The contract, involving the design, engineering, manufacture, erection and supply of the two 36-MW dc furnaces and the off-gas cleaning system, was completed in September last year.
These furnaces were used for phase one and two of the smelter project, and were hot-commissioned in June and September respectively.
SMS Demag South Africa MD Till Schreiter explains that the technology used for the two furnaces was the same.
However, slight improvements were made on the second furnace.
In addition, the first furnace was able to maintain stable operation at 65% of the rated capacity only two months after hot-commissioning.
“The furnace start-ups on the Ticor South Africa contract were significantly faster than on previous projects, with start-up of the first furnace to full production taking three months, as opposed to the six to eight months planned.
“One of the reasons for this speedy start-up is that the technology and furnaces used at the smelter are suited well to the feed material, processes and site environmental issues at the plant.
“The anode design of the furnaces also adds to their reliability,” Shreiter tells Mining Weekly.
General manager Bernd Portugall adds that performance tests conducted at the smelter also showed better results than anticipated.
He adds that the company, in conjunction with a number of universities, investigated this technology prior to selection for the Ticor South Africa smelter, and that it was tested at a pilot plant in Pretoria before installation at the smelter.
“The pilot plant tested the symbiosis between the technological design and the process-related requirements of this specific technology.
“Another reason for testing this technology is that furnaces are long-term costly assets, and problems that arise cannot always be corrected quickly and easily,” says Portugall.
He adds that a problem was encountered with the first furnace after installation, when steam entered behind the refractory, which had to be replaced.
Some 50% of the project was completed in South Africa and the remaining 50% abroad.
“The engineering of the furnaces and off-gas system was completed in Germany, and a number of specialised parts, such as transformers and refractories, were imported from Europe.
“The boiler plates and other standard items, as well as the erection of the furnaces were performed locally, and involved a number of South African companies,” says Portugall.
According to Schreiter, one of the factors contributing to the success of the project was the good communication between Kumba Resources and SMS Demag, which is still on-going in terms of after-sales service.
“Ticor South Africa and Kumba worked with us on a professional basis in a problem-solving manner, which was important to the success of the project,” says Schreiter.
He adds that the company was awarded the contract due to the established relationship between Kumba Resources and SMS Demag, and its reputation as a global supplier.
Moreover, SMS Demag has the necessary experience and technical background in heavy minerals.
The company is also currently involved in the Mopani smelter, in Zambia, supplied the off-gas system for Namakwa Sands in Saldanha, supplied the meltshop, casting and rolling-mill equipment for Huletts Aluminium, in Maritzburg, and completed a large amount of work at Highveld Steel.
Schreiter notes that there are several feasibility studies under way for prospective ilmenite projects in Southern Africa, and he is confident that, if these projects are given the go-ahead, the company will be involved.
In terms of the company, he says that business has remained steady since last year, mainly due to currency instability in South Africa, which has created difficulty in being involved in large projects.
“The currency instability in South Africa has resulted in many companies re-evaluating the state of the rand before participating in projects.
“The similar situation in the global market has changed over the last three years, with the market growing stronger, and we anticipate that South Africa will follow the rest of the world in this regard,” says Schreiter.
He adds that the future of the company looks optimistic, as it has a stable set-up and good niche market, coupled with strong backing from its parent company.
These factors set the company in good stead for the future.