Don’t get burnt by gas price rises: tips for industry

Gas prices are on the rise, starting tomorrow with a 17.8% increase this year in New South Wales, with other parts of eastern Australia expected to follow in coming years. That means it’s a crucial time for Australian industry to ask how they could be cutting their gas costs, especially by finding ways to use energy more efficiently.

Typical annual gas bills will rise by between A$155 and A$225 for NSW households depending on where people live and how much gas they use. That’s according to the independent NSW price regulator IPART, which approved the increase.

Elsewhere, many other Australian businesses are bracing themselves for higher energy costs as the development of LNG exports looks set to push up domestic gas prices. The eastern coast of Australia will be particularly affected, with the start up of Queensland LNG exports due later this year, just as a wave of existing domestic supply contracts are set to expire and need to be renewed. The effect will be felt almost immediately.

So which households and industries are most likely to feel the burn of the gas price hikes? And what can you do to reduce these energy costs at  a high-energy industry?

Saving gas for industry

In the industrial sector, gas is used in large volumes for various purposes including heat as well as electricity.

However prices for industrial users, which have typically ranged between A$3.50 and A$4 a gigajoule, have surged to about A$8 for some short-term contracts.

Some analysts are warning prices could temporarily spike above A$10 before moderating again to a level substantially higher than previously.

The Altona Refinery, which supplies half of Victoria’s fuel needs.
eidlog42/Flickr, CC BY-NC

The industries more sensitive to gas price hikes are the chemicals, glass, fertilizer and refining industries, as gas represents a significant portion of their cost of production.

There have been some predictions that an increase in wholesale gas prices could cause a number of companies in these industries to curtail or even close production. However, there is considerable potential to save gas in industrial production.

So what can these gas-intensive industries do? Our research found that companies accounting for more than half of Australia’s total energy consumption have reported energy efficiency projects that could save up to 15% of their total gas use, lowering energy costs by more than $400 million and cutting emissions by 5 million tonnes a year.

Those cost savings will be even higher as gas prices increase. The energy efficiency improvements could free up to 92 petajoules of gas a year within manufacturing and 104 petajoules overall. To put that in perspective, NSW’s entire annual gas consumption is about 150 petajoules, so that could be a significant saving for Australia.

Opportunities for industry to reduce their gas use include:

  • Improvements to operational processes, such as upgrading technologies, including metering, controls, load optimisation activities;
  • Improving process design;
  • Equipment upgrades for heating and boiler systems; and
  • Changes to staff behaviour and maintenance practices.

Of the gas savings identified, more than 40% have a payback period for business of less than two years.

Gas prices can indeed affect household budgets and companies’ bottom line. However, Australian households and businesses can take action to reduce their gas use and save money on their energy bills. Doing so will also help reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is good for all of us in the longer-term.

The Conversation

Anna Skarbek does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published in full on The Conversation.
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Liebherr launches new global website

Liebherr has launched a new global website portal that is more interactive and provides more equipment information.

The site officially relaunched yesterday, with the first phase focused on restructuring the content about the group itself.

Liebherr has also expanded its career section, highlighting new jobs available.

The second phase of the site will begin in spring this year, with new product areas being added into a single site, instead of being split in to separate brand portals.

The site will feature interactive controls that allow users to get more indepth information in a more easily navigable way.

It will also optimise the site for smart phones. 

Sandvik to move manufacturing offshore

Sandvik has announced it will move the majority of its Australian manufacturing operations offshore over the next 12 months.

According to the mining equipment maker, this will allow it to bring focus back to the servicing and support of equipment for customers in Australia.

This latest decision will affect manufacturing at its Canning Vale factory in Perth, and its recently opened Heatherbrae site north of Newcastle.

Sandvik opened the Heatherbrae site in 2012, however it was soon forced to cut positions at the site as part of its wider Australian review, which saw 73 redundancies nationally, following a sharp drop in the price of coal.

It also closed its Mayfield hard materials facility last year as well.

Due to this new offshoring Sandvik will around 170 positions nationally at its manufacturing and related operations over the coming year.

However it will continue to provide sales, maintenance, and aftermarket services from its facilities, and recently opened a new facility in Orange focused on aftermarket support for mining.

Sandvik’s Bayswater facility, which manufacturers conveyor pulleys, rollers, and frames for mining and construction centres will remain in operation.

Speaking on the offshoring decision, Sandvik country manager Rowan Melrose said that it was a regrettable one, but was inevitable in the current global economy.

“We fully understand the impact that
this decision will have on individuals, their families and the local
community,” he said. Sandvik employees affected by this announcement will be
supported through the company’s employee assistance program,” Melrose said.

PPK sells site to make more mining acquisitions

PPK Group has sold its Arndell Park property to make more mining services acquisitions.

According to the company it sold the property for approximately $12.24 million.

The sale will be settled by mid-October this year.

“The proceeds from the sale will be used to fund a combination of further mining services focused acquisitions,” the company stated.

PPK acquired COALTRAM earlier this year.

Mapping new ground

Finding ways to streamline productivity is never far from a manager’s mind, and MAVinci’s latest offering to the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) market has removed a big part of the work from aerial surveying.

The Sirius Pro UAV offers the same 5cm accuracy as a Sirius Classic, but with one crucial difference: There’s no need for ground control points (GCPs).

With most types of UAV, ground control points have been required for modelling and surveying applications.

However, this revolutionary new system altogether removes the need to set up ground control points to guide the vehicle.

This saves a huge amount of time involved in setting up a survey, which reduces costs and increases efficiency.

It also does away with the need to get into areas that are difficult to access, hazardous, or too large to be aerially surveyed with ease.

MAVinci’s Australasian distributor, Position Partners UAS product manager Gavin Docherty said that setting out ground control can often take more than 50 per cent of the total project time for an aerial survey.

“By removing this step in the process, the Sirius Pro delivers the same accuracy and reliability of data with ultimate convenience for the user,” he said.

The Sirius Pro features Topcon Positioning System’s high precision GNSS technology, with an on-board Topcon 100Hz dual frequency geodetic GNSS receiver to deliver RTK accuracy.

The MAVinci Connector then works as an RTK base station, which transmits corrections to the GNSS receiver on-board, enabling high precision surveying in real-time.

The Sirius Pro UAV essentially puts ground points in the air, eliminating the need for manual set-out on the ground.

This technology could prove a game changer for any surveyor wanting to undertake large-scale mapping and topographical surveys and is especially useful for mining applications.

Mine surveyors face the challenge of conducting surveys, reconciliation and geological work in active mining areas with working heavy machinery. This often requires the surveyor to get approval to shut down plant on site for ground control set-out, adding lengthy delays to a survey.

Sirius Pro customer and director of UAS surveying firm Airmap3D Matt Ewing has experienced the benefits of removing ground control points from the equation.

“Organising the logistics to get out and set out the ground control points was a long process that would add up to a whole day to each job,” he said.

“But now I can deliver a job to a mine site, from start to finish including data processing, in half a day with the same if not better accuracy than the Classic model.” 

QME 2014 Preview: Mining chains and clutches

The Tsubaki Group is a leading manufacturer of mining chains, sprockets, cam clutches, power cylinders and cable carrier systems used in underground mines, above ground mines, preparation plants, power stations and port facility applications. 

Its complete line up of mining chains include Shuttle Car Chain, Feeder Breaker Chain as well as various chains used on drill rigs, rotary breakers, reclaimers, face/roof drilling, continuous miners, prep plants and continuous haulage systems will be on show at the upcoming Queensland Mining and Engineering Exhibition this month.

According to the company all of its chains use alloy-grade steels, heat treated to withstand the punishment of today’s more powerful, high production equipment. 

To better serve the mining industry Tsubaki stock a large range of special mining application chains in stock.

Furthermore as the Tsubaki Group prides itself on its ability to answer customers’ demanding needs through innovative customisation of its products, it is able to manufacture made to order chains and attachment configurations, sprockets etc. for operators’ individual application requirements.

“Tsubaki’s range of mining series Cam Clutches has a greater torque capacity size-for-size than other clutches,” the company claims.

Reliable, tough, field proven, Tsubaki precision formed cams are “non-roll over type” with superior durability against shock loads.

“With cams and races always in contact, you get instantaneous hold reverse without backlash,” it said. 

National transport reforms have led to some improvements in the rail regulatory regime, but much more needs to be done to achieve the full benefits of reform.

Calibre wins BHP Point Hay coal terminal contract

Calibre has won the contract for BHP’s Point Hay coal terminal expansion in Queensland.

The contract, worth approximately $79 million, will include both on and offshore electrical and mechanical work for BHP subsidiary BMA.

It is an extension of existing contracts, as well as new work.

The work will be carried out through Calibre’s subsidiary G&S Engineering.

Speaking on the win, Calibre CEO Peter Reichler stated the company is “pleased to be awarded this work at Hay Point; Calibre is strongly committed to its coal sector infrastructure clients in the region”.

Calibre was awarded the initial Hay Point onshore upgrade contract, worth around $140 million, in April last year.

Trimble acquires Australian Mining Information Systems

Trimble has acquired private Australian enterprise level information management company Mining Information Systems (MIS).

According to Trimble these new “enterprise level capabilities can enable improved productivity, profitability, and safety by providing a more complete view of geospatial, productivity, workforce, and cost data across functional areas to support better operational and strategic decision making”.

Mining Information Systems provide systems for data needed for enterprise wide monitoring and management of mining and minerals processing operations.

The programs are modular, with systems for mining production, processing, HR management, and web-based portals for access.

These systems are scalable and not restricted by different mining methods used.

“MIS systems collect and integrate data across
functional areas and sources, regardless of data origin. This capability
combined with Trimble’s geospatial solutions can provide increased mine
productivity through the aggregation, analysis and presentation of information
that enables better decision making for mining customers,” Trimble said in a company statement.

“Productivity applications in functional areas such as drill and blast,
haulage and materials processing have improved operational efficiencies, but
the value of this data has not been fully realised since it is not readily
collected and integrated for a complete, site-wide view. MIS offers an
enterprise-level system that unlocks data and metrics from across functional
areas for a complete view of mine productivity and profitability for decision
makers across planning, operations and finance,” Nathan Pugh, business
area director of Trimble’s Mining Division, said. 

It did not disclose the cost of the acquisition.

Building the nation will be impossible without engineers

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia now and in the future. Written by luminaries and accompanied by two expert commentaries to ensure a broader perspective, these articles run fortnightly and focus on each of the major scientific areas. Here, we examine where engineers can take us.

Australian industries need the flexibility, insight and foresight that comes from thinking creatively, asking critical questions, forming and testing hypotheses and reasoning quantitatively – and engineers have the technical knowledge and the problem solving skills to respond to constant change.

As they have a holistic understanding of the practical needs of communities, businesses and the environment they are well positioned to work with other disciplines, including scientists and designers, to provide a stream of new ideas and technical responses essential for sustainable competitive industries.

But future knowledge-based industries won’t just spring up because Australia’s engineers are generally well regarded or because Australia’s engineering degrees and professional associations are of high quality.

The ability of engineers to build Australia into the future – to literally build our modern infrastructure and to foster invention and innovation to support internationally competitive industries – will depend largely on changes that must occur over the next decade or so.

marco antonio torres/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Australia’s next generation of engineers, our school students, poorly understand the role of engineering and the importance of the sciences and the mathematics that underpin the ubiquitous technology that determines the way we live.

We have too few students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at higher levels at high school, too few going onto engineering at university, and a shortage of engineering skills across the economy as a consequence.

We can’t just look to immigration to fill this gap; engineers are in demand across the world. Recent national efforts to promote STEM education are good news and are gaining ground, but we need to proactively continue to support capacity building.

The importance of a collaborative culture

From the university perspective we need to further enhance the engagement of engineering students with industry – beyond existing professional experience requirements within Australian engineering degrees – to produce truly “work ready” graduates.

The OECD currently lists Australia last place out of 33 nations for collaboration on innovation between businesses and the higher education sector and public research agencies.

This is a critical gap that we must address by providing substantial opportunities for students to undertake internships within a variety of industries and by bringing many more industry specialists and policy makers into the classroom to enthuse and inspire students.

This kind of holistic engineering education produces graduates who not only understand how to innovate, but how to address the real world needs of both societies and industries.

To make sure we can respond competitively in the face of intense global competition, engineering education and research must be framed by the understanding of the economic realities and operating conditions that industries face that such deep engagement fosters.

Ford has a long history in Australia and those skills can be put to use after its factories close in 2016.
Five Starr Photos (Aussiefordadverts)/Flickr, CC BY-SA

From a business point of view we need to change the way we think about our industries. The recent announcements ending car manufacturing in Australia are a good example.

That Australia will no longer manufacture cars is only a disaster if we are unable to identify and analyse what it took to make those cars, and apply this knowledge in another way.

So instead of mourning the loss of “big” industries defined by particular “end products” we need to be constantly looking for creative, new opportunities along increasingly complex, evolving value chains.

Adding value

To create niche solutions that are smarter and more efficient requires both human and intellectual resources working within a vibrant culture of innovation. The key concept here is “high-value output” which is not necessarily an “end product”.

With consumer consumption driving the mass proliferation of high-tech products, we can be certain that these products will have some aspects in common such as various electronic components, which will in turn drive demand for the niche materials we need to make them.

Businesses might identify opportunities for diversification by making chips for various electronic products used in entertainment and health industries. Those car parts manufacturers could switch to making steel parts for complex equipment or for the beds used in hospitals, as the health-related industries expand with ageing populations.

What is critical here is expertise in making sophisticated steel parts and the ability to recognise and take advantage of commercially viable opportunities to continue to use those skills as economies evolve (such as within the burgeoning health care sector).

Matt Houghey/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Interestingly, this growing demand for health care services and related infrastructure and equipment and the explosion in electronics – that require high-value, niche inputs such as metal alloys – is converging as the health care sector depends increasingly on complex information technology and as more and more health services are deployed in the homes via sophisticated self-managed equipment and the remote monitoring of, and communication with, patients.

Likewise, when we think about the value chain we need to think more creatively about how to incorporate the masses of potentially valuable materials we currently throw away as waste.

Not only are natural resources being depleted at an unsustainable pace, and carbon emissions rising, but industries recognise the cost-effectiveness of reusing materials. It will largely be engineers that can deliver previously unimaginable solutions.

It may not seem obvious, but alternative carbon sources from waste plastics to used tyres – huge waste burdens globally – can be usefully transformed into value-added steel by partially replacing the conventional carbon source, non-renewable coke, in electric arc furnace steelmaking.

This “green steelmaking” process, which I helped develop at UNSW, results in a more efficient furnace, reducing demand for power and simultaneously transforming problematic wastes.

Greater than the sum of its parts

Equally, engineers can provide the technical expertise to support entrepreneurs pursuing their own ideas. Such a combination of engineering and business enables both areas of expertise to achieve much more together.

In my own experience working with our commercial partner to develop our “green steel” making process, a whole range of different professions were critical in ensuring that we captured the intellectual property (IP) we generated.

Protecting our IP has meant we were able to take our business case to the world, resulting in international commercialisation of our technology in collaboration with our industry partner.

Working in partnerships with other disciplines and with industries, engineers will create new knowledge, generate groundbreaking technologies, participate in research collaborations and training exchanges. This will ensure a rapid translation of knowledge into value for Australian industries.

This will create a culture of learning driven by innovative thinking, grounded in collaboration and built on the recognition that the dynamic changes in our world are inevitable.

If we are prepared to see change as a continuous cycle of new opportunities, not new problems, we will realise our aspirations. Future generations of engineers have much to contribute to ensuring new ideas and solutions lead to continuous improvement in quality of life, in Australia, and internationally.

Robin Batterham, Professor at the University of Melbourne

As a former Chief Scientist, I can be brave and push the line that ideas, as such, don’t really affect our lives. Don’t get me wrong – uncovering knowledge is important and we must play our part in generating and exchanging it. That said, it is the application of ideas in technology and science that impacts our livelihood.

Kevin Dooley/Flickr, CC BY

Do you want to wind the emissions clock back without getting rid of six billion people? Then chat up the engineers as what needs to happen also must be economic and practical and innovative – the realm of engineers.

Moving from climate onto manufacturing: it is hardly the strong and vibrant core of Australia at the present, and yet it could be.

Through Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and other research groups and with industry associations, there is a renaissance of activity in high value add, agile manufacturing companies, tackling the world’s supply chains as they become more complex, demanding and internationally linked.

Be it communication systems, bionic devices or advanced composites, engineers are creating and driving success that benefits us all, economically, socially and with sustainability.

We just need more of them.

Cathy Foley, Chief of CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering

Australia has an excellent track record of scientific discovery, but what are not as well recognised are the engineered outcomes that use this science.

Andrew Goodwin/Flickr, CC BY-NC

From cochlear implants and sleep apnoea breathing machines to new chemical engineering processes that improve all plastics, Australia has some great examples of technology-led products that have global markets. But have we kept up with the times and is Australian engineering competitive enough?

We need to take that scientific ingenuity that we are famous for and engineer our discoveries into new industries. These industries should be the basis of future technologies and next generation products that transform how we live and work.

We have this stereotypical vision of scientists with their heads in the clouds and engineers with their heads under the car bonnet.

Imagine if we got better at connecting scientists, engineers and investors to turn our manufactured future into a modern, resilient, exciting and highly exportable commodity.

Australia is well placed to create an engineering-led boom – so let’s do it.

This article is part of the Australia 2025: smart science series, co-published with the Office of the Chief Scientist. Further reading:
Australia’s future depends on a strong science focus today
Physics: a fundamental force for future security
Proteins to plastics: chemistry as a dynamic discipline
Optimising the future with mathematics
Australia can nurture growth and prosperity through biology
A healthy future? Let’s put medical science under the microscope
Groundbreaking earth sciences for a smart – and lucky – country
Marine science: challenges for a growing ‘blue economy’

The Conversation

Veena Sahajwalla has collaborated with OneSteel through ARC Linkage grants scheme. The PIT technology – “Green Steel” – has been licensed to OneSteel for commercialisation. Current grants and previously received grants are ARC grant schemes (ARC Linkage, Discovery) and AISRF, and industries including: OneSteel, Hyundai Steel, POSCO, ACARP, Austral Bricks and LKAB. She a member of a range of professional associations: EA, AIST, ACS, ASM International, AusIMM, ATSE, Climate council and NSW Australia Day Council Board member.

Cathy Foley is a member of a range of professional societies such as the AIP and a Fellow of ATSE.

Robin Batterham receives funding from the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation and Visy Pty Ltd. In 1999 he was appointed as Australia’s Chief Scientist, a position he held concurrently with that of Chief Technologist for Rio Tinto Limited.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Three steps to combat industrial deafness

The constant sound of machinery, loud noises, bangs,
kerrangs and rending metal are the sound of industry in Australia

It is simply an accepted part of the sector – consistent,
high level noise.

However the repercussions it can have, if not effectively dealt
with, can last a life time – industrial deafness.

An estimated 275 million people across the globe can’t hear
clearly. These people suffer from hearing loss, the number one sensory
disability in the world.

Some people never had their hearing, as they were born deaf. However, the majority of people with hearing
loss had something happen along the way that took it from them. Infectious
diseases like meningitis, measles, mumps and chronic ear infections, as well as
head and ear injuries and aging all can contribute to hearing loss.

But perhaps the most common cause is excessive noise.
Whether it’s a one-time exposure to an intense, “impulse” sound, like gunfire,
or by repeated exposure to loud sounds over time, like machinery at work, noise
has the potential to rob people of their hearing.

The effects of hearing loss extend well beyond having to
talk louder It strains a person’s ability to understand conversations, which
can cause problems and misunderstandings at work and at home. Hearing loss also leads to isolation from
family, friends and the environment.

“The good news is noise-induced hearing loss is
preventable,” Terry Gorman, 3M’s Personal Safety Division’s senior occupational
hygienist said.

“So many people could be spared from it, if they just took a
few easy steps.”

Step 1: Wear hearing

The most important, and simple, step to preventing hearing loss is to wear
hearing protection.

“There are many great hearing protection options, but
sometimes it’s a challenge to know which to choose and how and when to wear it
correctly,” Gorman said.

“Hearing protection is now available that is comfortable,
fits well, and includes options to enhance communication – like microphones and
two-way radio connections for people who need them.”

By wearing the right protection workers can avoid a lifetime
of repercussions.

Step 2: Be mindful
around the clock

Sounds louder than 85 decibels (dBA) are more common than people
might think.

Prolonged exposure to these high-level sounds can
permanently damage your hearing, and cause ringing in the ears, along with
other symptoms. Most people don’t carry decibel meters, so it’s good to know
where those sound levels can occur. Some examples include:

* Attending a football game (100 to 120 dBA)

* Using a leaf blower or chainsaw (95-120 dBA)

* Riding a motorcycle (80-110 dBA)

* Using a lawn mower (82-103 dBA)

* Attending a rock concert (90-120 dBA)

* Listening to an iPod (75-114 dBA)

* Operating a dozer (75-90 dBA)

Hearing these sounds occasionally, for a limited time, isn’t
a major threat to hearing.

But repeated exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing damage
over time.

Many people – like miners, work in noise that is 85 dBA or
higher every day. As a result, noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most
common occupational diseases and the second most self-reported occupational

Step 3: Reduce the
Volume or Increase Distance

Work-related noise might be unavoidable, but many times, you
can be in control of the noise around you. Whenever possible, select quieter chain
saws, power tools, etc.

If you aren’t able to turn down loud sounds you encounter,
take a few steps back from the source of the loud sound to lessen your exposure
to them. Even a few feet of distance between you and a loud sound can lower the
decibel levels that hit you.

By taking these three steps you can avoid some of the
potential danger of permanently damaging your hearing.

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