Air-Cooling and Refrigeration Equipment

Whillier, Austin
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION Use of air-cooling or refrigeration equipment in underground mines is needed when conventional ventila¬tion techniques do not maintain acceptable environ¬mental temperatures in working areas. Because refrig¬eration can be very expensive, it should be implemented only after all possible and practical steps have been taken to eliminate or reduce heat sources in the mine. As an example, to prevent the main ventilation fans from contributing heat to mine air, they should be located in the air return and not in the air intake. It is particularly important to prevent any direct contact between hot water and ventilation air, especially in mines which encounter large flows of hot fissure water. Any water hotter than the prevailing wet-bulb temperature of the ambient air must be removed by pipes located as close as possible to the water source. This hot water must not be allowed free contact with the incoming ventilation air at any time during the water's passage out of the mine. Although insulation of the pipes carrying the hot water is seldom necessary, direct contact between the air and the water must be prevented so the warm water cannot evaporate. REVIEW OF COOLING PRACTICES Spot Coolers vs. Centralized Refrigeration To eliminate a few specific hot places in an otherwise cool mine, it is possible to use devices known as "spot coolers." A typical spot cooler that uses chilled water is shown in Fig. 1. These devices consist of self-contained refrigeration units that are often mounted on rail cars for haulage to hot spots. The cooling capacities of such spot coolers usually are limited to about 100 kW or 30 "refrigeration tons." A refrigeration ton represents a cooling rate that produces 1.0 st of ice in 24 hr; that is a cooling rate of 3.517 kW (200 Btu per min). Typically, the electric-power consumption to drive the compressor motor of the refrigeration plant in mines is 1.0 kW per refrigeration ton, corresponding to a coefficient of per¬formance of about 3.5. The principal difference between spot coolers and centralized refrigeration plants is the method of re¬jecting heat from the refrigeration system. Centralized refrigeration plants always discharge heat into the reject or return airflow of the mine; often that is the primary influence in selecting the location for the underground refrigeration plant. Heat from spot coolers usually is rejected into drain water or into air that is not flowing to the location requiring the cooling. As a result, spot coolers remove heat from troublesome hot spots in the mine, injecting that heat-plus the electrical energy used by the cooling unit itself-into other working areas where the ambient conditions are cooler. In effect, this is "robbing Peter to pay Paul." In deep, extensive mines, spot coolers usually pro¬vide only temporary and, over the long term, expensive solutions to localized cooling problems. Centralized re¬frigeration plants are preferred for such mines, with cooling distributed throughout the mine as required. Fig. 2 illustrates a typical underground centralized re¬frigeration plant. Centralized plants lend themselves to improved maintenance at reduced costs while offering the economy of size. Refrigeration plants of larger unit sizes have considerably lower initial costs than smaller unit sizes. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to large refrigeration plants, with no further consideration of spot coolers. Cost of Refrigeration Total Cost: The total cost of refrigeration amounts to about $200/kW of cooling per year (1981 US $). This total cost breaks down into approximately three equal parts: 1) Financial charges, which include the interest and amortization on the capital cost of the initial installation, and the cost of necessary underground excavations. 2) Operating and maintenance costs which include the cost of the electric power to drive the refrigeration plant's compressors. 3) Distribution costs which include costs for pump¬ing, insulated piping, and air-to-water heat exchangers. The local cost of electric power, the number of operating months per year, and the method of refrigera¬tion distribution all contribute to the actual costs in¬curred in a given application. However, the variations usually are limited to no more than ±30% of the $200/ kW per year total cost figure. Cost Per Ton: Refrigeration cost per ton of mineral production can be calculated if the annual production tonnage from the refrigerated section of the mine is known. In most cases, this cost will be less than $1 .00/t. However, in deep mines with high rock temperatures, such as those found in South Africa, the total cost of refrigeration can increase to several dollars per ton of broken rock. Distribution In deep extensive mines, distributing refrigeration often accounts for about half the total cooling costs. As a result, careful consideration and planning must be
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