Towards common goals

PARTNERSHIPS formed by safety institute NIOSH with labor and industry sectors in the U. S. coal and metal/nonmetal underground industries, have delivered major progress in evaluating and implementing diesel control technologies in America’s underground mines.
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NIOSH researchers analyze workplace samples for diesel exhaust particulate.

Staff Reporter

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) formed the partnerships in an effort to reduce the exposure of underground miners to diesel engine emissions. Working through these partnerships, researchers have made major progress in diesel control technologies.

In January 2001, the U. S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) promulgated two rules regulating the exposure of both underground coal [30 CFR Part 72] and metal/nonmetal [30 CFR Part 57] miners to diesel particulate matter (DPM).

According to NIOSH, labor and industry were concerned about the inability of current control technologies to reduce DPM concentrations in mine air below those mandated by these regulations. To address this concern, labor and industry formed partnerships with the Pittsburgh Research Laboratory (PRL) of NIOSH. The primary objective of these partnerships was to reduce the exposure of underground miners to particulate matter and gaseous emissions from diesel-powered equipment to targeted levels in an economically viable manner.

The Coal Diesel Partnership was the first formed, in early 2000, in anticipation of the proposed rule making. Participants included the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, the National Mining Association (NMA), and NIOSH. While not an official member of the partnership, MSHA has worked closely with the partnership to advance the state of technology through both laboratory and in-mine testing of control technologies.

NIOSH’s role was to provide the partners with a scientifically sound evaluation of diesel emission control technologies in underground mines.

The rule regulating exposure of underground coal miners to DPM is based on control of diesel emissions at their source. The rule requires implementation of various control technologies in underground coal mines.

But the rule does not require monitoring of ambient concentrations of DPM or elemental carbon. Some previous studies showed that certain emission control technologies such as diesel particulate filters (DPF) have great potential for controlling emissions from diesel-powered equipment, but they were found susceptible to technical problems when applied to mining equipment.

The studies conducted under sponsorship of the partnership provided thorough evaluation of selected technologies in participating mines. Emphasis was given to the efficiency of the tested technologies and feasibility of implementing these technologies in underground mines.

“All parties involved in the partnership bring something of value to the effort,” NIOSH said. “Industry, through the Bituminous Coal Operators and the NMA, has made mines available to NIOSH for testing control technologies. This often required investing significant time, money and effort into preparing controlled tests sites ventilated with fresh air. Industry also independently conducted testing of various available control technologies and provided test findings to the partnership. Additionally, industry purchased a number of control technologies for testing conducted under sponsorship from the partnership.”

Labor through the UMWA, worked closely with NIOSH in locating acceptable mine test sites and obtaining cooperation from miners in conducting the in-mine testing. Knowledgeable diesel experts within both labor and industry worked with NIOSH researchers in putting together test protocols, locating potential control technologies, and reviewing and analyzing test results. MSHA contributed to the partnership effort by assisting in underground testing and conducting tests of control technologies at their Approval and Certification Center in Triadelphia, West Virginia.

By working together in partnership, all parties involved in the Coal Diesel Partnership have benefited by reducing individual costs, avoiding duplication of effort, and being able to evaluate a relatively large number of diesel control technologies in a short period of time.

Two partnership sponsored studies conducted in a high-altitude mine in Utah showed that a large number of diesel engines are not properly de-rated for the operation at high elevations. Those engines were found to have significantly higher emissions than previously believed. The same studies also showed that many disposable diesel filters widely used by coal mines have significantly lower filtration efficiencies than advertised.

Evaluation of a highly platinum-catalyzed ceramic DPF at the same mine showed that such DPF systems can increase nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the mine air to unacceptable levels. The partnership studies contributed to a better understanding DPM emissions and the potential of the NIOSH 5040 carbon analysis method for measuring DPM. Numerous disposable diesel filters and several electrically regenerated ceramic filter systems were scrutinized through long-term evaluation studies in underground coal mines.

In an effort to disseminate this information to the industry, the partnership sponsored an open industry workshop on the state-of-the-art of diesel emission control technologies in coal mines. The partnership efforts continue with preparations for evaluation of various control technologies at the NIOSH Lake Lynn Laboratory, an underground research mine. A partnership recently appointed a committee to work with engine, vehicle and after-treatment manufacturers on overcoming barriers to the introduction of clean engine technology into coal mines.

The success of the Coal Diesel Partnership prompted the formation of a second partnership in early 2002: the Metal/Nonmetal (M/NM) Diesel Partnership. The objective of this partnership was to address various issues related to implementation of diesel control technologies in M/NM mines.

Members of that partnership are the United Steelworkers of America, the National Mining Association, the National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association, the MARG Diesel Coalition, and NIOSH. Although not officially a member of the partnership, MSHA has actively participated in all partnership activities. The M/NM Diesel Partnership, similar to the Coal Diesel Partnership, has proved that this kind of partnership is very efficient in addressing complex health and safety issues.

Significant work has been accomplished benefiting all involved parties while sharing costs and avoiding duplication of efforts. Industry and labor has worked closely with NIOSH on locating mine test sites, reviewing test protocols and test results, conducting underground testing of control technologies, and sponsoring two diesel emission control technology workshops.

One of the major accomplishments was a series of studies in an operating metal/nonmetal mine to evaluate several control technologies. Additional studies are planned in the near future.

The partnership work resulted in knowledge that helped MSHA to decide to use elemental carbon rather than total carbon as the surrogate for total diesel particulate matter. Comprehensive information on the selection and implementation of DPF systems has been supplied to the industry through a web-based diesel filter selection guide available from both NIOSH and MSHA web sites. NIOSH is hosting a diesel list server which allows free exchange of information on diesel emissions and controls.

Both partnerships demonstrate how labor, industry, and government can benefit from working together towards common goals.

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