 50 per cent. Several Hunter Valley coal mines, meanwhile, are also benefitting from less wear and fewer breakdowns because of practical individualised designs produced by one of the partners in Chute Technology, long-established Hunter Valley mining industry supplier T.W. Woods.
Chute Technology combines the local and international manufacturing experience of T.W. Woods, represented by Director Tom Woods, with the similarly broad engineering and technology experience of Engineering Consultant Dennis Pomfret of Dennis Pomfret Engineering, and Design Engineer Gary Telford of Telford Engineering Solutions, which contributes extensive project management, engineering and drafting experience.
“We believe Chute Technology brings together a combination of skills is unique in the marketplace, in that it brings three proven skill sets that are vital to solving typical mineral processing issues,” says Mr Woods. These issues include reducing wear, removing bottlenecks caused by clogging, minimising damaging impacts on belts and optimizing operational safety and efficiency by curbing breakdowns and cleanups.
Transfer Chutes Stuck In The Past
“Existing chute designs have fundamentally been stuck in the past, because few companies have seen the need to take advantage of innovations now available with advancing technology and knowledge. But under the impact of steeply rising 21st century volumes, existing designs are breaking down incessantly – wearing out in weeks, sometimes – and always slowing up production with downtime and repairs,” says Mr Woods. “As Australian and international producers set out to double and treble outputs, the underlying problems are becoming starkly apparent through breakdowns, downtime, problems with sticky material throughput, and spillage creating cleanup and safety issues.
“Supervisors on sites or on loading facilities often are painfully aware that they have got the problem, but these issues have become so prevalent that they sometimes think of it as inevitable. It’s not inevitable, just inefficient and a matter of rectifying the problem with focused design and smarter manufacturing ,” said Mr Woods, who has more than 30 years practical experience with producing better coal chutes that last longer.
Through their specialist company focused on the design, manufacture and optimisation of materials handling systems, Chute Technology’s partners aim to deliver benefits by applying rigorous design skills and practical knowhow gained by experience in mines, ports and industrial plants.
“In addition to a proven capability to design new chutes, the new Chute Technology organisation will specialise also in the retrofit of existing plants.
“A principal aim will be to eliminate reliability problems and production obstacles so as to bring handling systems up to their full potential,” says Dennis Pomfret, who holds patents on proven materials handling technologies. Value-adding services focussed on by Chute Technology include:
- Increased tonnes per hour, more product delivered in a shorter time at lower OPEX
- Reduced wear rates, reduced consumables, labour and downtime
- Control of spillage, dust and clean-up, for a safer and safety compliant workplace
- Debottlenecking of conveyor systems by applying new technology to upgrades
Dennis Pomfret, Gary Telford and Tom Woods bring practical hands-on experience as well as technological expertise to their designs.
“The three parties involved in Chute Technology have already worked together on transfer chutes and have identified an opportunity to combine resources to form a company that focuses on transfer chutes. We are focusing our capabilities to provide a superior service, and product, that can be delivered to the customers by dedicated effort rather than a generalised engineering approach,’ says Mr Pomfret. All companies are based in Newcastle and have an established business base.