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Getting to the core: faster drilling and reduced fuel costs with Rand-Air’s new DrillAir compressors

In a first for Rand-Air, the company has acquired Atlas Copco DrillAir Y1260 variable high pressure (21 to 35 bar) compressors.

This new technology – from the world’s leading manufacturer of drilling equipment – has been scientifically designed around pressure and flow for a wide range of high-capacity drilling applications.

These two new units are ideally suited for applications such as mineral exploration drilling, geothermal drilling, construction and blast hole drilling; as well as for services such as aerated drilling and the drilling of wells.

“At Rand-Air, we constantly strive to exceed customer expectations. And therefore, for our drilling customers, choosing the right compressor to match hole depth and hammer size is critical to their success,” says Rand-Air Fleet Manager Craig Swart.

“With these two new compressors, our mining customers can choose the right compressor for their core business; and have the flexibility to adapt to changes in well depth and hammer size for any custom application,” Swart points out.

He adds that DrillAir compressors can achieve maximum air flow at any pressure, as the relationship between pressure and flow is optimised, thereby creating the ideal combination of these two variables to improve drilling efficiency through the most efficient use of compressed air – and ultimately, dramatically reducing fuel costs.

What sets the two new DrillAir compressors apart is their advanced PACE and DrillAir AirXpert technologies, which are simple to use and place drill operators firmly in control. PACE (Pressure-Assisted through Cognitive Electronics) is a dynamic optimisation feature, which allows the user to tap into the compressor’s electric engine to control pressure and flow.

Being able to match flow and pressure to their application requirements now eliminates the need to have two separate machines.

DrillAir AirXpert furthermore offers up to 30% improved drilling speeds. This performance management system includes software (Dynamic Flow Boost, Dynamic Control and XPR), as well as a LED hardware controller (Xc4003), electronically controlled inlet valve and a variable minimum pressure valve.

The Dynamic Flow Boost provides up to 4 m³ a minute additional flow when flashing and during drill stem refills. In addition, Dynamic Flow Boost gives 10% more flow at lower working pressure for large diameter drilling. The key benefits include quicker flushing, faster drill stem refill, and a shorter time to complete drilling.

“Atlas Copco’s XPR (Extended Pressure Range) extends the working pressure range whilst setting it as low as 21 bar. In addition, the FuelXpert system ensures fuel efficiency and partial load with an additional fuel filter for better engine protection,” he explains.

“The combination of DrillAir AirXpert technology, the Atlas Copco screw element and the Cummins Stage III engine provides high efficiency for a wide range of pressure and flow settings,” Swart adds.

With its 500-hour service intervals, Rand-Air’s new DrillAir compressors offer customers trouble-free service, quick and simple maintenance and low operational costs. The machines’ centralised drain and air filtration systems facilitate easy servicing; while the design of the new oil separator system reduces maintenance time by over an hour. A dedicated service door allows for convenient oil level observation and oil filling. A three-layer coating on the body of the machine offers an extended life of corrosion-free service, further contributing to lower operational costs.

“Our new DrillAir compressors have been chosen for their robustness, and the fact that they are therefore well-suited for use in remote and harsh environments, where support is sometimes hard to access,” concludes Swart.

Rand-Air temporary generator hire a ‘power of good’ for mining companies

Many South Africans have recently experienced the frustration of mains power outages. While for the private citizen, the lack of electricity for an extended period is an inconvenience, for companies such as mining operations the consequences are much more serious.

In renting generators to mines, there are two aspects to consider. First of all, there is the rental of ad hoc temporary power and secondly, and possibly more crucial, is the rental generators for mine plant shutdowns.

Mining companies, in particular, with the vast sums of capital often invested in them cannot afford production downtime. Rand-Air is able to respond to such crises with high-quality rental generators and the technical support to ensure an uninterrupted flow of power. The company’s range of generators runs from 20 kVA models right up to 1100 kVA units. All run at 50 Hz but can be adjusted to 60 Hz on request. The power supply can either be single-phase 220 V or three-phase 380 V.

“Importantly, our generators are supplied with all accessories needed for immediate operation,” explains Rand-Air Fleet Manager Craig Swart. This includes distribution boards, cables, joiner boxes, COC kits and transformers if necessary.

“If required, Rand-Air is able to advise its customers on the capacity of the generator they need,” he says.

What are particularly useful are the Change over Contactor (COC) kits. These are invaluable when a customer needs a generator to be on standby and start supplying electricity automatically should mains AC power fail. In order to use a COC kit, the generator needs to have an Automatic Mains Failure (AMF) feature.

Rand-Air generators are mounted on trailers (except for the TwinPower which is containerised) and, today, many have distribution boards mounted on the trailer as well, a factor which simplifies the use of the unit. Being trailer mounted, the generators can be taken right to the point where the power is actually needed.

Innovation has always been a hallmark of Atlas Copco. As an example, to this end, Rand-Air has purchased four Atlas Copco TwinPower generators, two 550 kVA generators being installed in each container.

This containerised generator solution gives a very compact footprint, unrivalled versatility, optimised performance and excellent fuel economy in demanding modular power plant (MPP) applications. In addition, the two modules inside the container can be synchronised so that it is possible to supply either 1100 kVA or 550 kVA – a versatile and portable cost- and fuel-saving option for the customer.

“Many of our mining customers prefer to have one self-contained unit on site, as opposed to two individual 550 kVA generators in sync,” explains Swart. The footprint of the container is smaller than two individual 550 kVA generators; and having the generators in containers protects them against extreme weather conditions.

From time to time, mines need to shut down their processing plant for an extended period of planned maintenance in order to avoid un-scheduled shutdowns. With these shutdowns, on occasion, mines use the services of hundreds of subcontractors, all of whom need temporary power. Every day a mine plant is out of operation, the financial losses are considerable, so all equipment on site has to be absolutely reliable and well supported. As Rand-Air sources its generation equipment from world leading manufacturer Atlas Copco, reliability is not an issue. Combined with Rand-Air’s superb service, this is a winning combination.

“Naturally, before any equipment item goes on to site it scrupulously checked by our technicians to ensure no costly breakdowns or downtime ensues,” Swart continues.

“For us at Rand-Air, mine shutdowns, while they are challenging, are also very exciting as they give us the opportunity to show what our company is capable of,” he explains.

“The achievement of finding 50,000 cfm of compressed air for a customer at short notice and getting it safely to site on time is a satisfying and rewarding experience both for ourselves and, ultimately, for our customers,” Swart concludes.

Whether portable diesel or stationary electric, for every application Rand-Air has a compressor to blow you away

In its 46 years of operation, Rand-Air has built up an enviable reputation in the mining industry for the quality of its compressors and the excellence of its service. The company supplies either portable diesel compressors or stationary electric compressors, each of which have particular applications. All Rand-Air compressors use screw compression elements to produce compressed air.

“In mining, industry and manufacturing, compressed air is frequently absolutely essential,” explains Rand-Air Fleet Manager Craig Swart. In the extraction of minerals from the ground, the first action that is taken is exploration drilling, which is carried out with compressed air. If a mine is an open pit operation, then compressors are essential for initial overburden stripping and blast-hole drilling to remove the actual ore.

“Some of our smaller portable generators are roadworthy and can be towed behind a suitable vehicle, and can be rapidly deployed to site,” Swart continues. The smaller range of Rand-Air compressors range from 190 cubic feet a minute (cfm) unit to a 400-cfm compressor. These deliver seven bar pressure.

However, if there is a requirement for larger volumes, Rand-Air is able to supply a range of compressors from a 620-cfm unit to its XAS746 compressor which supplies 1500 cfm. This range will supply pressures of between 7 and 10 bar. These compressors are mounted on four-wheel trailers and need to be transported to site. “They have often proved invaluable in factory breakdown situations, as standby compressed air where an uninterrupted supply of air is crucial,” he adds.

If there is a requirement for high-pressure compressed air, Rand-Air supplies a range of compressors from the XAHS186 (370 cfm @ 12 bar) to the impressive XRVS 487 (1052 cfm @ 25 bar). These have application in mineral exploration drilling and for flaring in the petrochemical industry.

“What is new to Rand-Air is that to more effectively serve the needs of the exploration drilling industry, Rand-Air has introduced the DrillAir Y1260 variable high-pressure compressor which will deliver 1431 cfm @ 21 bar ranging up to 1226 cfm @ 35 bar. Being able to choose exactly the right pressure to match strata conditions, hole size and bit type “is proving to be a cost saver for local drilling contractors”.

Rand-Air also supplies what are known as ‘boosters’. These skid mounted units are well suited for use in the pipeline industry and an exploration drilling. They have a maximum working pressure of 69 bar and are able to deliver 2440 cfm.

Customers of Rand-Air can also source a range of various Atlas Copco electric compressors. These deliver volumes from 190 cfm – 1500 cfm at 7 bar pressure and our available on wheels or skids. They operate on 380 v with step up and down transformers. “These units are particularly useful in underground mining operations where diesel fumes would not be acceptable,” he continues.

A growth area for Rand-Air has been in the supply of oil free compressors, which supply air which is absolutely contaminant free. While there are other compressors on the market which are advertised as ‘technically oil free’, Rand-Air’s Atlas Copco oil-free compressors supply air that is 100% absolutely oil- and contaminant-free. This machine has proved very popular in the food and beverage industry, in medical applications and in particular with oil refineries and mines during major plant shutdowns. Temporary compressed air is needed to activate control systems during the shutdowns, and here Rand-Air’s oil-free air provides the answer. The PTS916 supplies 1600 cfm at 7 bar, and 1270 cfm at 10 bar. The unit can be run from 1 bar up to a maximum pressure of 10 bar. A built-in after cooler ensures the air is supplied at ambient +10°.

In addition, with its compressors, Atlas Copco supplies a range of highly efficient air dryers which are dedicated oil-free air units and are suitable for use with oil-injected compressors.

“What our mining customers like about our compressors is that they get much more than just a machine. We strive to serve our customers with bespoke solutions that exactly suit their needs and exceed their expectations,” Swart concludes.

New Rand-Air GM to build further on the company’s firm foundation

Since its inception in 1973, Rand-Air has been driven by a simple yet highly effective operational ethos – to exceed customer expectations at all times. The company has underpinned this with a fleet of top-quality equipment and unmatched customer service levels; and prospered to such a degree that, in a synergistic move in 1998, leading international equipment manufacturer and supplier Atlas Copco acquired Rand-Air.

Throughout his 33 year tenure, previous Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus maintained and developed the company’s dynamic growth and development trajectory very successfully. However, in December 2019, he stepped down to embark on other ventures and a well-deserved retirement.

Taking over as Rand-Air’s new General Manager with effect from 1 January 2020 is former Sales Manager Kim Coetzee. Coetzee has been with Rand-Air for the past 24 years, and has held a variety of positions throughout the company.

“This has given me a thorough understanding of exactly how a rental company works. With this understanding and industry knowledge gained over the years, I look forward to putting this knowledge into practice, to take Rand-Air to even greater levels of achievement,” she explains.

Asked whether she has seen an evolution in the company during her time with the business, Coetzee says: “Yes definitely, the focus has shifted in terms of not only the markets we serve, but we have become an organisation that looks to offer specialised solutions to a diverse vertical industry-focused customer base – something I intend to develop even further.”

Looking to the future, Coetzee’s ethos is simple: “My focus has been – and will continue to be – exceeding customer expectations. However, I will be bringing my own interpretation to this.”

She believes that the current Rand-Air team is the best in the equipment hire industry and, therefore, her goal will be to support and grow this team further, in order to take the organisation to the next level.

“In today’s challenging times, the importance of teamwork – and of each team member making the effort to deliver consistently high-quality results – cannot be over-emphasised.” She explains that the same applies in Rand-Air; and that, to this point, every employee takes full responsibility for the work they do – no matter what the level of seniority.

“When you work for a fantastic organisation such as this, where there is a collaborative, inclusive environment with passionate people, it is possible to build on this foundation. To do this, Rand-Air annually invests considerable sums in training and developing our team, so that their growth and success is reflected in that of the company.

Personally, I have had the privilege of attending excellent management training which taught me a huge amount, personally and professionally. I look forward to applying this knowledge, in the management of Rand-Air going forward.

We also always look to attract new talent so that our team remains diverse in terms of skills and cultures,” she points out.

Coetzee furthermore emphasises the importance of being part of a global organisation – Atlas Copco Specialty Rental, a provider of world-class solutions in the air, power and flow markets – which means that Rand-Air, and consequently there customers, constantly have access to the very latest in leading-edge technology.

“Recent good examples are the introduction to the Rand-Air fleet of Atlas Copco’s two new-technology DrillAir variable high-pressure compressors, which with their versatility, will lower the cost-per-metre of drilling for various drilling applications.

Another recent innovative example is the introduction of Atlas Copco TwinPower generators. This containerised generator solution gives a very compact footprint, unrivalled versatility, optimised performance and excellent fuel economy in demanding modular power plant (MPP) applications. In addition, the two modules inside the container can be synchronised so that it is possible to supply either 1000 kVA or 500 kVA – a versatile and portable cost- and fuel-saving option for the customer,” Coetzee explains, adding that the range of Atlas Copco global solutions is extensive and, where applicable, Rand-Air makes these available to their customers.

“Our Level 3 B-BBEE rated company now has branches and agencies spread across Southern Africa, and we will continue to expand our operational footprint so that we can service our diverse market, as opportunities arise,” she continues.

“Ultimately, at Rand-Air, everything we do is focused on our customers, as our future sustainability and prosperity is vested in theirs. To this end, we recognise the importance of continuous improvement and of working hard to develop ourselves and our skillsets accordingly.

As the new General Manager of Rand-Air, I would like to extend my immense appreciation to Louwrens Erasmus for all that he did for the company – and for each and every one of us – in setting an example of continuous improvement and self-development.

For my part, I look forward to working closely with our excellent team to continue with our mission of exceeding our valued customers’ expectations with the highest quality products and service,” concludes Coetzee.

Rand-Air’s portable LED lighting units: placing mines in a favourable light

With the enormous investment placed in large open-pit mines, the pressure is on these operations to produce. Inevitably, this dictates that they work around the clock. However, working at night does present some very real potential safety hazards which are not present during the hours of daylight.

This is according to Craig Swart, Fleet Manager at Rand-Air, the leading local provider of compressed air and power to the mines, as well as to many other industry sectors.

“The most serious potential hazard in an open-pit mine – even during daylight hours – are the very large load-hall-dumpers, excavators and rope shovels used to excavate and transport broken ore. Apart from vehicle headlights, better all-round area lighting is an absolute necessity to ensure safe operations,” says Swart, adding that having clear, strong area lighting means that drivers of off-the-road mining equipment will be able to pick up the reflective strips on a pedestrian’s safety vest with much greater ease.

Rand-Air has the solution in its portable LED lighting units.

“As these units are fitted with LED bulbs, they are remarkably economical and will run for days without requiring refuelling or any other attention. In addition, modern LED bulbs last longer and fail less often than their earlier filament counterparts, and can handle harsh mining conditions without burning out prematurely,” Swart explains.

As the diesel engine, generator and lighting tower are all contained on a single trailer, there are no trailing cables to either get cut, damaged or trip over. Furthermore, as they are mounted on a robust trailer, moving them to new positions as mining shifts in the pit, takes a matter of minutes.

What makes Rand-Air portable lighting units an even more attractive rental proposition is that the company regularly upgrades its equipment fleet with new machines. In addition, Rand-Air lighting units are all manufactured by world leader Atlas Copco and, as such, these units deliver the most cost-effective, lowest maintenance service.

As Rand-Air portable lighting units are fitted with LED bulbs, they are remarkably economical and will run for days without requiring refuelling or any other attention.

Rand-Air portable lighting units are also backed up by the company’s unmatched service ethic. In the unlikely event of an issue with one of these machines, Rand-Air’s qualified technicians are on standby 24/7 to ensure that full lighting is restored without delay.

Speaking to the all-important requirement for safety at all times – particularly within the mining environment – where occupational health and safety challenges are amongst the biggest causes of injuries and fatalities – Swart makes the following recommendation:

“Outdated lighting units in any industry that are not operating at a satisfactory level pose a serious threat to the working environment and its people. A preventative maintenance strategy is therefore critical, to guarantee safe operation of the equipment – and is key to minimising the risk of injuries or accidents.”

Rand-Air lighting units are available for short-term hire, as well as via the company’s long-term rental scheme which allows customers to take advantage of considerable cost savings.

“In the past couple of years, our portable lighting units have been a boon to the surface mining industry. With proper lighting, workers can concentrate on getting the job done and being more productive, but in a well-lit and therefore far safer environment. In a nutshell – and true to our Rand-Air business ethos – we always place our customers in a ‘favourable light’,” he concludes.

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