Power quality in mining productivity
The mining sector is fundamental to the growth of the global economy. For example, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) predicts that for every job created in mining, a further two to five are created in other sectors. As many economies and jobs depend of this industry, engineers should consider how to remove any risks to productivity. Here Juan Chavez, vice president of Energy Control Systems, explores the role of power quality in mining productivity.
Most mines across the world are located in areas with harsh climates and engineers must operate in inhospitable conditions — from heavy rain and storms to high temperatures and drought. Engineers adapt processes to avoid disruption to operations and continue to provide resources and economic support. Mines often introduce more advanced technology to the site to increase this uptime. However, more equipment on site means more opportunities for breakdowns that can jeopardise productivity.
Every process in mining, from drilling and excavation to transportation and processing requires a complex network of electrical equipment. Whether it’s shuttle lines transporting the extracted materials, motors and variable speed drives or the lighting, heating and ventilation systems, there are a variety of electrical loads in operation. As well as this vital equipment, plant managers are introducing safety systems, control systems, devices that increase connectivity and more to increase efficiency.
To protect this equipment, most maintenance engineers rely on devices such as surge protection devices (SPDs), lightning protection equipment and harmonic filters that address common power issues. However, we believe that these devices do not have the capability to protect from every power quality issue that could be causing downtime in a facility.
Small but mighty
Poor power quality is one of the main causes of costly downtime that engineers must prevent by investing in surge protection. Poor electrical grid infrastructure can cause issues such as intermittent supply or blackouts that interrupt the flow of electricity travelling to the facility. Mineral mines are also located far from cities and at high altitudes, such as those in the Andes in South America, increasing the likelihood of power fluctuations impacting supply.
However, engineers often approach us because downtime still occurs after installing SPDs. That’s because traditional surge protection systems will only detect voltage spikes that exceed the highest and lowest parts of the sine wave. Once detected, the system will eliminate the excess voltage, leaving residual transients that can still damage equipment.
One short, transient surge will often go unnoticed and will not lead to downtime. Yet, regular false-zero crossings from transient surges will cause microprocessors to trigger prematurely. Over time, this leads to software confusion and engineers will begin to see reductions in performance of computers, control systems and other sensitive equipment.
Until recently, these transient events were not a concern, because older microprocessors ran at very slow speeds. However, microprocessors found in sensitive equipment now run at gigahertz speeds on millivolt chips, so the smallest disturbances will eventually damage computer chips, leading to potential data losses and lapses in productivity.
How SineTamer helps
We developed to help eliminate false zero crossings and voltage spikes that traditional equipment cannot detect. SineTamer protects from all forms of transient events more accurately by following the curve of the sine wave. The units then eliminate any fluctuations to fundamental frequency that could impact microprocessors.
Mining continues to be essential to employment and economic growth across the world, so, engineers must do all that they can to maintain productivity. Preparing for unpredictable and harsh weather conditions is vital to keeping the industry running, but engineers should also look inside the facility. While regular transient surges may seem small compared with a storm or flood, if inappropriately managed, they could be the cause of significant disruption and damage.
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”