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Applications of Slurry Transport
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Vast tonnages are pumped every year in the form of solid-liquid mixtures, known as slurries. The application which involves the largest quantities is the dredging industry, continually maintaining navigation in harbours and rivers, altering coastlines and winning material for landfill and construction purposes. As a single dredge may be required to maintain a throughput of 7000 tonnes of slurry per hour or more, very large centrifugal pumps are used. Figures 1.1 and 1.2 show, respectively, an exterior view of this type of pump, and a view of a large dredge pump impeller (Addie&Helmley, 1989).





Figure 1.1 Testing a dredge pump at the GIW Hydraulic LaboratoryFigure 1.2. Impeller for large dredge pump


The manufacture of fertiliser is another process involving massive slurry-transport operations.  In Florida, phosphate matrix is recovered by huge aglines in open-pit mining operations. It is then slurried, and pumped to the wash plants through pipelines with a typical length of about 10 kilometres. Each year some 34 million tonnes of matrix are transported in this manner. This industry employs centrifugal pumps that are generally smaller than those used in large dredges, but impeller diameters up to 1.4 m are common, and drive capacity is often in excess of 1000 kW.  The transport distance is typically longer than for dredging applications, and hence a series of pumping stations is often used. Figure 1.3 shows a booster-pump installation in a phosphate pipeline.

Figure 1.3. Booster pump in一phosphate-matrix pipeline




Many other types of open-pit mining use slurry transport, and the number of such applications is increasing as it becomes clear that, for many short-haul and medium-haul applications, slurry transport is more cost-effective than transport by truck or conveyor belt.  Partially-processed material from mining and metallurgical operations and other industries is often already in slurry form, facilitating pipe transport. Much of this is carried out using relatively small lines. For example newly-mixed concrete is a slurry and is sometimes piped from the mixing plant to other parts of a construction site.


As this slurry has a high resistance to flow, and as considerable static lifts are also common in construction, the pumps employed are usually of the positive-displacement type. Such pumps are also used in other high-head applications; and the best-known of these is the Black Mesa pipeline which transports a partially-processed coal slurry from the mine to a electrical generating station more than 400 km distant. This line, which involves heads at each pumping section of 75 atmospheres or more, began operation in 1970. Since that time many similar, but larger, coal pipelines have been proposed, but none has yet been built.


Recent decades have seen a great increase in the transport of waste materials, in slurry form, to suitable deposit sites. The concept is an old one and the earliest known use was by Hercules, who removed a decade's accumulation of animal droppings from King Augeas' stables by diverting two rivers to form an open-channel slurry transport system. Waste-disposal problems are even more severe at present, and maintenance of the environment requires that wastes be conveyed to dedicated and monitored disposal sites, either underground or on the surface. This requirement can often be satisfied by backfilling mines (either deep or open-pit), and slurry transport is the favoured placing method. Such backfilling operations are usually characterised by significant tonnages with short to medium hauls,and hence centrifugal pumps are the natural choice for these applications.


Large backfilling operations are found in Alberta, where petroleum is extracted from oil sands which are obtained by open-pit mining operations. After the extraction operations are completed, the sand (actually a mixture of sand, fine particles and some residual organics) is used as backfill in areas previously mined.  An example of a high pressure pump in an oil-sands tailings pipeline (Addie et a/., 1995) is shown on Figure 1.4.



Figure 1.4. High-pressure pump for a tar-sands tailings pipeline


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