Suboptimal performance of clusters of hydrocyclones (cyclones), relative to the performance of the individual cyclones that comprise the cluster, is a common phenomenon. The primary cause is well known: uneven distribution of the slurry feed into the individual cyclones. The direct result of uneven distribution is that each cyclone in a cluster performs somewhat differently. Hence, some, if not all, of them do not work at their intended operating points, and the classification is not as sharp as intended.
The impact on grade, recovery and milling efficiency will vary depending on the duty of the processing circuit, but the most immediately apparent consequence of uneven distribution is a difference in wear rates in the individual cyclones; this exacerbates the problems of unequal performance of the individual cyclones. In severe cases, and as differential wear proceeds, flows from the individual cyclones may become visibly different.
Uneven distribution, once the phenomenon was identified, was seen to be a significant issue in the high-solids hydrocyclone cluster in the ball mill recycle section of Evolution Mining’s Edna May Operation (EMO, Westonia, Western Australia) gold processing plant. In 2012, a FloCEP® hydrocyclone feed distributor system was installed to alleviate the problem. Over the next four years of operation, this innovation has proven its value in the metallurgical and maintenance areas. Individual cyclones now wear at the same rate, greatly reducing the need for operator intervention, as well as increasing overall plant availability through minimising unplanned maintenance. The costs of the installation can be justified by savings in maintenance alone, though the greatest value, as is described in this paper, is in allowing the plant to produce consistently closer to its operational design limits.
The FloCEP® system is a low maintenance, readily installed retrofit, based on two patented devices that are combined with complementary proprietary design methodology allowing customisation for specific flow rates and slurry particle properties. Together, these devices produce and distribute a pseudo-homogenous slurry flow without moving parts.
Taplin, D P, Doig, S G and Algie, S H, 2016. Experience with FloCEP® Slurry Flow Conditioning at Evolution Mining’s Edna May Operation, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 251–260 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).