Improving cooling water flow to a vanadium pentoxide smelting furnace
Located approximately 80 kilometres east of Mount Magnet in Western Australia, Midwest Vanadium’s Windimurra mine site metal refining facility was experiencing a production bottleneck. The cause of the bottleneck was known to stem from the cooling water system supporting the DC arc furnace smelting operations but the Midwest production team was unable to ascertain the root cause within the cooling water system.
The arc furnace was not receiving sufficient cooling water, which was limiting smelting times and reducing refractory life. Our client wished to rapidly identify both short and long term solutions to eliminate the root cause within the cooling water system, therefore, enabling immediate safe production increases and prolonging refractory life in the furnace.
Graham Arvidson, Production Manager, Midwest Vanadium Pty Ltd
OneStone’s team conducted a site visit to gather evidence and data to allow informed diagnosis of the root cause contributing to the production bottleneck. The cooling water system was challenging to diagnose because it was integrated across a complex refinery supplying seven other heat exchangers in addition to the arc furnace.
Using design drawings and on-site flow rate and pressure measurements to build and calibrate an accurate model of the system, we were able to accurately identify the problem. Instead of an issue with the cooling water pumps, as our client suspected, we found that a short section of pipe – with limited capacity – was responsible for compromising the critical smelting process.
We recommended a safe, low-cost temporary solution requiring limited downtime to tie in a bypass to the bottleneck piping section. A system of hoses was installed allowing immediate production ramp-up while a cost-effective long-term solution was designed in parallel for future implementation.
By assessing the whole system with a model using existing on-site data, we were able to quickly design a cost-effective, short-term solution, de-bottlenecking production, prolonging refractory life (reducing operating costs), and minimising downtime.
We were then able to provide a long-term solution featuring larger pipes that would be installed at a later date to provide a robust and sustainable solution.