Answers by Duncan High, processing equipment division manager, Haver & Boecker and Michael Honea, process engineer, Haver & Boecker
Q: What’s taking place in the market that’s driving some of the current innovation in the arena of portable plants?
DH: We’ve seen increased interest in portable equipment, with more of our customers asking about it over the past couple of years. The most interest comes from western Canada and the western U.S. since those areas include many quick-turnaround quarries and remote sites where portable equipment speeds up and simplifies transportation and setup. Our Tyler F-Class portable plant, for example, can be set up in about half a day — including conveyors and other peripheral equipment. The same task can take around two weeks for fixed equipment. This can save operations hundreds of thousands of dollars in valuable production time.
Many quarries throughout western Canada and the western U.S. also rely on others for screening materials. Rather than purchase processing equipment — especially for a quarry that may only stay active for a few years — operations hire contractors for a year or two to process material. Portable equipment allows those contractors to quickly move in, do their work, then move on to the next quarry. The mobility of portable equipment also allows producers operating on quarries too small to make static equipment economical to quickly move on after they’re finished with the site.
Producers also save on fuel costs with portable equipment. The distance from the plant to the mine or quarry face tends to constantly increase, causing fuel and maintenance costs to go up as haul trucks travel farther to reach fixed equipment. The structure, buildings, pads and other features of static equipment often make them too expensive to move. Portable machines, on the other hand, can stay nearby, keeping hauling distances to a minimum. Large projects in remote areas, such as interstate work, can also benefit from the fuel savings. If the site is far from an established quarry, the contractor can save on fuel and material hauling costs by setting up at an old quarry nearby or creating a new one to provide material for the project. This can also lower the contractor’s bid for the project, making it more likely they will win it.
The mobility also allows operations to “plug and play” — that is, move the equipment to a different part of the quarry if crews encounter undesirable conditions, such as water, or the wrong material, such as clay. In addition, operations can choose from many different configurations with portable equipment, such as choosing a crusher to include a vibrating screen on the chassis or connecting conveyors and feed hoppers.
MH: There are many reasons operations are using portable equipment more today than ever before. A producer may have a crushing and screening contract with an expiration date, so they need equipment that they can quickly move in and out.
Some operations have several deposits in a geographic region and don’t want to invest in stationary plants for each location. Mobile equipment allows them to crush and screen enough material in a couple of months to satisfy their customer in that area for a season before moving on to the next site, leaving only a loader and scale operator behind.
Demand can be another reason. A producer may need to increase production temporarily to satisfy a nearby project but use the portable equipment elsewhere following project completion.
Q: Tell us about the challenge producers face with water management. What are some of the dilemmas they face?
DH: Everywhere we go in North America, we are always thinking about environmental impact and the impact of droughts and regulations on our customers. Water use restrictions and permitting challenges continue to increase, meaning operations need to find ways to stay profitable while using less energy and water.
Q: How do the emerging washing equipment technologies solve or minimize producers’ water management challenges?
MH: Regulatory restrictions on wastewater contamination are compelling some producers to implement wastewater treatment solutions. Settling ponds require large areas and can be costly to maintain. Solutions such as filter presses and thickener tanks offer an alternative but require a capital investment.
Advanced washing systems, such as our Hydro-Clean, reduce water consumption by as much as 75 percent over traditional washing systems, such as log washers and other aggregates washing systems. This allows operations to significantly cut their water use and limit their water treatment requirements, reducing the size of water treatment equipment and, ultimately, the capital investment. Some advanced washing systems have a small footprint and can save producers as much as 15 percent in energy costs.
Q: What are some of the next production management “challenges” manufacturers like Haver & Boecker will have to address for the aggregate industry?
DH: Manufacturers will need to continue to look for ways to reduce downtime, improve component life, boost efficiency and create environmentally friendly solutions. This might mean offering customers programs that allow them to refurbish their equipment rather than buy new, saving the operation time and money. Manufacturers can also offer long-term maintenance programs that ensure machines run properly, reducing downtime and expenses. Continuing to find ways to cut water and energy use through innovative washing solutions also will be key to addressing evolving environmental challenges. n