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Knowing the ropes: Tahmoor

Published by
World Coal,

Bill Gommers

Lubrication Engineers Pty Ltd is the principal Australian distributor for the Viper Wire Rope Lubricator (WRL) package, providing local stocking, technical expertise, training and lubrication services to a wide range of customers across many different industries, including mining, ports, offshore oil and gas, and shipping.

Glencore Coal’s Tahmoor coal mine

In November 2014, Lubrication Engineers was contacted and asked to provide assistance in the lubrication of the main mine access drift wire rope at Glencore’s Tahmoor coal mine.

Tahmoor is situated 75 km south of Sydney and is an underground mine, producing hard coking coal and some thermal coal. The mine uses the longwall mining method with the CHPP in order to be able to process 650 tph.

Before contacting Lubrication Engineers, the only option open to the maintenance team at Tahmoor was to manually lubricate the drift rope. This process was not only time consuming and messy but also required the staff to directly interact with the rope, which increased the risk of injury.

Further, the process of manually lubricating wire ropes does not achieve the same end result with uneven application and minimal penetration of the lubricant into the core of the rope. This reduces the effective protection the rope has once it is placed in service and will lead to reduced wire rope life.

The process of manually lubricating the drift rope at Tahmoor included:

  • Rope detail: 67 mm dia. (2-5/8 in.) drift rope, approximately 370 m in length.
  • Time frame: two men, working 12 hr each (24 hr in total), were required to manually lubricate the rope by hand with paint brushes.
  • Lubricant usage: they were using approximately 10 x 20 kg pails of grease – a total 200 kg of grease on each occasion, which equates to 800 kg/yr.
  • Lubrication frequency: every three to four months (i.e. four times per year).
  • The following is the basic cost breakdown of this manual process: – Lubricant: Caltex Moly Grease

    • US$275 per 20 kg pail x 10 = US$2750 per lubricant.
    • Four times per year (every three months) = US$11 000/yr.

    – Labour:
  • Two men, 12 hr at US$60/hr, (24 hr in total) = US$1440 per lube.
  • Four times per year (every three months) = US$5760/yr.

– Annual cost: approximately US$16 760/yr to manually lubricate the drift rope.

Lubrication Engineers introduced the Viper Mid Wire Rope lubricator to the maintenance staff at Tahmoor and demonstrated how straightforward the Viper WRL made it to lubricate wire ropes from 8 mm up to 165 mm in dia.

The heart of the Viper WRL is the specifically designed Viper Seal that works to force lubricant into the valleys and ultimately the core of the rope. Contained within a cast alloy collar that is easy to fit onto the rope and then matched to the lubricant supply pump arrangement, the Viper WRL is considered an effective method of lubricating almost all wire ropes.

Once the maintenance team at Tahmoor had a clear understanding of how the Viper WRL was set up and operated, they were keen to give it a try on the drift rope at the site.

The Viper Mid MKII WRL was set up on the drift rope, with the correctly selected VSEAL (seal) and associated VSCs (scrapers). In addition to the basic set up, Tahmoor agreed to use one of the Viper WRL rope cleaners to remove old lubricant and contamination from the rope before it entered the Viper Mid collar. By removing the old lubricant and any contamination stuck to the rope, the physical lubrication process is much more effective, with more lubricant covering and penetration.

The company also recommended the use of the VCG-1 lubricant for this application, due to its ability to cling to the rope, while gradually working into the core. The following are the details of the process, with the Viper WRL performing the task:

  • Time frame: using the Viper it now takes two men only 4 hr (8 hr in total) to lubricate the rope with Viper Mid Mk II Wire Rope Lubricator.
  • Lubricant usage: 1 x 180 kg drum of VCG-1 was used, which is sufficient to complete two lubrication process (approximately 90 kg per lubrication).
  • Lubrication frequency: due to the increased effectiveness of the lubrication process using the Viper Mid WRL, the site now only has to lubricate this drift rope every six months (twice per year).

While the obvious benefits of a more effective, simpler and safer rope lubrication process were significant to the site maintenance staff, improvements in the cost of lubrication are also worth noting.

– Lubricant: VCG-1 grease

  • 190 kg = US$4520.
  • This drum lasts twelve months (two lubricant sessions) = US$4520/yr.

– Labour:

  • Two men, 4 hr at US$60/hr (eight hours in total) = US$480 per lube.
  • Twice per year (every six months) = US$960/yr.

– Annual cost: approximately US$6890/yr to lubricate the drift rope using the Viper Mid Mk II Wire Rope Lubricator.

– Annual saving: approximately US$9870/yr.

The move to the Viper Mid MKII WRL has proven to be an easy decision for Tahmoor, with long benefits in improved reliability of the critical drift wire ropes but also significant cost savings. Staff no longer dread the regular rope lubrication process as the Viper WRL makes it easy and safe.

Edited by Harleigh Hobbs. This article first appeared in the December issue of World Coal.

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