Linking Zinc with Fenner’s Top-to-Tail Conveyor System
Article published by Australian Bulk Handling Review
Fenner Dunlop and Australian Conveyor Engineering have set sail to Singapore to undertake a major conveyor overhaul on the shipping vessel Aburri.
On the banks of the Northern Territory’s McArthur River is the Bing Bong loading facility, one of Australia’s most important sites for zinc and lead exports.
Trucks from the McArthur River Mine carry hundreds of tonnes of bulk concentrate 120 kilometres north, depositing their payload at Bing Bong’s storage shed.
However, the mouth of the river is shallow, meaning massive bulk transport ships are unable to anchor directly at the facility. This is why Carpentaria Shipping Services operates a custom solution called MV Aburri.
Designed specifically for this operation, MV Aburri is a shipping vessel that is small enough to dock at Bing Bong. The vessel is a workhorse and operates around the clock to cart up to 3200 tonnes of concentrate to ships waiting in deeper waters.
In order to keep it in ship shape, MV Aburri undergoes a dry dock once every five years. The vessel is sent to Singapore, where it is removed from the water to allow maintenance crews access to begin major repairs or upgrades.
As part of this process, conveyor belt specialist Fenner Dunlop was brought in to service MV Aburri’s conveyor system.
Craig Wright, Fenner Dunlop’s NT Branch Operations Manager, explains that the company quickly inspected the ship and presented a detailed report that later was converted into a million-and-a-half-dollar tender.
"Initially the approach from the customer was to re-use the existing belts and most conveyor components if it was viable, however after an inspection to ensure the vessel would operate with minimum down time, we advised of a complete overhaul,” he says.
Fenner Dunlop began the project late last year in collaboration with its sister company Australian Conveyor Engineering (ACE). It involved the delivery and commissioning of an entirely new conveyor system, including all new pulleys, idlers, belt cleaners, chutes and a programmable logic controller (PLC) operating system.
Once the structural repairs to the vessel’s haul had been completed, the five re-furbished systems and one brand new system were installed into place.
“Our goal was to provide an entire system replacement, not just the belts, in order to provide a long-lasting and well-engineered solution,” Mr Wright says.
“Upgraded components replaced parts that had become worn over time. With the right lubrication and maintenance, MV Aburri should see years of trouble-free servicing.
Around 340 metres of Fenner Dunlop’s QuarryMaster belt will be supplied and vulcanised as part of the overhaul. QuarryMaster is an M Grade cover compound, which provides high strength, low stretch and is completely resistant to moisture.
In addition, stainless steel components were used instead of painted steel to ensure the new conveyors are able to handle the highly corrosive salt air.
Mr Wright says an important thing to consider when designing a ship-based conveyor system is the potential for alignment shifts.
“On land, a conveyor will be largely fixed, as the ground underneath it rarely moves,” he explains.
“However, when a conveyor is on top of a ship, the vessel is constantly flexing which can change the alignment. To account for this, we re-engineered how the drive system works to take pressure off of certain components, improving its longevity.”
Safety features include improved guarding systems around a counterweight wire rope, to a complete new and improved PLC system to control all the conveyors. The new PLC system has many advantages including eliminating previous faults like in the event of a loaded shut down, having to manually remove concentrate before the system can once again begin.
As part of the tender, Fenner Dunlop also provides a 24/7 breakdown service, with technicians on call to respond to urgent issues.
"We are working with the customer to avoid unnecessary downtime. We also expect to see improvement in the overall efficiency of their conveyor system," Mr Wright says.
“Undertaking this major upgrade alongside our sister company ACE has been a great experience. This was an interesting project and it demonstrates our ability to manufacture and supply a complete conveyor system from head to tail.”