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SAGUENAY – After having developed the unique EPURA self-cleaning particle filtration technology, Propulsa Innovations adds a novelty with an activated carbon toxic gas purification cartridge that stands out from other products on the market. This system is currently in the test phase on an anode transporter at the Grande-Baie plant.
EPURA technology, which eliminates the need to change filters by its self-cleaning design, is proven. It allows you to pressurize an operating cabin continuously and constantly thanks to a high-performance fan, regardless of the level of clogging of the filter. The novelty is that the Propulsa Innovations team has equipped it with a gas capture system in the form of an independent and refillable carbon cartridge.
“Smelters are very critical in terms of dust load, and our system is interesting because the filter is self-cleaning. But in these environments, it is not only necessary to remove the particles, but also to ensure that the workers are not exposed to toxic gases”, indicates Denis Dumais, vice-president of innovations at Propulsa.
Although products already exist on the market, the Saguenay company has chosen to innovate in the realization of its system. “By integrating EPURA technology, we are unique. We have also worked hard to obtain greater gas capture performance. In addition, our fan offers performance up to 10 times better than the competition in terms of pressures, which allows us to maintain stable pressures in the cabin,” says Mr. Dumais. The latter specifies that the system has its own human-machine interface which makes it possible to follow live the evolution of the state of the filter and to ensure optimal filtration at all times.
In addition, sustainable development has been taken into account in the design of the system. The other products on the market integrate the filters and the carbon in the same device which must be completely changed and thrown away when one or the other is saturated. The difference of the Propulsa system is that it uses
granular coal. “The filters are completely separate. Coal is a consumable, ie a particle of coal that is integrated into a container. When it is saturated, it is emptied and another quantity of granular coal is reintroduced. We just throw away the coal. And of course, our dust and particle filter is self-cleaning and does not need to be changed. In this way, less waste is generated,” explains the Vice-President of Innovations.
In order to test the concept in a real situation, Propulsa Innovations collaborated with EPIQ Mecfor and Rio Tinto to integrate it on the MTA30 anode carrier designed by the regional equipment manufacturer. [voir autre texte p.2]. This approach presented several technical challenges.
One of the challenges came from the size of the system, which was larger than the original ones. There was only one possible place where it could be installed on the MTA30 without affecting the operator’s field of vision. “Operator visibility is uncompromising. This is an unparalleled feature of EPIQ MECFOR’s design for this type of equipment,” notes Carl Lapointe, product engineer for the company.
A suitable support was therefore designed and the design of the box reviewed in order to be positioned in the required orientation. “There was no need to alter the normal functions of the vehicle and the tilting of the cab, which makes it easier to service and maintain,” adds Mr. Lapointe. Another challenge: the original EPURA technology fan was powered by 24 volts. However, the anode carrier required a 12 volt powered system. “So we had to find a fan with similar performance, but with a different voltage,” says Denis Dumais.
The conveyor has been in use at Rio Tinto’s Grande-Baie plant for about a month and a half. This stage, which allows performance to be tested under real conditions, is of great importance since it will make it possible to demonstrate the competitive advantages, to ensure yields from the point of view of worker health and safety and to confirm the benefits positive environmental. Close monitoring is carried out. The Rio Tinto team carries out regular gas tests, while a Propulsa technician inspects and collects data on the general condition of the system once a week.
The EPURA self-cleaning filtration system is one of the first concepts of Propulsa Innovations and has proven itself in terms of dust filtration. However, it had never before been combined with a device for purifying the toxic gases given off by certain industrial processes, including those in aluminum smelters. The company wanted to tackle this reality, always bringing added value to its product, in the form of a refillable charcoal cartridge.
Collaborate to better innovate
In this process, one of the best possible pieces of equipment to test the performance of the prototype was an anode carrier that operates in an industrial environment laden with carbon and alumina dust, in addition to harmful gases such as hydrogen fluoride. (HF) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Filters and carbon are subject to frequent replacement on these devices, which ensures that good air quality is maintained.
This is why the Propulsa Innovations team approached that of EPIQ MECFOR, a regional company recognized as a North American leader for this type of equipment, whose Saguenay facilities are also located near its own. .
The EPIQ MECFOR team, a regional division of EPIQ Machinery, was immediately interested in participating in the project with its MTA30 anode carrier. This previously used another technology for gas filtration and purification. However, these cartridges (one for the filter and one for the carbon) must be changed regularly and are quite expensive.
The EPURA system only requires replacement of the bulk carbon used for gas cleaning. “We found it interesting because of its filtration capacity, but also because it has good pressure maintenance in the cabin, a constant supply of fresh air and the filter cleans itself. No more downtime to change filters. As we generally have to change them every month, we save a lot of time. For the customer, it’s interesting”, summarizes Carl Lapointe, product engineer at EPIQ MECFOR.
In addition to technology, both companies have similar values and vision, which made it easy to work together. “We had a visit from Éloïse Harvey, CEO of EPIQ Machinerie. We have noticed that our corporate visions come together”, emphasizes Denis Dumais, Vice-President Innovations at Propulsa. “Joining the strengths of other organizations that are more specialized in certain areas creates synergies and win-win relationships,” adds Isabelle Gaudreau, marketing and communications coordinator at EPIQ Machinerie.
Rio Tinto is also involved in the project as buyer of the anode carrier and through Regional Economic Development (DER). The Grande-Baie plant team must also perform gas tests to confirm that exposure to HF and SO2 is compliant at all times in a real operating context.
“Rio Tinto has a desire to promote regional technologies. The aluminum industry basin in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean is a flagship both for the region and for Quebec. There was therefore an involvement in supporting the deployment of this trial in the factory,” says Ms. Gaudreau. All the synergy between the three organizations, which have a history of collaboration, ensured the success of the project. “There was an openness among the attendees to try it out. There is a favorable conjuncture that has developed to test this technology. Beyond the technique, there is a beautiful chemistry that allowed the project to come true”, she believes.
The close collaboration between the Propulsa and EPIQ MECFOR teams for adapting the system to the anode carrier was also the key to the success of the project. ” It went well. Our team is very imaginative. Our employees did a great collaborative job with the people from MECFOR to achieve an interesting concept. It happened quickly. Our people loved working on this project,” says Mr. Dumais.
“For us, it was almost a turnkey project. We provided the vehicle plans and the Propulsa team adapted the entire system. It was complex and they were very effective,” adds Carl Lapointe.