Plastic Ventilation Setup Sees Costs PlummetWed, 10/21/2015 - 17:19
Q: Which products have most helped you position G+ Industrial Plastics in the mining industry?
A: Our most successful product is the G+ Speed Air Duct, which has been sold to mining companies around the world. Ventilation accounts for 50% of an underground mine’s energy costs, or 10% of its total costs. The purpose of the Speed Air Duct is therefore to cater to the industry’s need to improve ventilation and reduce energy costs. Every material has a friction factor, no matter whether it is marble, stone, or plastic. The lower the friction factor, the faster the air will travel through and the less energy is needed to push it. The Speed Air Duct has a friction factor of 3.5, which is the lowest in the world, so it offers the cheapest and most energy efficient way to circulate air through a mine. We are the only company that owns this product and the reception has been fantastic. We do not need to convince companies to buy it as they specifically call us to request it.
Throughout the years, we have developed many plastic products but we have never seen growth comparable to that of the Speed Air Duct. It has become a major point of interest for all mines as its energy cost saving potential is huge. The use of traditional steel ventilation methods will require more fans and cause energy costs to spike. It is true that our plastics technologies are more expensive to purchase than traditional options, but when all the costs are taken into account, the payback is obtained in less than a month. Within a year, the savings are massive. The Speed Air Duct represents a major advance in helping mining projects become more financially viable.
Q: Since your technologies are developed in Canada, what first attracted the company to Mexico?
A: We were growing very fast in Canada, and it seemed logical to share our technology in the international mining market. Our goal was to be a problem solver for mining operations with high energy costs. We carried out market research in several countries and noticed the high energy prices being paid in Mexico. We chose this country to be our first market over South Africa. While South Africa also faces punishing power costs, the distance involved, the time difference, and the lack of a free trade agreement such as NAFTA made it more difficult. Upon first visiting Mexico, we were struck by the beauty of Zacatecas and by the similarities between the people here and those in Quebec. We chose Zacatecas as the site for our first manufacturing expansion base to be close to our Mexican customers.
A lot of our clients have specific requirements, to which our products need to adapt before being installed onsite. Our entire product portfolio was developed through constant communication with customers, and their good ideas help us create better products. Being on the ground in Mexico allows us to keep abreast of the Mexican mining industry’s requirements. We are now looking to set up a manufacturing plant for the Speed Air Duct in Fresnillo. Once we have trained people further and gained a certain foothold in Mexico, we can rapidly start manufacturing a broader range of products in the country.
Q: Does the manufacturing process of the Speed Air Duct itself vary from mine to mine or are the changes applied at a later stage?
A: We have different standards, according to various ventilation requirements. The size of the Speed Air Duct ranges from 24 inches to 72 inches in diameter. One big project in Canada saw us install 6.2km of the 72-inch duct. The 39kg weight of our standard 8-foot long ducts makes them very easy to install without the need for big machinery. Steel remains our biggest competitor but the differences are evident, given how heavy steel is and how easily it dents. Our plastic ducts are very resistant; they can even be compressed to save space when being transported without losing their final structure, shape, and integrity.
Q: How difficult has it been to convince companies, which traditionally use metal, to switch to plastic?
A: Every time an innovative product comes along, there is a level of pushback from companies that are set in their ways. It took a little while at first but after one company first tried our product, they replaced their entire fiberglass set-up with our Speed Air Duct. They saw it was easy to install, easy to move around, and it reduced energy costs. Today, many prospective clients go to visit that original mining customer to see the results. Thankfully, the mining industry is a small world, and word about positive new innovations spreads fast.