In January 2018, the NRC's Mining Materials Wear and Corrosion (MMWC) Consortium signed a new five-year agreement with fourteen companies from the oil sands operators and suppliers of materials and equipment. The Consortium, which celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2016, includes both Canadian and international members.
NRC researchers across multidisciplinary teams within the Energy, Mining and Environment Research Centre have been working to addresses the challenges of wear and corrosion on materials through their analysis of the relationship between microstructure/constitution, mechanical/chemical properties, and wear/corrosion mechanisms and service performance.
Maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) is a $15 billion per year problem for Canada's mining sector, with a significant proportion of these high costs being attributed to equipment wear and corrosion damage. With thousands of wear materials on the market, determining the most effective ones for each particular application is a huge challenge and can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Every six months, the NRC team delivers test results, scientific interpretations and recommendations to Consortium members on projects that have been prioritized by producers and suppliers within the group. In addition to the planned work in the agreement, the NRC team suggests additional projects that develop new equipment capabilities for materials processing and evaluation.
During the past five years, the Consortium has shown steady growth with new members joining every year. As the mining sector continues to be affected by drops in commodity prices, the need for innovation rises. By approaching mining industry problems from a whole-systems perspective, the NRC helps accelerate technology adoptions that solve overarching issues. Past and future innovations would not have been possible without contributions from both suppliers and end users, and the dedicated researchers who actively adjust priorities and work extended hours to accommodate urgent client requests.
"The helpful, constructive attitude so prevalent within the team is very encouraging to see, and part of what makes this such an outstanding team which works so well together to reach its objectives," says Shaohong Wu, Research Director NRC's Energy, Mining and Environment Research Centre in Vancouver. "This behavior is always performed with a positive attitude of cooperation and concern not only for project objectives but for each other. Members frequently offer to assist in leveling the workload and adjust test scheduling to ensure maximum usability of limited test samples."
The MMWC team's work in comprehensive testing and investigation of various forms of abrasion, erosion and combined wear and corrosion (erosion-corrosion/abrasion-corrosion) as well as expanding the 20+ years' mining wear materials databases, has brought significant cost reductions to members over years. One of the past members, Shell Canada (now property of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. [CNRL], also a long-time consortium member), attributed their savings of $112 million per year to the implementation of the innovations developed through the Consortium. The team is looking forward to building on their successes, expanding the Consortium membership and impacting the industry even more.