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Hydraulic air compressor project has green light

 

Forgotten technology to produce compressed air at a fraction of the cost of conventional compressor plants

A $3.5 million demonstration project aimed at reintroducing a technology used to produce compressed air in Northern Ontario’s Cobalt mining camp more than 100 years ago is scheduled to commence operation by mid-June.

A closed circuit hydraulic air compressor will be constructed in an abandoned 17-metre ventilation shaft at the former Big Nickel Mine, a tourist attraction that is now part of Dynamic Earth, a geoscience centre in Sudbury operated by Science North.

The demonstration project will be modeled on the Ragged Chutes hydraulic air compressor plant designed by Canadian engineer Charles Havelock Taylor in 1910. The Ragged Chutes plant included a dam on the Montreal River and a 9.5-foot diameter shaft blasted to a depth of 107 metres. Intake pipes at the top of the shaft introduced air into the water as it plunged down the shaft. The force of the water compressed the air, which was then piped to a dozen mines to provide pneumatic power.

Ragged Chutes required no fuel, cost almost nothing to operate and ran continuously for 70 years with two brief interludes for maintenance.