How towing heads reduce downtime on mining sites

How towing heads reduce downtime on mining sites

2 May 2023

How towing heads reduce downtime on mining sites

Versatile, simple and reliable, towing heads — which enable a piece of poly pipe to be pulled by attaching to its end — are a must-have device on a mining site.

While they have traditionally been used to undertake directional drilling for trenchless pipelaying, there are many other uses for towing heads, including coil pipe management and pipeline rehabilitation.

However, where the trusty towing head’s usefulness really shines is in above ground poly pipeline transportation and redeployment, particularly on mining sites.

While HDPE is an extremely durable product that can take the beating of being dragged around on site, it is susceptible to rocks and debris getting caught inside the pipe in the moving process.

Maintenance crews know all too well the catastrophic impact that this unwanted — and often invisible — stray material can have on long lead time assets, such as pumps, screens and trommels, leading to costly downtime and lost production.

Luckily, it can all be avoided if you use a towing head. Nathan Craig, Director of Advanced Piping Systems explains why, and how to choose the right towing device for your project.

How towing heads help avoid unwanted consequences

Pipes are regularly dragged around on mining sites so they can be deployed for use in other areas, by chaining a long string of poly pipe behind a heavy machine such as a bulldozer, excavator, or loader, and being slowly dragged across the ground.

Nathan said that while poly pipe is tough enough to withstand being pulled across a rough, freshly cut pit face or gravel road, the unwanted rocks and debris that get caught inside the pipe can wreak havoc on other assets.

“As well as potentially blocking the pipeline, rocks and even large boulders can get into a pipeline and appear invisible, until the damage to plant and equipment is done,” he said.

“On one mine site we visited, the rocks that entered the pipeline were sucked into a very expensive and large Warman ceramic lined pump that was used to pump sandy media and mineral rich water.

“The pump’s ceramic liner was cracked and smashed due to the rocks, which meant a very expensive unplanned shutdown had to be undertaken, just when the plant had been restarted.”

This came at a significant expense for the mine, with the cost of downtime caused by unclarified material exceeding $1 million. According to Nathan, all of this could have been avoided by using towing heads.

“After this happened two or three times over the course of a financial year, the Process Manager at the mine undertook a root cause analysis and found that for much less than a tenth of the cost of a shutdown, they could eliminate the issue by using towing heads,” he said.

Towing heads seal-off the pipe, preventing rocks and debris from entering, while also providing a safe towing point. They can also be used in a variety of applications.

“Towing heads are a reusable way of managing pipe, as well as providing a sealed cap,” Nathan said.

“Whether you’re moving a pipeline above ground and saving rocks, dirt and debris from entering the pipe, or winching a pipe through a freshly drilled horizontal hole for trenchless pipelaying, they’re a helpful device to have on hand.

“When time’s tight and safety is a number one priority, it’s reassuring to know that towing heads are easy and safe to attach, too.

“When you’re attaching a towing head, the pipe is inserted into the external cone.

“There is an internal mandrel, with the gripping teeth pressed into the wall as the eye bolt is tightened and pulled.

“This makes it an extremely safe way to manage pipe ends.”

How to choose the right towing head for your project

As with all tools and pipe preparation equipment, it’s important to select the right size, and type, of towing head for your project.

When it comes to choosing a towing head, it’s important that you choose one that matches up to the outside diameter of your pipe.

“Towing heads come suited to one size and SDR,” Nathan said.

“So the size of the towing head that you use must be the same as the outside diameter of your pipe.

“For example, a 140mm towing head cannot be used on a 125mm pipe — you will require a 125mm towing head as well.”

Generally towing heads are a made to order product, allowing for customisation to suit your needs.

“If you are using the towing head for directional drilling, then a streamlined, low-profile design is preferable,” Nathan said.

“If you are using the towing head for pipeline movement or coil management, we can provide a modified design including extra eyelets as lifting points on the body of the head.”

“You can order the main body — for example, let’s say in 500mm — and then order internal gripping teeth to suit other PN’s, such as PN10 SDR17 and PN16 SDR11.”

Advanced Piping Systems: a number one supplier of towing heads

Advanced Piping Systems stocks a variety of towing heads manufactured overseas, and machined from high quality steel and aluminium billets.

To order towing heads or learn more about how they could benefit your next project, request a quote or contact our knowledgeable sales team today.

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