Risk Management Approach to Taphole Integrity at Olympic Dam Copper Smelter

Additonal authors: Jenkins, D.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Musuka, F.

BHP Olympic Dam operates a Direct-to-Blister copper flash smelting Furnace (DBF) and an Electric Slag Cleaning Furnace (ESCF). Tapping blister copper from these furnaces via tapholes is a routine task carried out by trained personnel. Blister tapping is a high-risk activity with personnel operating in close proximity to molten metal. BHP’s risk management framework has identified taphole integrity as key to managing the potential for loss of molten metal containment and molten metal – water steam explosion, both of which have the potential to cause multiple fatalities. As part of the focus on managing this risk, since 2017, a dedicated Taphole Development Team has been embedded in the operation to run an accelerated improvement program focused on safely and sustainably embedding an improved taphole design with greater integrity. The program of works includes selecting and testing of new materials as well as improving operating discipline by collaborating with tapping personnel to convert their knowledge into codified condition monitoring and operating strategies. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is being used to derive critical risk controls, and to develop live-alerts to infer excessive refractory insert wear. To date, improving DBF blister taphole mudgun clay has led to more consistent drilling depths and subsequently reduced oxygen lancing requirements, resulting in improvements in taphole insert service life. On the ESCF, insert performance testing and development of a new taphole condition monitoring strategy, is being used to increase taphole insert tonnages to more sustainable levels. Operations personnel have been closely involved in different phases of the change management, this has led to standardization of tapping practices for both furnaces, and improved ownership of the proposed changes. The paper discusses the maturity in taphole integrity risk management as a result of recent and ongoing developments. It then provides an overview of future taphole developments proposed at Olympic Dam. INTRODUCTION Tapping operations at Olympic Dam and learning from significant events The Direct-to-Blister furnace (DBF) at Olympic Dam was built with a conventional design blister taphole, which was designed for manual oxygen lancing and clay stopper bar plugging tapping operations (Campbell, 2005). Manual tapping is a high-risk activity, where personnel work in close proximity to molten metal, and molten metal personal protective clothing and equipment must be used. Opening tapholes by oxygen lancing is a skilled activity and unintentional damage to the taphole inserts can occur. Since 2008, a Mudgun and Drill unit has been developed and trialled and is now in use on the DBF blister tapholes, to remove personnel from the line of fire when opening and closing tapholes. This has the additional benefit of reducing lancing damage to taphole inserts. A new taphole design labelled the Modular Blister Taphole (MBTH) was developed at Olympic Dam for the Mudgun and Drill operation. The intent of the design was for mudgun clay to fill the entire tapping channel when plugging after a tap. The drill would then drill through this clay plug to open the taphole.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019