Dec '10/Jan '11

Integrated, efficient solution

Mines adopting energy management system

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

Guy Faubert (BESTECH electrician) and Paul Huffels (BESTECH safety supervisor) installing a rack-mounted IZC at Vale’s Coleman Mine. The Intelligent Zone ControllerTM is the brains of the underground network and one of the components of the NRG1-ECO system | Photo courtesy of BESTECH

The mining industry in Canada has more than its fair share of challenges today — from stringent environmental and regulatory pressures to an urgent need to improve operational costs, productivity and safety, all while having to mine deeper than ever before.

Aware of these challenges, BESTECH, a provider of engineering, automation, software development and environmental monitoring services, developed NRG1-ECO (energy consumption optimization), a multi-faceted approach, which helps mining companies manage their processes, safety, equipment and energy usage more efficiently.

NRG1-ECO combines hardware and software to manage the many pieces of automated equipment in a mine. “It’s a complete energy management system and can be applied to processes such as compressors, pumps and any other systems in a mine that could benefit from a reduction in energy consumption,” says Trang Tran, BESTECH’s manager of software products development.

Typically a mine’s ventilation system operates continously at peak capacity. NRG1-ECO’s VOD (ventilation-on-demand) module enables the mine to instantly control the ventilation system’s air flow to where and when it is needed. This allows a mine to reduce its ventilation costs by as much as 30 per cent — which represents significant savings given that ventilation costs make up almost 50 per cent of a mine’s energy costs.

A collaborative effort

When BESTECH was developing the technology, it formed a consortium of industry experts and organizations to establish best practices and standards. The consortium members include organizations such as the Centre for Mining Excellence (CEMI) as well as mining giants Vale and Xstrata Nickel. This year, the technology was installed at Vale’s Coleman Mine and Xstrata Nickel’s Fraser Mine, both in Sudbury.

“We worked together with BESTECH on what was needed in the industry and they’ve completed the development of a ventilation management tool for us,” says Cheryl Allen, chief engineer, ventilation, Vale mines mill technical services, Canadian operation. “BESTECH designed a system that can be tailored to suit the needs of each mine.”

Part of the company’s goal was to create a technology with as open an IT architecture as possible, so that it could integrate with technology already in use at any mine.

In addition, the company offers mines assistance with energy-efficiency grants and rebate applications for both the initial site assessments and commissioning of NRG1-ECO. “We work with our clients to provide all the necessary system training for NRG1-ECO stakeholders at a mine,” says Dan Dumais, BESTECH energy specialist.“A comprehensive education and employee awareness system is also available to ensure the sustained use of NRG1-ECO in their mine.”

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