April 2017

Achieving positive sampling outcomes

  • By Darryl Stevens FAusIMM, Sampling Technology Specialist, FLSmidth

An overview of current sampling operations, including a case study that highlights the importance of ensuring a strong relationship with project managers

FLSmidth began modestly in 1882 as an entrepreneurial firm and quickly became one of the world’s largest suppliers for the minerals and cement industries.

In recent decades, FLSmidth has pursued a dedicated strategy to invest in recognised product companies that add greater value to the large range of mineral processing and material handling equipment currently available.

In order to better control and optimise this range of equipment and processes, FLSmidth has developed quality-control methods that allow operators to maximise their returns on investment.

Sampling is a key element in the quality-control chain. Essa Australia was acquired by FLSmidth in 2011 to add a range of solid and slurry sampling equipment to its product portfolio. The Essa range of solid samplers had already become an accepted method of sampling for the rapidly expanding iron ore industry in Western Australia. The slurry sampling product range and experience was further enhanced with the acquisition of Ludowici in 2013. These acquisitions enabled FLSmidth to provide sampling for most commodities and allowed the company to apply its sampling processes to projects around the world.

FLSmidth’s global sampling design and product base is in Perth, Australia. This office is supported by experts in South America, the USA and Europe. The FLSmidth sampling range is marketed under the Essa brand. Design services are optimised through a global network of regional teams made up of distributors and agents.

These regional teams are regularly trained in the basic fundamentals of sampling theory and equipment requirements so that they can provide an initial discussion point with end users. This generally allows the specific design teams to provide suitable sampling outcomes.

Training of the teams is augmented with site visits accompanied by one of FLSmidth’s sampling experts. This allows for better understanding of the complexity of applying correct sampling techniques and helps visualise how the samplers can best be located to achieve optimal results. Too often, the correct samplers are selected but are then not installed in the best location to provide continuous operation.

However, some sampling situations require one of the Essa sampling experts to visit the site and discuss the sampling requirements in detail with the operator. This allows a more complete analysis of the project’s sampling needs, the site-specific conditions and the best installation location.

Case study – Albania

A typical case study involved working on a sampling project in Albania. This was FLSmidth’s first sampling system sold into Albania, and highlights the importance of consultation, internal teamwork and proficient project management. The FLSmidth team in Perth recently despatched a 40 foot container of sampling equipment to the ancient port of Durres on the shores of the Adriatic Sea.

Having only three months to design, manufacture and test the sampling system was always going to be a challenge. A tremendous team effort from the Perth engineering, workshop and warehouse teams ensured that the system shipped on time.

However, the background to this project began much earlier – from an enquiry received from an operations manager working for the Albanian power distribution organisation, the GSA Group (GSA).

The operations manager wanted a representative sampling system for chrome ore. The manager was previously a senior engineer with Albanian Chrome shpk, which was the state-owned ferrochrome business in Albania during communist rule. Albania is a major source of chrome ore, and ferrochrome provided the Albanian economy with much-needed outside currency.

Even though GSA is engaged in power distribution, the company owner decided to invest in a new ferrochrome plant to process local ore from small miners.

Ferrochrome smelting is power-dependant, so this matched well with the power distribution business. The company owner intends to provide a world-class smelter facility to optimise the company’s international presence.

GSA is remodelling an old industrial complex at Elbasan as the operations centre of the new smelter. Chrome ore is purchased in 1500 t lots from local family miners. A batch of 100 t is extracted and used to test the quality of the ore prior to payment for the lot.

GSA wished to improve the sampling procedure by not just using 100 t but instead sampling continuously as the 1500 t lot was crushed prior to processing.

FLSmidth provided an initial assessment, but it become clear that a site visit was necessary to understand the sampling requirements better and to make contact with the project owner and operational staff.

I visited the site in December 2015 and discussed the proposed final sampling outcome. After discussions with the GSA business manager, the outcome was agreed upon and the order finalised.

The final project involved the supply of a primary linear sampler, belt feeder, jaw crusher, secondary sampler and a reject conveyor. Despite the short time frame, FLSmidth was able to deliver the necessary equipment by the project deadline. This case study shows the importance of interacting directly with end users to provide an amenable technical and business outcome while ensuring that sampling theory is followed.

Having compliant sampling equipment does not necessarily solve quality-control requirements, and it is essential that sampling design provides the correct outcome within the operating environment. By linking customer intimacy, regional cooperation, proven equipment design and strong process know-how, a positive outcome was able to be achieved on this project.  

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