HYDRAULIC AIR COMPRESSORS – A FORGOTTEN SOLUTION FOR MINE AIR POWER AND MINE VENTILATION?

World Mining Congress
The hydraulic air compressor (HAC) is driven only by water, held up by a dam, to create relatively low head (typically 10-20 metres), such that the developed hydropower is used to cause flow in openings deeper underground. Air is entrained in the water at the inlet to the sub-surface openings (an air to water volume ratio of 1:1 is reported to be optimal) and is compressed as it is carried along by the deepening water flow. At depth, and with lower water velocities arising from larger cross sectional area tunnels, air bubbles separate out of the water flow and are collected in a receiver space above the flowing water. Water, free of air, then passes back up a return shaft (up-pipe) and rejoins the river or stream flow. In principle, an HAC can produce any pressure and flow rate required, given large enough shafts and enough water supply with head sufficient to overcome frictional resistance in the sub-surface tunnels. Practically, as air solubility in water increases with pressure, HAC installations with depths greater than 100 metres may lead to higher rates of compressed air loss, without special separation measures. A modern HAC application for mine refrigeration and cooling is presented.
Keywords: Air; Water; Waters; Systems; Pressure; Compressed air; flow; Shafts; Intake; energy;
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