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Lack of attention to maintenance on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems on mobile mining equipment such as dump trucks, excavators, dozers and drill rigs can cost mines dearly. This is the view of Brenton Spies, managing director of HVAC specialist Booyco Engineering, a company which has been a leader in its field for more than three decades.
“The fact of the matter is that an HVAC system that is malfunctioning can result in a multi-million rand mining vehicle being taken out of service, resulting in hours of downtime and possibly hundreds of thousands of rands of lost production,” says Spies. “Modern health and safety laws in South Africa are very demanding and operators are entitled to stop work if ambient temperatures in the cab are too high or, for that matter, too low.”
Booyco Engineering has an unparalleled track record of supplying and maintaining highly efficient HVAC systems for customers in the railways, defence and mining sectors. Its clients over the years have included Transnet, General Electric, Alsthom, Bombardier and, in the mining sector, Seriti’s New Vaal opencast coal mine. Booyco has supplied maintenance services continuously to New Vaal for more than two decades.
The company’s HVAC systems are locally designed and manufactured and are specifically designed for Africa’s rugged conditions. The units are assembled in Booyco Engineering’s 3 000 m2 Meadowdale premises in Germiston. “We outsource most of the fabrication but all design is undertaken by Booyco Engineering’s engineers and technicians at our premises using the latest software and specialised tools,” says Spies.
According to Spies, the standard HVAC systems used on many off-road mining vehicles are unable to cope with the constant vibration, extreme temperatures and dust that are encountered in mining environments. “Our customised units are more expensive than these products but they are durable and can function for 20 years, or even longer, if maintained correctly,” says Spies. “By contrast, the life of standard units can be very short – no more than two or three years. Buying them is false economy.”
He points out that most ‘off-the-shelf’ HVAC systems are designed to cope with temperatures of around 35 deg C. “This is fine if your machines are working in Europe but totally inadequate for mining areas, such as the Northern Cape, where temperatures can soar into the 40s,” he remarks. “This why our HVAC systems are designed for ambient temperatures of up to 45 deg C.”
He adds that Booyco Engineering has such confidence in its HVAC systems that it offers a five-year warranty to customers, which he says is ground-breaking.
Booyco Engineering is currently engaged in a fresh push into the mining sector to expand its mining footprint –– and is stressing to potential customers the benefits of the planned maintenance it can offer, not just on Booyco HVAC systems but those of other manufacturers. The company offers free site assessments to ascertain the current condition of customers’ fleets and to propose the most cost-effective solution to ensure the customers’ HVACs operate at acceptable levels and meet availability standards.
“As part of our push, we’ve been on many mines recently and what we’ve noticed is that very few of them are maintaining their HVAC systems,” he observes. “For the most part, they do not have any consistent maintenance programmes in place and they entrust their maintenance work to technicians who have no real understanding of HVAC and who certainly don’t have any in-depth understanding of the refrigeration cycle. At best, they will assign the task to one of their mechanics or auto-electricians, who they might send on a one or two-day refrigeration course.”
He notes that – by contrast – Booyco Engineering’s technicians are the best in the business and have been thoroughly trained by the company in every aspect of HVAC maintenance. These technicians are deployed on or close to customer sites throughout South Africa.
According to Spies, HVAC systems ideally need to be thoroughly checked for leaks and have their return and fresh air filters cleaned on a monthly basis. Every three months, chemical cleaning of the condensers should be carried out and wiring, fasteners, V-belt tension, gas leaks and refrigerant pressures thoroughly checked. Annual services will include a compressor oil level check and chemical cleaning of the evaporator coil.
Spies says that Booyco Engineering can provide these services under a range of maintenance offerings, either long or short term, and is happy to negotiate appropriate arrangements with customers.
“Our preference, however, is for ‘technician on site’ contracts where our technicians are on the spot, maintaining systems according to a carefully planned maintenance programme and able to respond immediately to any breakdowns,” he says. “We regard this as the most efficient and cost-effective option from the mine’s point of view and one which, over the longer term, will lower the total cost of ownership very significantly.”