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.
Axora launches global challenge for digital technology
Axora is launching the world’s first international competition to discover new cost-saving digital technology for industrial companies, which can produce rapid benefits within a year.
The Metals & Mining and Oil & Gas sectors have recently experienced budget cuts of 20% on average, driven by a variety of factors including the global pandemic, slump in demand and price wars. The Axora Cost-Saving Technology Challenge aims to transform these industries by discovering innovative, digital solutions that reduce cost fast and pay for themselves, whilst achieving the same or improved productivity, health and safety and sustainability standards.
“While digital solutions can help to get work done quicker and more cost-effectively, they typically require a three-year ROI, and if there’s no flexibility in the budget, a full budget planning cycle is needed to get things moving”, said Dr. Nick Mayhew, Chief Commercial Officer, Axora.
“Yet, extra financial cost is often incurred in delaying digital projects, so customers have asked us to highlight solutions that can have an ‘in year payback’ whereby the cost spent on the solution and deployment will be more than recovered within the budget year - this accelerates the timeline and drives positive business impact, quickly.”
The Axora Cost-Saving Technology Challenge
Axora is keen to learn of any digital cost-saving innovation which: meets the 12-month payback timeframe; can be deployed in any part of the value chain including upstream, downstream or midstream oil and gas, metals processing or mining; and is ready for market. The Axora Cost-Saving Technology Challenge is open to entrepreneurs, start-ups, academics and sector leaders across the world. The competition will be judged by a panel of leading industry experts.
“We’re passionate about supporting our industries and customers through all forms of digital transformation and the cost-saving solutions we are searching for could also provide a lifeline to many mining and metals and oil and gas companies in the current economic climate,” added Dr. Mayhew.
Improving productivity, safety and sustainability
Up to ten finalists will be chosen to pitch their solutions at a digital pitch day later this year, after which Axora will validate the ROI models and vet the solutions. The winner will receive the ‘Axora Market Accelerator’ sales and marketing package worth £10,000. This includes a two-hour workshop, promotion through Axora’s thought leadership content and inclusion into its digital demand engines, providing the opportunity for the winning solution to benefit thousands of industrial companies. Entries are open until May 31. Full details of the competition including terms and conditions can be found here.
To learn more about the Axora B2B digital solutions marketplace read our feature in the latest issue of Mining Global magazine.