Being a combustible material, mining and manipulating coal gives rise to a significant fire hazard. This is true in particular for underground long-wall mines in which mining is performed in confined spaces.
The key mitigation method is to break the “fire triangle” by displacing oxygen and prevent any combustion even in the case of a spark. This can be done by using nitrogen - an inert gas - injected directly inside the mine. With coal mining operations often being in remote locations, getting pure nitrogen is not simple. This is where Air Liquide supports the industry to help coal miners stay safe.
Since Air Liquide installed the first on-site nitrogen system at Oakey Creek coal mine back in 2007, it has continued to be the “go to” provider of on-site nitrogen solutions to the coal mine industry. These on-site units are based on a proprietary membrane technology, extracting the oxygen from a stream of air to supply nitrogen to the mine with a purity of up to 98 per cent.
Over the past six years, Air Liquide has installed seven new on-site units across Australian coal mines. This may not sound like many, however if you compare that to the number of new underground mine operations since the coal price slump between 2012 and 2016, this shows Air Liquide remains the key supplier to major coal mining companies.
Air Liquide’s national on-site product manager, Geoff Hyland Wines, believes the reason why the company has been able to hold its leadership position in this market: “There are three key pillars that have ensured Air Liquide remains at the forefront of supply in this market,” Hyland Wines says
“Every on-site nitrogen generator is built in our Wacol site in Brisbane by our on-site technical team. This local expertise means that our equipment is designed and built to the highest Australian standards, specific coal mine site standards and climate conditions,”
Hyland Wines says.
“This local build provides FAT testing (Factory Acceptance Test) to be completed in Wacol prior to delivery to site and for the mines project team to assess the equipment before it arrives for the mine site introduction.”
“Air Liquide understands the importance of continued supply of nitrogen to the mine. This equipment operates in some of the harshest conditions in the world and ongoing servicing of this equipment is a priority,”
Hyland Wines says.
“With our service technicians based right on the mines doorstep in Moranbah, Mackay and Newcastle, we can react quickly to any reliability issues that these conditions can create.”
“We have had the same nitrogen supply and service offer in the market for 10-plus years, Air Liquide will provide nitrogen to the mine at the same ‘availability’ level from day one of the equipment being installed until the last day of supply,” Hyland Wines says.
“Via our FLOXAL™ supply and service offer, we provide he coal mine with a performance guarantee, no hidden costs and peace of mind that the gas management plan in place will not be compromised over time by a shortfall of nitrogen.”
Air Liquide has, indeed, grown into one of the world’s largest industrial gas suppliers since being founded in France more than a century ago. Now, it is leaving its mark in the Australian underground coal industry.
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