May 17, 2020

Revolutionising commodity stockpile management with Eka drone technology

drone technoloy
commodity stockpiling
smart t
Dale Benton
2 min
Revolutionising commodity stockpile management with Eka drone technology
Eka Software Solutions, the leading global provider of Smart Commodity Management software solutions, partnered with theUniversity of Adelaideto revolut...

Eka Software Solutions, the leading global provider of Smart Commodity Management software solutions, partnered with the University of Adelaide to revolutionize stockpile management by using drones for commodity surveying. 

State of the art drones powered with standard SLR cameras take hundreds of images of stockpiles in just a few hours, completing in one day what would typically take a piloted aircraft or individuals with hand scanners a week or more. The images are imported into Eka’s 3D Stockpile Manager which creates a real-time, extremely accurate 3D volumetric model of stockyards. Drones fly much lower than airplanes, capturing imagery at unprecedented oblique angles and enabling more accurate volumetric models (2cm variation). Unlike airplanes, drones can be set to fly with little warning, making it possible to react quickly to sudden events.

“It is an exciting opportunity to work with Eka for commodity surveying using drones and to contribute towards Eka’s integrated stockyard management software,” said Dr. Tien-Fu Lu, senior lecturer, University of Adelaide. “The benefits of this project are obvious, and teaming up with Eka to develop innovative technology for the commodities industry has been very rewarding.”

Drone surveys replace hand drawings and manual assessments, improving accuracy while drastically reducing the cost and time involved. 

“We found tremendous value incorporating drone survey data into our 3D Stockpile Manager. This provides the software accurate stocktake information without the cost of a piloted survey,” said Ben Koch, director of engineering for Eka Software Solutions and leader of Eka’s drone project.

“This technology is extremely exciting to see in action and helps commodity businesses know exactly what they have in stock and what they need to purchase. Drones can save up to 50 percent of the time and 50 percent of the cost of surveying. Surveys that once took a week or more can be completed in 48 hours.”

Eka’s 3D Stockpile Manager is a web-based portal for bulk stock management that provides complete visibility of all stock. With Commodity Site Manager, site operators can define quality parameters for stock then raise orders for the movement of product, including billing information. The software gives decision makers the ability to monitor stock across an entire enterprise from the palm of their hand using a web interface and, if necessary, adjust and regrade the site stock levels.

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Get in touch with our editor Dale Benton at [email protected]


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Jun 16, 2021

Rio Tinto partners with ARENA for green hydrogen research

Rio Tinto
Green Energy
3 min
Rio Tinto and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will study using hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions in alumina refining

Rio Tinto has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions.

Rio Tinto and ARENA partnering for green energy push

Rio Tinto will conduct a $1.2mn feasibility study, equally funded with ARENA through a $580,000 grant, into using clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.

The study program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where Rio Tinto’s in-house development capability has now been extended to hydrogen.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller commented: “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.

“This study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from Rio Tinto’s study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen added: “We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation.

“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.

“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done. But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”

Can hydrogen replace natural gas in alumina refineries?

The study comprises two distinct work packages:

  • Preliminary engineering and design study conducted to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the Yarwun alumina refinery.
  • Simulating the calcination process using a lab scale reactor at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.

Once complete, the study will inform the viability of a potential demonstration project. Rio Tinto has lodged patents for the hydrogen calcination process.

Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050

Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.

Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.

Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto's transformation is being driven by innovation and its partnership with ARENA is a positive step towards these goals.


Rio Tinto Yarwun aerial



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