Almost every stage of mining involves hydraulic systems – from the excavation to the drilling, crushing and breaking of stone, to the transport of material from the site. As such, its essential to keep hydraulic systems in power and running optimally. However, optimal is the key word.

Energy consumption is a primary challenge for the Australian mining sector. It’s been estimated that the industry consumes around the same amount of electricity per year as Portugal. With electricity costs rising and increased pressure to reduce carbon emissions, one way a mining operation can quickly realise some savings is through an energy audit. Targeted energy audits – such as those which identify potential waste or inefficiencies in the energy used for hydraulic systems – can unveil opportunities that reduce expenses and improve the bottom line.

“As its name suggests, an energy audit is an analysis of efficiency and costs of the energy used within a mining operation,” explains Michael Greelish, National Account Manager for Mining, Quarrying, and Resources at Motion Australia. “Hydraulic systems are one of the biggest consumers of power, so doing a hydraulic-specific energy audit can identify some quick savings. It’s like picking the ‘low hanging fruit’ to cut costs and increase profit.”

An energy audit takes a three-way approach that includes an assessment of energy consumption, energy waste and recommendations as to how improvements can be made.

“Questions a mining business might ask are, ‘how do I achieve savings through an audit?’ and ‘what’s the return of investment on an audit?’,” posits Michael. “While there are no absolutes, the objective of a hydraulic systems audit will be to get these systems running with less pumps or smaller pumps, or configured differently so that they use less power. If that objective is achieved, then the savings will be swift, and that will more than justify the costs of an audit – ROI could be achieved in months.”

Michael advises that Motion Australia’s specialist hydraulics business, CRAM, is well-positioned to assist mining companies with hydraulic energy audits.

“CRAM has been synonymous with all aspects of hydraulic power for over 20 years and the energy audits undertaken by CMA – CRAM’s engineering division – are second to none,” says Michael. “These have extended the company’s reputation for hydraulic excellence and delivered thousands of dollars of direct and indirect savings to customers in the mines and quarries segment.”

In particular, large hydraulic systems offer opportunity for significant energy and cost savings, as these systems typically have multi-pump installations where pumps are set to run around the clock.

“An audit would take into account the total amount of hydraulic power being made available against the amount required, so you could achieve savings by only running as many pumps that are actually required or through identifying components that are wasting energy or need maintenance,” says Michael. “This is where the savings can really add up.”

In one example, CMA carried out an audit on a hydraulic system that comprised three 120kW pumpsets of which only two were being powered up at any one time. They found that the power unit was only being utilised for a maximum of 32% in all its operations, indicating the system could be run on just the one pump.

“This translated to a significant savings of 27.5MWh of power each month – or almost $3000”, enthuses Michael. “It’s important to note that these savings can be realised without any additional expenditure; just a small PLC change carried out by onsite staff.”

Additionally, the CMA analysis found that the baseline leakage for the system was around double what it should have been. With valve maintenance, they estimated they could cut the power usage by 32.4MWh per month.

“These examples illustrate the benefits of an audit, but to achieve them you need the right data and the right people to analyse the data, this is where the CMA team of experts come in,” says Michael. “They have the experience and expertise to make the right recommendations. If you’re interested in commissioning an audit, please get in touch with your local Motion Australia branch and we’ll make it happen.”