‘Must Dos’ for Efficient, Reliable Dewatering

SOURCE: Xylem Industrial Solutions | May 26, 2021

By Jessy Parmar, Business Development Manager, Xylem Industrial Solutions

Efficient and reliable dewatering is crucial to a successful mining operation. No one wants to halt production due to a flooded production area. Getting the dewatering system right lays the foundation for a productive operation. By taking a holistic view to optimize all elements of the dewatering system and incorporating digital technologies where possible, you will maximize efficiency and reliability.

For me, there are five ‘must dos’ to consider when deciding which dewatering pump is right for the job at hand and ensuring that your dewatering pump performs optimally.

1. Firstly, understand the need. This entails a comprehensive awareness of all aspects of the application including the location, duty conditions and available power source – would electric be more suitable than diesel or vice versa? The level of solids content in the water to be moved is also important to note, as is the space available for the dewatering pump and associated equipment. What size of pump will fit in the space available?

All pumping applications, including dewatering, share three common factors – the ‘flow’ or amount of liquid to be pumped, the ‘elevation’ or gravity resistance and the ‘distance’ the liquid is to be moved. Gathering data on these three elements is key to accurately sizing a dewatering application. The head and flow allow the size of the pump and piping required to be ascertained. Once a duty condition is determined one can better understand the relationships between fluid velocity, pipe diameter and friction. Typically, the engineering team or consultants working on a specific application will have parameters in place around acceptable/allowable velocity through a given diameter of pipe, if your velocity falls within that range the diameter of the pipe is acceptable.

2. The next step is to evaluate your existing product range. Do you have a suitable pump on site or do you need to add to your portfolio? Choosing the wrong pump may cause pump failure, service disruption and costly repair or replacement so it is important to carefully consider all factors before investing in a pumping solution.

3. Should you purchase or rent the dewatering pump? This will depend on whether the dewatering need is long or short term and if a specialized solution is required. Benefits of renting include potentially a lower cost of investment, access to the rental team’s expertise as well as the fact that they will maintain the pump, as necessary.

4. Outline a scheduled maintenance plan. This step can sometimes be overlooked. On many occasions, I have seen pumps set up and left to run continuously until they give up! However, this can significantly shorten equipment lifespan and does nothing to support optimal performance, efficiency and associated cost savings.

An important part of the maintenance plan is to understand how critical the pump is to your operation so that you can build a contingency plan including a redundant back-up system, if necessary.

5. Finally, but most importantly, optimize the dewatering system. One of the first steps to ensuring optimum pump performance is to follow the golden rule of pumping operations – the Best Efficiency Point or ‘BEP’. Straying too far from a pump’s BEP leads to premature wear, higher energy consumption, increased maintenance requirements, a reduction of overall efficiency and as a result, more downtime. Unplanned downtime can cost up to ten times more than routine maintenance.

In addition, there are a wealth of smart technologies available that will increase efficiency, convenience and reliability and move overall performance of the dewatering system to the next level. For example, Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) can enable pumps to respond smoothly and efficiently to fluctuations in demand. Motors have also improved greatly in recent years; switching to the latest premium efficiency model can quickly reap dividends in energy savings.

SCADA systems enable remote monitoring and control, eliminating the cost of sending technicians on equipment checking rounds. With improved visibility mine operators can better plan their day, be aware of pump failure quickly and eliminate flooded production areas, as necessary. Enhanced visibility of pump operations also reduces safety risks as staff are not required to go on site to check on the pump.

Dewatering solution going strong at Alliance Coal Mine six years after installation

To give a recent example, we can look at Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. at Gibson County Coal, South Mine in Indiana. This case study shows how the right pumping system will stand the test of time while also maximizing productivity on site. The client faced a two-pronged water challenge; solid-laden water needed to be pumped out of the mine, and a dewatering system installed in an area with limited space; a mine void less than eight feet high and a narrow 20-foot entry span.

Our team designed and installed custom pump solutions throughout the construction of the South Mine. A series of Flygt submersible pumps, ideal for the extreme conditions of underground coal mining, moved mine water from small collection sumps to the main sump site. At this main sump two more pumps – seven stage Goulds Water Technology short set vertical turbine pumps – fit perfectly into the limited space. With these pumps in place, the mine was able to send 1,000 gallons of water per minute upwards with a vertical lift capability of 560 feet.

At the mixing chamber, the mine water was diluted by fresh water and then pumped by an additional vertical turbine pump to a fine refuse impoundment site for filtering impurities, to a settlement pond for storage and finally to the preparation plant for washing coal. At the settlement pond, Flygt submersible pumps floating on custom barges – designed to keep the pumps at the proper submerged level – ensured that the preparation plant would receive clean washing water.

Since the installation of the Goulds Water Technology vertical turbines six years ago, they have pumped water reliably and efficiently, minimizing manpower hours needed in pump supervision and maintenance, supporting production ranging from three million – seven million tons of medium-sulfur coal a year.

Taking a holistic approach to water processes on site will enhance three key aspects of a mining operation: productivity, reliability and sustainability. For more tips on mine water management, download Xylem’s Holistic Mine Water Management guide xylem.com/holisticminewater

About the author:

Jessy Parmar is a Business Development Manager for the Industrial Marketing team at Xylem, a leading global water technology company unified in a common purpose to create advanced technology solutions to the world’s water challenges. During his career Jessy has worked with mining operators throughout North America to solve challenging pumping issues. Now he focusses on helping customers develop an overall fluid management approach centered on digital solutions aimed at solving efficiency, infrastructure reliability, health and safety, and environmental sustainability challenges. Jessy is a graduate of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology where he obtained his Mechanical Engineering Technology Diploma.

Xylem’s solutions portfolio for mining operations incorporates efficient and powerful pumping systems, monitoring, analytics and controls solutions and services, environmental water quality monitoring and quantity solutions, treatment systems, mixing equipment, heat transfer, fire protection and pipeline integrity management and monitoring solutions. For fast-track temporary or emergency support, or reliable long-term solutions, Xylem can assist with smart, safe and sustainable water management, for today – and tomorrow. Visit www.xylem.com/mining. Download our Holistic Mine Water Management guide here: xylem.com/holisticminewater.

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Xylem (XYL) is a leading global water technology company committed to developing innovative technology solutions to the world’s water challenges. The Company’s products and services move, treat, analyze, monitor and return water to the environment in public utility, industrial, residential and commercial building services settings. Xylem also provides a leading portfolio of smart metering, network technologies and advanced infrastructure analytics solutions for water, electric and gas utilities. The Company’s more than 16,000 employees bring broad applications expertise with a strong focus on identifying comprehensive, sustainable solutions. Headquartered in Rye Brook, New York, with 2019 revenue of $5.25 billion, Xylem does business in more than 150 countries through a number of market-leading product brands.
With this experience, we’ve seen it, done it, and designed for it.  For more than 170 years, Xylem has led the way in pumping and related technologies, including water supply, pressure boosting, dewatering, industrial water management, monitoring and controls, heat transfer, treatment, wastewater and fire protection solutions.
While your job is to run a productive mine, Xylem’s is to look holistically at your water management needs and change them from a necessary expense to a strategic advantage through innovation that reduces effort, energy and waste. When partnering with Xylem, you will discover how new combinations of water management technology and expertise can deliver the reliability, efficiency and safety you need while reducing operational and maintenance spend over the long term.