Rental nitrogen generator boosts underground mining efficiency

Siobhan Doyle

A novel generator eliminates the need for a network of holes to pipe nitrogen into a mine.

Transporting raw materials such as oxygen and nitrogen over large distances can be both expensive and environmentally unsound. The best solution is to generate the gases on-site where needed – and nitrogen generators take on-site production to a whole new level.

Indeed, mining operators can rent an underground nitrogen generator, from global gas systems specialists Oxair, to use in mines of any depth. This innovative technology has the potential to save the industry thousands of dollars, inerting the air within the mine shaft.

The traditional practice of drilling a series of holes to allow for piping in nitrogen from the surface is still valid; but underground generators are a better option as they can follow the coal face with no delays and significantly reduced cost of drilling. This saves many kilometres of underground pipeline as the machines can be simply taken where the gas is needed.

With low noise levels and minimal maintenance required, the new generators provide the mining industry with a hassle-free and economical solution to the constant need for a safe underground environment, according to Oxair.

Having N2 generators underground also eliminates the need for more surface installations in environmentally sensitive areas – as well as populated city and town areas where older coal mines are generally located. Additionally new mines have strict environmental controls placed on them.

Improving production

Oxair has also designed a smaller N2 underground generator for the process of N2 injection which can be situated in gas drainage drill stubs to assist in seam gas drainage of low permeable coal. This speeds up the gas drainage process of low permeable coal, saving on directional drilling and also enabling these sections to be mined more quickly. This has come from newly proven mining technologies and techniques. Oxair is keeping up with the needs of mining companies and helping them to improve production rates at the same time as reducing their environmental impacts.

“Underground nitrogen generation at the coal face is a rapidly growing trend. It gives the user the ability to move the generator with any other auxiliary equipment and reduce the number of down holes needed to run pipelines underground,” says Oxair engineer David Cheeseman. “By generating the nitrogen underground the units provide a cost-effective on-site solution. They have minimal ongoing operational costs as they only need compressed air to provide the supply of nitrogen.”

Alongside the company’s existing ground level generators, these solutions play a vital role in reducing the risk of fires and explosions deep underground, by reducing oxygen to below a level where burning is possible. With a consistent supply of inert gas, miners can focus on extracting resources more efficiently, without interruptions or delays caused by unforeseen hazards. Oxair’s technology significantly reduces risk, and is equally applicable to several situations, including iron ore extraction.

Cheeseman adds: “Mining is a risky business. We’re doing everything we can at Oxair to develop technology that reduces risk without complicating things for businesses or adding a hefty price tag – hence the addition of generators to rent. Working in a safe environment is a basic human right, but maintaining this can be costly for the industry and the planet.”

 

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