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The Changing Face of Coal Mining
Being an IT guy in a technology company, I don’t get out often enough into the real working world. So I was surprised lately when I heard about our Lumada solution being implemented in a coal mining operation in Australia. I was surprised because the solutions they used were the same as in any other high tech companies, except they had a lot more sensors and data points to work with and they were very highly regulated. The images of coal mining was also very different than what I usually associated with coal mining.
Here is the face of today’s Coal Mining Operations.
This is the operations room of the Bengalla Mining Company in New South Wales that supplies International markets with thermal coal which is used for a number of manufacturing requirements, including generating electricity. Thermal coal still generates 2/5 of the worlds electricity according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Bengalla is a single pit open cut mine, using a dragline, truck and excavator method. The mine’s employees work in shifts to keep the mine operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Bengalla is working towards producing to its consent limits of 15 million tonnes. After washing and preparation for sale, the coal is loaded onto trains and transported to the Port Waratah Coal Terminal in Newcastle where it is shipped to international customers.
Bengalla was looking to increase the production of their delivered coal to their consent limit of 15 million tons. This would require a significant capital investment to expand that capacity. Could they get by without spending as much capital? They hoped to find the answer by investing in data analysis and machine learning. Their operations had over 12,500 data points coming from machinery across the whole site and also from data acquisition systems. First, they wanted to understand their data and have their disparate data systems talking to each other. They wanted to use the technology and the hardware that they already had and bring in the advanced technologies as required.
Hitachi worked with them to first understand their data requirements. Then using their manufacturing experts they helped connect their disparate data. They connected to their 3
party sensors via their respective control systems e.g., SCADA system (Honeywell Experion) or FMS dispatch (Modular). This has expanded overtime to include other 3
party solutions, e.g., ABB Sensors, etc. The Hitachi team made a conscious decision to start all our conversations around leading with data before looking at sensors or other instrumentation. They had a belief that if we led with instrumentation than we would naturally want to justify their answer based upon the instruments. However, if we led with data it was possible to find substitutes or alternative sources to help solve these problems. This was available through the
Lumada Manufacturing Insights
product family. Data from the mining, to the dragline to the processing line to the rail cars for shipping to Newcastle can be used for machine learning for best practices. With these new insights Bengalla was able to increase the efficiencies of the operation so that production was increased by 80,000 tons in less than 12 months of operation.
The Lumada system was contained in a four node
system The Hitachi Unified Platform is a turnkey converged infrastructure solution. It uses Hitachi software to manage the server and storage resources that comprise the physical infrastructure of the solution.
Please see this video of the Bengalla Mining Company Operations at Video -
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