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Albeit unfashionable, coal is one resource the world cannot do without and, despite increasing legislation in its use, its benefits to industry and society ensure that it will be around for many years to come. Continual research into the reduction of coal combustion effects improve year on year and will inevitably reach a stage where the markets consider the benefits of this plentiful and accessible resource a viable option to the world’s energy needs once again.
Despite the reduction of coal use in the West, it is one of many minerals that travel the world from the mine to consumer and, alongside iron ore, accounts for the majority of ocean-going bulk freight. But it is not during its long journey that coal handling problems are most prevalent but at the mine and processing plant.
As soon as coal is mined, the challenge of handling the various sizes, types and blends begins. From the face of deep or open cast mines, the effects of coal’s high silica content starts to erode both the plant and equipment used to process it together with the producer’s profits. Regardless of this, the industry has continually invested in machinery to maximise its opportunities and developed more efficient equipment to handle and process an annually increasing tonnage.
In such a well-established industry, there are many proven equipment protection techniques which have been successfully employed to enhance the efficiency of modern production methods. These ceramic, metallic or polymer lining systems can be designed into the fabric of new equipment or retrofitted to existing plant by redesigning the structure or installing a lining directly into the existing fabrication. These activities take place both off site or on site, depending on the complexity of the removal process or the age of the equipment. Either way, the choice of investing in the life expectancy of the equipment lies with the plant owners and the life expectancy of their operation.
Protection takes many forms from the construction of earth-moving equipment fabricated in both quenched and tempered steel or chromium carbide-clad plate to equipment within the coal processing plants used to crush, screen, separate and convey different coal sizes such as run-of-mine (ROM) to power station fuel (PSF) which can protected by a combination of ceramic, metallic and polymers lining systems.
Impact crushers depend on both metallic plate and castings to operate continuously in arduous conditions as a result of the amount of tramp product that sometimes contaminates the cut coal. Transfer chutes, underpans, tanks, hydrocylcones and slurry pipework all give better performance when protected with high alumina or cast basalt ceramic materials. Polymer systems successfully increase plant longevity when applied to screen decks, centrifuges, flocculent tanks and coal storage equipment.
All of the protective materials mentioned have a higher initial cost when compared to traditional construction materials, however the payback ratio is achieved within a relatively short space of time in contrast to replacement costs – and that’s without factoring in the loss of production and labour costs associated with installation activities.
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