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The importance of mechanical seals when reducing water consumption in mining

The importance of mechanical seals when reducing water consumption in miningEnvironmental considerations are at the top of most industry’s agendas in the 21st century as companies evaluate and improve operations, processes, and systems. 

Conserving water in mining is one such area that is now being investigated further with the rotation of pumps and mixers and sourcing the right and highest quality sealing products that can vastly help reduce water consumption and costs at the top of the list. 

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Water and the mining industry 

Within most (if not all) industrial applications, for hydraulic transportation of solids, the liquid you will find used is water.  (You may find acid, kerosene, caustics, and potentially alcohol used in very rare cases, but again these are only in very rare situations.) 

However, due to where mines are located, groundwater sources can be scarce; hence there is a large cost associated with water removal and treatment to supplement this.  Then there is the negative effect that removing another water source to produce goods causes on the surrounding ecosystem and environment. 

Reducing water consumption 

The good news is water consumption can be reduced with the right pump, seal, and system in place.  

Choosing the right components for the pump sealing can vastly reduce the volume of flush water used during the mining process, with the possibility of eliminating the need for flush water altogether if the ideal mechanical seal is chosen. 

Of course, you must also consider: 

  • Equipment condition 
  • Cost of downtime 
  • Loss of product 
  • Ease of installation 
  • Techniques to reduce flush water 

Packing 

A cost-effective method when you suffer a slight leak or product dilution, packing offers an effective and quick seal. 

Depending on the application, there are three packing options available to support a flush-free sealing approach: 

Injectables – a thermoset heat-resistant material that is made up of lubricants and chopped reinforced fibres.  To provide effective sealing, the material is injected into the stuffing box through the flush port.  This material must be injected between braided packing end rings as the material itself has no strength. 

Carbon/graphite packing – graphite provides low heat generation matched with outstanding thermal conductivity and high-temperature capability.  However, extrusion can occur using this packing option.  To counteract extrusion, some graphite packing is designed with braided corners. 

Environmental controllers help reduce solids coming into contact with the packing and therefore increasing the packing life.  SpiralTrac ™ is an environmental control that can achieve such goals, reducing the amount of flush water required.  Environmental controller technologies ultimately reduce product dilution, provide a clean flush to sealing rings, and eliminate the need for a lantern ring. 

Industrial seals 

If product leakage and slurry dilution are 100% unacceptable, then a mechanical seal is your best choice.   Often requiring no seal flush water, you can save on costs associated with treatment and product dilution. 

Single mechanical seals are available and will offer you a flush-free system.  In these instances, you will see tighter face loading and clearances around the seal faces maximised around moving parts in order to prevent clogging and particle build-up. 

It’s worth noting that if solids are greater than 40% in some cases, environmental controllers should be used alongside mechanical seals to remove the larger solids, especially from the stuffing box where the seal operates. 

Split mechanical seals can provide you with a unique sealing solution, taking you beyond a flush-free operation, offering water conservation and much-appreciated ease of assembly.  Split seals are quick and easy to install and do not require the disassembling of the pump. 

Environmental controls with dual mechanical seals are required in slurry services that are a little more severe.  Using these industrial seals in conjunction with the proper environmental control will minimise product dilution considerably. 

Combining dual seals with a barrier fluid tank will offer you the greatest water conservation, as using a closed-loop system, the barrier fluid tank has no requirement for the continuous feed from an external water source, so water savings in this respect can be significant. 

If you’re looking to achieve an even greater reliability level, using an internal pump ring and a double seal will provide an even greater barrier fluid flow. 

For high-quality seals that you can trust, make sure to check out our full range of sealing products online today.  To speak to our expert team members about your sealing requirements, call 01535 274 776 

For sealing products in Leeds that you can trust, look no further than Specialist Sealing Products. 

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Read the next article: The Best Chemical Resistant Gaskets for Sulfuric Acid

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