Project overview: Adani’s Carmichael coal project
With an estimated price tag of $16.5 billion in capex and sustaining capital, the Carmichael coal, railway and port project based in Queensland, Australia, is on-track to build one of the world’s largest thermal coal mines, producing roughly billions of tons of coal resources during its estimated 60-year lifespan. The Project is being spearheaded by Adani Mining, the Australia-based subsidiary of Adani Group, and the expectations are as high as the cost.
Social and Economic Benefits
Located in the north Galilee Basin approximately 160 km north-west of Clermont in Central Queensland , The Project is set to not only benefit the industry but the community as well.
"[The Project] will deliver vital export opportunities for Queensland,[create] 10,000 local jobs,[garner] $22 billion in taxes and royalties, and [provide] crucial work opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses,” said Adani Mining CEO Jeyakumar “JJ” Janakaraj.
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Funds received from taxes and royalties will be directly reinvested, assisting with the development, maintenance and support of schools, hospitals, roads, and other local services.
“The biggest part of the project will be the multiplication effect; there is no point in just being the world's largest mine. Rather, I think the point of the project is to create value for millions of people around the world starting from where the mine starts, not just in economic activity but also in social wellbeing.
“It's a mine, rail and port, but it won’t just cater to Adani. It will assist other parties in the region to share infrastructure and grow their business,” Janakaraj added.
Setting the Stage
A project of this size calls for extensive logistical planning, from permits to partnerships and everything in between. And even though a lot has been accomplished thus far, much still remains.
“So far all, of the approvals are completed as well as the entire engineering. We have finished the bank and feasibility phase and now we're in the ordering phase, completing key contracts. Last year we completed the port contract and we just recently finished the Downer contract for mining,” said Janakaraj.
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The Downer contract, which is a five-year deal that includes two additional one-year options, is for mining services and construction of mine infrastructure. It will also include statutory management and mine operations, drilling, blasting, and load and haul of waste and coal.
Downer will also be responsible for the engineering procurement and construction of on-site infrastructure and preparatory civil works. Adani will provide the capital for the major fleet for the mining services contract.
"In selecting Downer as the mining services contractor, we are confident that not only are we well-placed to meet our longstanding first coal guidance of 2017, but that we are one step closer to our goal of building a long-term future with Queensland," said Janakaraj.
Adani has also secured a $2.2 billion agreement with Korean-based powerhouse POSCO for the engineering, procurement and construction of the North Galilee Basin Rail (NGBR).
Adani is expected to complete contracts for the coal handling plant and mine construction later this year. The company is currently finalizing contracts for machinery providers, and names should be announced sometime later this month.
“When you set up a business, you have to set it up right for long-term production and gains. You must remain competitive in the global cost curve, no matter what,” explained Janakaraj.
Enter the QUT Graduate School of Business, with which Adani recently partnered to provide a series of workshops and individual and team coaching for executives and emerging leaders connected to The Project. This 18-month partnership is a proactive effort to enhance leadership capabilities and remain competitive in today’s tough global market.
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“We have a large keen interest in our partnership with QUT to handle the complex project we are running. We can pay contractors to build the mine, port and rail, but with QUT, we’re building the brains of the operation.”
The Finished Product
The end-goal of The Project is to execute a vertically integrated pit-to-plug business strategy, revolutionizing the industry as the mines, port and railway work in unison to provide coal to consumers.
“Multiple mines will be included on the same property with an open pit and an underground pit,” Janakaraj explained. “The first phase of the project will produce 40 million tons of coal, which will include 15 million tons from the underground mine, while the open pit will produce 25 million tons of coal. The second phase will produce 60 million tons.”
The coal from the mine will be transported by a 388 km standard gauge rail line to one of two terminals at Abbot Point Port near Bowen. The rail infrastructure will be capable of transporting 60 million tons of coal per year.
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“We will be utilizing at least 45, 400-ton driverless trucks. All the vehicles will be capable of automation. When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port. In our eyes, this is the mine of the future,” said Janakaraj.
The port, which was purchased by Adani on a 99-year lease in 2010, will be expanded to hold 120 million tons, nearly doubling the current capacity (50 million tons). Because the port is used by large mining companies including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore, the vision behind the expansion, along with increasing capacity, once again returns to supporting growth within the industry and ensuring socio-economic benefits.
“We want to create a multi-user facility model for the infrastructure so more companies can use it and grow,” said Janakaraj. “The revenue generation and the returns on the infrastructure assets are truly needed by the State. This model will not just create jobs but will create a sustainable future for Australia.”
Construction of the Carmichael coal, railway and port project is expected to commence later this year, with the first coal expected in 2017.
Mining 4.0: How innovation is shaping mines of the future
Mining may be the gateway to the world’s carbon neutral future. Green energy storage systems, for one, are largely dependent on minerals. According to the World Bank Group, clean energy needs will escalate demand for rare earth minerals by nearly 500% by 2050.
While this growing demand holds much promise for mining companies, it also creates new challenges. Mining operators must navigate the ever-present highly cyclical market conditions and capital-intense operations. Recent trends layer on additional challenges, such as the progressive retirement of the industry’s most experienced workers, increasing regulatory pressures, and rising energy costs. To proactively manage these multiple challenges and capitalize on rising demand, mining companies must innovate and lower operating costs to remain both profitable and viable.
Why the urgent need for innovation?
Leading mining companies have shown that lower operating expense (OpEx) is a pre-requisite to on-going business success. This need is driven by the cyclical mining market and ever present,, hefty capital requirements, both of which are inherent in the mining industry. And, when demand is high, the OpEx cost component of unplanned downtime grows steeper. Data indicates that, in mining operations, the root cause of OpEx overages lies in maintenance issues that impede operating efficiencies and incur unnecessary costs. Left unaddressed, these gaps will prevent mining companies from fully capitalizing on increasing demand.
According to McKinsey, mining companies have historically struggled with significant productivity declines, as shown below. In recent years, there is evidence that a slow recovery is underway, however, full resolution is in its’ infancy, primarily rooted in maintenance cost optimization.
Other data points on current mining operations underscore the urgent call for innovation and change:
- 70% operating efficiency due to breakdowns and stalled production, which translates to real potential for increased productivity and throughput
- 30-50% of mining operations costs spent on maintaining plant, fleet and equipment, so, the magnitude of potential improvements on bottom-line profitability is significant
- 3-5X cost for urgent repairs and corrective work requests versus planned maintenance, often made evident by tracking the percentage of work orders managed through the planning office.
While change is always difficult, the promise of technology (and Industry 4.0, Mining 4.0) is a welcome and required one for mining companies. Digital technologies and automation, or Mining 4.0, is defined by smart equipment, drive data-driven (and thus better) decisions, catalyze connected communications and provide easier, more affordable maintenance. From there, mining companies will be able to speed up production, reduce downtime and boost employee safety – three pillars that have challenged mining operations for years.
The first step: Predictive maintenance via condition monitoring
As the first step to regain operational optimization and lower costs, mining companies must get “ahead of the curve” and prevent process interruptions and unplanned downtime. The key is predictive maintenance via condition monitoring systems. By proactively assessing equipment health, mining operators can be alerted to developing failures before they occur and schedule planned repairs at the lowest possible cost and with minimal impact to production.
Condition monitoring systems are based on the principal that failure is a process, not an event. By monitoring asset characteristics, latent anomalies become apparent well before full failure, allowing for low-cost interventions, root-cause analysis and proactive planning for resolution, thereby mitigating process interruptions. Concurrent with deployment of well-engineered predictive maintenance strategy, a thorough rationalization review can minimize unnecessary or redundant maintenance tasks and, in many cases, eliminate human-induced failure modes.
Maintenance optimization is a powerful lever – and the first step -- to achieving and sustaining lower production costs in mining.
When 14% equals $8 million
Consider this PwC mining example, where predictive maintenance enabled a 14% reduction in maintenance spend by mitigating unplanned downtime to deliver US $8 million savings in operating expense (OpEx).
Goal: Reduce unplanned downtime
Solution: Condition monitoring system on critical equipment
- Condition monitoring insights provide operator alerts of potential failures.
- Proactive scheduling of repairs moves resolution to occur during planned maintenance, partial outage periods or normal equipment rotations.
- Asset availability and reliability increases, production interruptions are minimized and maintenance costs are reduced.
Result: 14% reduction in maintenance spend generates US $8 million in OpEx
Source: PwC “Balancing Uptime and Working Capital: Maintenance and Inventory Strategies in Mining”
Reliability and employee safety
The example above illustrates the dramatic improvements to operating expense as mining operators move from reactive / unplanned to proactive / planned maintenance. With decreased downtime, overall operational reliability also improves and with it, a metric of paramount importance in mining: employee safety.
Studies indicate that more reliable operations are safer operations. That’s because technology serves to reduce human-to-machine interaction and urgent, reactive work declines. For one industrial company, as shown in the graph below, an OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) improvement of 52% delivered a safety improvement of 69% during a 10-year period.
Customer Case Study: Slurry pumps
Let’s look at specific mining applications ripe for optimization and maintenance cost savings. The first is slurry pumps. In mining pumping stations, pump failures are responsible for 97% of unplanned maintenance costs. Pump reliability, however, is crucial in the areas of safety, environmental impact, and efficient transportation.
Key characteristics of slurry pumps can be monitored so that timely analysis of impending issues enable early detection of issues at inception and prior to failure. This avoids unplanned maintenance, unplanned downtime, and averts lost revenue.
In slurry pump applications, dynamic pressure sensors can be used to detect reciprocating diaphragm failures, providing a novel diagnostic to increase pump reliability. The solution is based on these design principles:
- The hydraulic fluid flexes the diaphragm
- When the diaphragm flexes, slurry is discharged
- Abrasive, corrosive slurries prohibit pressure sensor installations in slurry valves
- Thus, dynamic pressure monitoring of the hydraulic fluid assesses the effectiveness of slurry discharge
The result? A savings of US $3 million per year, based on maintenance cost recovery and capacity increases for a 10-pump station.
Customer Case Study: Haul Trucks
In mining operations, haul trucks are another critical asset, as they are relied upon to move raw materials. Alignment of extraction speed to transportation speed is required to keep operations flowing smoothly. Mining operators have invested in larger, automated haul trucks to facilitate this timing alignment and optimize logistics. Thus, haul trucks and their operational health is a key enabler of production reliability in mining operations.
Monitoring haul truck health to ensure reliability, however, presents unique challenges. Because haul trucks are in constant motion, data collection at precise and crucial times with linkage to a monitoring center and diagnostics requires innovative thinking and design.
For one mining company, a custom engineered solution for the haul truck’s control system was designed and installed. The system was devised to monitor haul truck health in two distinct operating states so that changes in the various failure mode characteristics could be accurately identified:
- Running and loaded. In this state, vibration data is collected while the truck is running, loaded and in reverse mode (braking the truck using the electric motor of the electric wheels).
- Unloading. During unloading, vibration monitoring data is collected when the haul truck dump or bucket is being raised.
The result? An estimated savings of US $5 million per year, based on an iron mine fleet of 30 trucks operating at 80% capacity.
Outcomes like the examples above are possible for mining operations via innovative condition monitoring systems. There are many other condition monitoring mining applications, such as wireless sensors for hoist systems and continuous monitoring for SAG (semi-autogenous grinding) mills that deliver transformational outcomes. The ultimate payoff for mining companies occurs when these applications and systems scale and interconnect into an operation-wide solution, enabling more holistic optimization.
Benefits of condition monitoring
Condition monitoring is part of Mining 4.0, the transformation driven by the adoption of automation and digital technologies. Mining 4.0 inherently supports the infrastructure and process requirements for condition monitoring systems. Specifically, Mining 4.0 will facilitate capabilities such as digitization, automation, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, establishing a powerful foundation for predictive maintenance solutions and innovation.
Technology and predictive maintenance benefits have the potential to transform mining operations, starting with condition monitoring. In addition to managing and minimizing the impact of failures, mitigating downtime and reducing maintenance costs, condition monitoring systems also help to increase worker safety, reduce energy consumption and meet environmental requirements.
These benefits unleash significant potential for radical and positive changes in mining operations. All condition monitoring systems, however, vary in scope and effectiveness, so proper selection of a design and enablement provider with full-scale capabilities and proven expertise can impact outcomes significantly.
Innovation beyond technology
While innovation and transformation hold great potential, mining companies must go beyond reducing maintenance costs and implementing technology solutions. Companies must work differently and work smarter to capitalize on the full potential of digital technologies and holistic data strategies that deliver operation-wide benefits. For successful adoption, overcoming internal organizational barriers and cultural challenges to digital adoption is equally essential.
To reduce pressure on capital-intense mining operations, condition monitoring solutions can be “self-funding” initiatives on the journey toward Mining 4.0 as operational benefits of condition monitoring are realized progressively from the early stages of implementation.
The way forward for mining companies is clear -- and full of promise. As the world increasingly relies on mining to produce the minerals needed for green energy, innovative mining leaders will usher in an era of profound global transformation that ultimately benefits us all.
To learn more about condition monitoring systems in mining operations, please reach out to speak with one of us or another experienced professional at Baker Hughes.