ABB and Staubli Partner to Expand Modern Mining Innovations
ABB recently entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Staübli Electrical Connectors towards the goal of creating all-electric mining.
The first step in this process, as stated by the MoU, is to develop Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) to phase out the diesel engines that are currently used extensively in the mining industry. The eMine, as ABB calls it, will decarbonize mining with the BEVs and upgrade electric mining infrastructure.
Staübli will develop some of the electrical infrastructure to handle the high currents required to make eMine a reality.
Most mining equipment, such as haul trucks, bulldozers, shovels, conveyors, and onsite crushing and milling, typically run on diesel engines. Diesel engines can develop power quickly and are portable, making them suitable for roaming around a mining site.
Diesel is a fossil fuel, which contributes to carbon emissions and reduced air quality. Replacing them is not as simple as removing the diesel engine and slapping an electric motor and a battery in its place.
Diesel vehicles can be quickly refueled and sent back out. If they run out of fuel on-site, another truck can deliver more. Waiting for a battery to charge overnight is not an option for a large mining site, and no truck is going to show up and “deliver more electricity.” Diesel can be stored and used as needed, versus electricity that must be there when demand calls for it.
As environmental concerns build and the price of fossil fuels and taxes associated with their use continues to climb, another solution must be found.
The eMine concept consists of multiple systems, each of which will improve the electrification of the mine site.
One of the biggest challenges facing electric vehicles is the time it takes to recharge the internal battery. For the owner of an electric car, this is less of an issue, as the car can be charged while the owner is at work or asleep. For a BEV at an industrial facility or mine, there is no sleep time, and an idle machine is a missed opportunity.
Artist’s conception of the FastCharge system on a haul truck. Image courtesy of ABB
Currently, BEVs, such as forklifts, have a strict charging schedule to ensure that there is always a forklift available when needed. However, because some are charging, there are always far more BEVs than are required. Extra forklifts are expensive but not nearly as expensive as extra haul trucks.
The eMine FastCharge system, currently in its pilot phase, delivers high power (600 kV) to the charging stations for mining equipment. The high-power transfer significantly speeds up charging times, meaning haul trucks can spend more time hauling and less time idle. While time will be required to charge the batteries, it will be on the order of preventative maintenance time, and utilization will be well above existing BEV times.
Another node to the eMine system is MineOptimize, a network of sensors, hardware, and software that can monitor the entire mine system at once. Data is collected from all systems, including BEVs, conveyors, milling, smelting, charging stations, ventilation systems, electrical substations, and ports. This gigantic collection of data can be used to optimize power usage throughout the site.
Suppose the electrical substations are detecting high electrical usage. They can signal certain operations to slow production based on their workloads and capabilities. This could mean that haul trucks with extremely low batteries are charged, while others skip a charge cycle for a bit. Maybe it means that certain milling operations slow, rather than building up a surplus of material, instead prioritizing power to a different throttle point in the mining operation.
This constantly evolving system will reduce wasted energy by sending power where it is needed, when it is needed, based on far too many variables to predict manually.
MineOptimize system integration. Image used courtesy of ABB
Mining has been an important part of civilization and will continue to be for many years to come. The eMine concept will make mining a greener, more efficient, and more profitable industry. ABB and Staubli are hopeful that by combining their latest technology, they can help make mining more efficient in the long run.