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The Key to Fuel Management in Mining Operations


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As published in World Coal magazine September 2015, Fabio Miellie and Shaikh Badiujzama, Schneider Electric, USA, outline ways to address mine fuel management challenges with smart technologies.

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The Key to Fuel Management in Mining Operations

  1. 1. Reprinted from September 2015 | World Coal | The key to Fabio Mielli and Shaikh Badiujzama, Schneider Electric, USA, outline ways to address mine fuel management challenges with smart technologies. Ore movement (haulage) can be the single largest energy-using activity for an opencast mine, accounting for about 30% of a site’s total energy consumption. The most commonly used fuel for haulage is diesel and, with the constant increase in mine complexity and size, as well as the commensurate decrease in ore grades and margins, fuel costs have come under significant scrutiny. Diesel fuel alone can typically account for between 3% and 10% of a mine’s total operating expenditures, in some cases even exceeding electrical power costs for the overall operation. The adage that ‘you can’t measure what you can’t see’ and ‘what you can’t see you can’t control’ seems to be an appropriate analysis of the challenges when trying to rein in control of fuel costs. Among the many challenges are: quantifying precise fuel consumption, gaining visibility to fuel and additive management fuelfuel
  2. 2. quantities in storage tanks and, in mobile assets, lack of data from which to obtain an accurate indication of overall performance, fuel consumption relationship with mine production information and asset performance (fuel usage under context), ability to monitor data in real time, reconciling fuel stock levels, and lastly, lost inventories due to misappropriation. But smart technologies and solutions exist to make the job much easier, providing control, visibility and accountability where there was none before. Defining a fuel management solution Tracking fuel, from delivery through to usage, can be achieved with integrated, intelligent systems that increase the accuracy of data collection, reduce labour costs and improve access control. Fuel management systems are used to monitor fuel deliveries, inventories and consumption throughout the entire mine. They are designed to effectively measure and manage the fuelling infrastructure from storage facilities all the way through to the use of fuel within transportation assets of the mine. These systems are typically used for haul truck fleets, as well as any vehicle fleets that require fuel to operate. The system employs various methods and technologies to monitor and track fuel inventories, purchases, deliveries and consumption by asset. This information is then stored and managed in a central system where specialised software uses the data to deliver real-time information and generate reports that can help management make informed decisions. Typical features of a modern fuel management solution include: nn Fuel system overview. nn Site map of the entire mining operation and tank locations (Figure 2). nn Real-time fuel status and visibility. nn Individual tank status and levels. nn Personnel ID (fuel personnel). nn Asset ID (trucks). nn Total site information (tank levels). nn Integration with financial reporting systems and cost centres. nn SMS notification of major events. nn Comprehensive delivery information. Figure 1. Since 2005, among the top producers of gold, the amount of fuel needed to mine an ounce of gold has risen from 12.7 to 21.8 gal./ounce. Figure 2. View of mine map and fuel supply infrastructure. | World Coal | Reprinted from September 2015
  3. 3. nn Ability to obtain a complete picture of deliveries by asset and fuel type. nn Customisable reports by cost centre/asset/consumption. nn Trends (for example, asset consumption vs time). nn User-defined trends (crossing different variables). Local operator interface includes: nn Manual entry (Personnel, Truck ID). nn Basic alarms. nn Totals/flow rate. Fuel management solution architecture The architecture in Figure 4 shows the main components of a basic fuel management system and the location of its various components. Flow and levels for diesel and additives are measured using speciality instruments, including wireless technologies. Each fuelling point has a fuel management station where personnel data (identified by their unique ID), RFID data (for asset identification), flow data and tank level data are integrated and sent to the fuel management server (main supervision) via a wired or wireless network. The main supervisory system displays various fuel information, real-time data and reports acquired by the fuelling stations. Options include web or mobile clients, which allow the user to monitor current data and alarm status of any remote station or location. Each station also has an interface with a simplified version of the main supervisory system, empowering fuel personnel with rich information. Solution benefits This type of flexible system helps mining operations measure, track, identify and allocate fuel usage for better accountability by vehicle type, fuel type and cost centre, providing a comprehensive picture of fuel usage across the entire operation. These include: nn Automatic identification of equipment and vehicles. nn Remote monitoring of fuel storage tanks. nn Alarm notification when tank levels are low or high relative to threshold levels. nn Hardware designed to operate in harsh environments. nn Software customisable for specific needs. nn Remote tank monitoring with graphic display of all fuel/oil storage tank levels across any site. nn Reconciliation of deliveries against fuel usage. nn Prevention of fraudulent dispensing (RFID tags and authorisation control). nn Tracking of bulk stock movements, receipts, transfers and disposals. nn Reports (daily, monthly and yearly). nn Trends (tank level data). In addition, a system with an open platform allows miners to integrate data from the fuel management solution into other mining software and systems in order to optimise the entire production chain. What is more, by working with an energy procurement service that can negotiate preferential fuel and additive costs, there is the possibility to reduce fuel costs even further than with a fuel management system alone. Figuire 3. Fuelling status by fuel type, asset, operator, amount and flow rate. Figure 4. Typical operational architecture. Reprinted from September 2015 | World Coal |