Ending Pump and Motor Unplanned Downtime

Emerson’s Michael Pearson, a member of the Rosemount measurement business unit, describes how wireless field devices and networks can help end pump and motor downtime in mining applications.

Pumps and motors exist in every process environment. Mining is particularly dependent on this type of equipment do to the fact that material has be transported long distances with conveyors, and material must be processed with crushers and grinders. Additionally, there are often many pumps and motors, which help, transport water, air and concentrate to various parts of the mine. Pumps and motors break often, especially when they are constantly being run to their limits. To counteract this, most companies employ regular maintenance schedules. Even so, unplanned breakdowns can occur, causing costly shutdowns.

Some people would say this is inevitable. I say NO MORE! Through proactive monitoring of these assets, you can reduce or eliminate unplanned shutdowns keeping maintenance costs down, and increasing productivity. Torbjörn Idhammar, VP and Partner, IDCON, believes that “…the most important component for improving and sustaining equipment reliability is planning and scheduling.” I agree with Torbjörn 100%. That said, I would argue that monitoring these assets in real time will take you a step further towards guaranteeing reliability.

SAG mill wireless field network

SAG Mill Pole Temperature Monitoring using Smart Wireless

In the case of motors, vibration and bearing temperature are key indicators of impending failure. Monitoring these variables in real-time provides a means to prevent equipment failure, and in many cases, perform preventative maintenance. Mining companies are already using IEC 62591 WirelessHART technology to monitor essential motors.

When Semi-Autogenous Grinding (SAG) mills fail, they can cost up to $1.5 million per day in lost production. By monitoring the pole temperature of the SAG mill motor, one company was able to eliminate shutdowns due to motor overheating. Another company is using wireless field devices to monitor bearing temperature of conveyor motors. When the conveyor goes down, production halts. These conveyors can be in excess of 3 kilometers long, making traditional instrument wiring cost prohibitive. By using wireless field networks, the company was able to reduce the number of unplanned motor stoppages.

Pumps are another matter. They can fail due to a host of reasons including low seal pot levels, damaged bearings, cavitation, or improper shaft alignment. In any industry, pump failures cost big bucks in lost production. This is especially true in mining, because water supply, and concentrate transportation are key to keeping production running. Emerson has investigated pump failures with industry experts to find the most common modes of failure. They have developed a Pump Health Monitoring kit, which provides a means to monitor pumps and improve reliability. This is a wireless solution that can be retrofitted onto any pump.

The key to keeping pumps and motors is real time monitoring of key variables. By monitoring key assets, you will be able to improve the quality of your maintenance schedules, and prevent unplanned failures. The future of asset protection has arrived. What are you waiting for?

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