Engineering & Mining Journal

JUL 2019

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ELECTRICAL POWER SYSTEMS 38 E&MJ • JULY 2019 www.e-mj.com Industry 4.0 — the next step in industrial revolution that involves the integration of digital technologies into systems and pro- cesses — is upon us. Mines are embracing the concept in their quest for improved productivity and lower costs, and one crucial step in their digital transformation is to address the electrical systems that underpin mine power supply and control. By infusing connectivity and intelli- gence into power systems, there is a sig- nificant opportunity for mines to impact their reliability using predictive diagnos- tics, as well as enhancing their energy efficiency and workplace safety. However, it is important to note that applying digital solutions involves much more than simply buying the latest tech- nologies. Achieving successful system modernization and resulting data-in- formed insights requires proper training for local plant personnel responsible for supporting these technologies, and a well-orchestrated execution plan. Better Understanding, Better Control At the most basic level, digital solutions create transparency and provide mines with a better understanding of their power needs and networks through communica- tion and control with substations. With microprocessor-based intelligent protective relays becoming widely used, remote sensing of a variety of parameters, data collection, and network communica- tions are now possible throughout surface and underground operations. This data can be used to control airflow and venti- lation toward populated areas of the mine and reduce energy spent on unoccupied areas, idle or de-energize lightly loaded conveyor belts, reduce pumping demands to match inflow, and decrease or elimi- nate lighting in unoccupied areas. Network-connected circuit protection and motor control systems with real-time metrics can communicate information on equipment health to help personnel predict and avoid equipment failures, and intelligent circuit protection and motor control centers can also be used. These help to eliminate scheduled rota- tional maintenance outages in favor of condition-based maintenance, reducing the cost per ton produced. The use of digital controls enables the efficient restoration of power supply in the case of faults in automated proce- dures and the automatic dispatch of work crews, as well as reliable forecasting for the power utility, which helps reduce the tariff costs, or lower cost of generation for on-site power. Digitalization goes hand in hand with automation. However, in order to gain the maximum efficiency that automation has to offer, the complete mining process and associated systems must be digitalized — from the supply of power to the processes that consume it. Christian Dirscherl, vice president for mining excavation and transport at Sie- mens, explained, "Often we find mines have automated their processes, but still run the electrical grid conventionally. That means, in the case of an outage, staff have to physically go and look where the power failure is and then what caused it. This is very time consuming and cre- ates excessive production downtime." Dirscherl cited Siemens' recent work at Grupo México's Buenavista del Cobre mine in Mexico as a good example of how digitalization can create transparency and automation in power supply and demand. "The mine has a pretty tough environ- ment," he explained. "Despite this, we enabled a downtime saving of 60%, while Digital solutions create transparency and provide mines with a better understanding of their power needs. (Photo: Rockwell Automation) ELECTRICAL POWER SYSTEMS Powering Industry 4.0 Digitalization is rapidly changing the face of electrical power systems, both above and below ground By Carly Leonida, European Editor

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