Cookies help us deliver our services. By using this site, you agree to the use of cookies. We do not store any personal details. Learn more.

Media / Application stories / Atlas Copco compressors play major role in South Wales coal mine

Atlas Copco compressors play major role in South Wales coal mine

2014-01-27

Wilrijk, Belgium, January 2014. Compressors from Atlas Copco are providing an essential supply of compressed air to coal extraction operations for Unity Mine in the Neath Valley. The decision to replace the existing diesel driven compressors with Atlas Copco GA electrically-powered screw compressors has resulted in significant benefits in terms of process efficiency, energy use and reduced environmental impact.

The mine, which re-opened in 2008, is now in the process of moving to full production with the capability to produce up to one million tonnes of coal per year. It is contracted to supply fuel for major industrial companies, such as the nearby coal-fired Aberthaw Power Station. 

Unity Mine’s Cwmgrwach operation is a drift mine, meaning that miners can walk in rather than being transported, via a vertical mine shaft winding system, as used in other deep mining sites. At the mine, the coal seams are accessed by driving sloping tunnels through the ground. It was the first to be opened in Wales since the Betws colliery in Ammanford in 1974 and is poised to take advantage of a market whereby the increasing volume of imported coal, coupled with global price increases and demand, driven mainly by booming economies such as China and India, makes formerly uneconomic domestic sites commercially viable again.

Equipmend requires reliable supply of compressed air

GA 110 VSD FF

Unity Mine - Compressor installation


After the mine’s re-opening, the company’s management focus was on the reliability and efficiency of production equipment. Duncan Kilbride, Director of Projects & Procurement at Unity Mine explains: “The initial plan  of the mine’s workings were based on the pillar and stall extraction methods that employ a continuous miner unit and secure the work with roof bolting, as opposed to arched roadways. These all require air-driven equipment fed by a reliable continuous supply of compressed air. We also operate pumps on a permanent basis to remove water.”

Air for these operations was supplied originally from a number of small, rented diesel-driven compressors but there was growing concern with their mechanical reliability and the risks of any break in the regular supply of diesel fuel. This dependency issue, coupled with increasing rental and fuel costs, made it evident that replacement with more energy and cost-efficient compressors was essential.

New compressors will drastically lower energy cost

“We invited tenders for the system and Atlas Copco came up trumps as a one-stop shop solution for the compressors, filtration units, controller and compressor house installation. They scored as a world-leading specialist offering long term options on a range of packages best suited to our needs within the required timescale plus an ongoing support organisation”, said Duncan Kilbride.

Two oil-lubricated, air-cooled, full-feature GA110 variable speed drive screw compressors were installed together with a companion fixed-speed version machine. It has been calculated that energy savings in the region of £13,000 per year are achievable, in addition to substantial savings in equipment rental costs. These Atlas Copco compressor units provide base load and back up peak 7bar air to the drilling and roof bolting equipment, and the water pumps. Current geological estimates are that there are reserves of 90 million tons of coal that will be extracted from the Cwmgwrach mine complex over the next 25 years.

For further information please contact:

Atlas Copco’s Compressor Technique business area provides industrial compressors, gas and process compressors and expanders, air and gas treatment equipment and air management systems. It has a global service network and offers specialty rental services. Compressor Technique innovates for sustainable productivity in the manufacturing, oil and gas, and process industries. Principal product development and manufacturing units are located in Belgium, Germany, the United States, China and India.

Atlas Copco is an industrial group with world-leading positions in compressors, expanders and air treatment systems, construction and mining equipment, power tools and assembly systems. With innovative products and services, Atlas Copco delivers solutions for sustainable productivity. The company was founded in 1873, is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has a global reach spanning more than 170 countries. In 2012, Atlas Copco had 39 800 employees and revenues of BSEK 90.5 (BEUR 10.5).