Surface Mine Fan Installations at Inco Limited

Stachulak, Jozef S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1995
Inco Limited operates 11 underground mines in the Sudbury District. The mines are located on the rim of the Sudbury Basin, an oval with the axis in the range of 27 and 60 km. The ore dips to at least 3000 m below surface. The ores are mined primarily for nickel and copper. Total ore production from underground is in excess of 55,000 tons per day. Over 40 surface fans have been installed since the late 1960's. All of the fans are adjustable pitch, axial flow units. A major factor influencing ventilation design in the last 30 years has been the introduction of diesel equipment underground. Volumes per fan have ranged from 60 to 330 (cubic metres per second), with motors from 100 to 2500 hp. Fans of the axial flow type have been in common use for main fan installations at Canadian mines for many years. The standard arrangement has been to mount these fans horizontally, i.e. with the fan shaft and the long axis of the housing horizontal. This is a natural arrangement for an underground fan, but for a surface installation, a vertically mounted fan has definite advantages. The surface area taken up by a typical vertical fan installation is generally about one quarter of that with a horizontal fan of the same capacity. (1) This is not a problem with isolated fans and flat surface outcrop sites, but where the installation is to be near existing buildings, or where there are poor surface soil conditions, space and cost considerations greatly favour vertical fans. MAIN FANS INSTALLED There are 43 main surface fans in operation at 11 mines. Twenty-seven of these fans are supply units, and 75% of them are vertical installation. The remaining 16 units are main surface exhaust fans, with predominantly horizontal installation. Within the last five years, some 20 main booster fans have been installed underground at several mines. Axial flow fans, with adjustable pitch blades, are used for both surface and underground installations. Exhaust fans are equipped with stainless steel or cast aluminum blades. Main underground fans are arranged horizontally and the majority of them have a floating shaft between the fan shaft and the motor. (2) The size of the fans in service varies from 1.8 m to 5 m in diameter, with the majority ranging from 1.8 to 2.5 m. The pressure produced by these fans varies from 0.25 kPa to 2.0 kPa. At Inco Limited, two main fans in parallel are preferred, rather than a single fan, so that if one fan fails, the remaining fan can still supply up to 70% of normal air quantities, while the damaged fan is repaired. This requires closure doors on each of the fans so the fan can be isolated in case of failure. It is more expensive than a single fan, but results in less production interruptions. The fan installations are well away from sharp inlet and outlet bends. FAN DESIGN INTEGRITY Both the mine operator and the fan manufacturer must understand that the main fan is critical to the mine operation, and that everything technically possible must be done in design and manufacture to ensure the highest degree of reliability. Some of the design parameters and criteria, based on Inco experience, are outlined and discussed below. RESONANT FREQUENCIES AND HOUSING MODEL ANALYSIS Any fan assembly will have many different resonant frequencies. It is a challenge to the designer to arrive at a design in which forcing frequencies do not coincide with any of these resonant frequencies to produce unacceptable vibration levels in operation. Finite element analysis is a useful tool that can be used to identify the most critical of these, so that housing and blade stiffness can be adjusted to change any resonances that might be close to forcing frequencies. Shaft critical speeds should be at least 25% above the fan operating speed, and there should be sufficient separation between other resonant and forcing frequencies to avoid excitation that might result in high vibration levels. QUALITY ASSURANCE Radiographic Blade Examination Mine fan blades are normally cast in small lots. To ensure that the castings are sound, a full radiographic examination is recommended in the highly stressed lower 1/3 of the blade.
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