Critical mining equipment and plant facilities are dependent on reliable power, but they often operate in areas or environments where power disturbances are increasingly common. Severe weather events, an aging transmission grid and decentralised power sources all add to the likelihood of these disturbances.
Across all sectors, power availability and maintaining operations uptime are vital. Unplanned downtime incidents, highly inefficient electrical operations, and more frequent equipment failures can all lead to higher OPEX spending and, in some cases, major financial losses. For Mining, Minerals, and Metals firms, downtime not only impacts costs but also represents energy loss as equipment lay idle and are energy intensive to restart. To reduce the impact of downtime, the power infrastructure must be resilient, and more focus must be placed on innovative power. Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure Power is an IoT-enabled platform that digitises, optimises, and simplifies electrical distribution systems to make them smarter, faster, safer and more resilient - helping to ensure power availability in your mining operation.
Digitisation for greater visibility and reliability
The IEC defines availability as the "ability to be in a state to perform as required". Put simply, this is uptime. Uptime is not only affected by the reliability of a facility's infrastructure, but also by how fast the facility can recover from an outage.
Digitisation of your electrical power distribution system will help bring greater visibility, insights, and decision support to help you maintain your uptime. New condition monitoring and predictive maintenance analytics software can identify asset behavioural anomalies and equipment performance issues before any delays or stoppages occur. Analytics and reporting reduces downtime risks by providing insights as to when maintenance should be scheduled, in advance of an unanticipated outage.
For example, within your power distribution system, there can be risks to reliability that are hidden and go unnoticed. A power management system, such as EcoStruxure Power, takes advantage of data from connected devices, acting like a microscope on your electrical system, continuously monitoring its performance and the assets connected to it. There are also benefits for protecting people and supporting a safer work environment, such as in an underground mining environment, where an alarm can be set to notify of safety problems such as the tripping of a MasterPact MTZ Connected circuit breaker which operates the ventilation system. If any unexpected conditions are detected, an alarm notifies personnel wherever they are so that they can immediately locate the issue and take action.
Smart products for a smart network
A connected power network includes intelligent and connected advanced power meters that quickly reveal power quality issues - such as high harmonics, voltage sags or transients. These power quality issues usually only show themselves when undesirable outcomes occur, such as random trips of circuit breakers or the premature replacement of burned-out electric motors and variable speed drives. This can be expensive and time-consuming to resolve.
A digitally-connected power management solution should also include wireless thermal sensors, such as Easergy Wireless Sensors, for early detection of abnormal temperature rises on conductors and connection points. This can help reduce the risk of a fire or failure (and associated downtime), while avoiding the time and cost of annual infrared (IR) testing. Innovative motor control, such as Schneider Electric's TeSys Island, allows for digitally powered monitoring, control and protection of electrical motors for mining, which further enhance operations stability and power availability.
Another innovation is the ability to monitor circuit breaker health with advanced analytics that enable more proactive maintenance, preventing performance issues, and extending breaker life. Not just useful for protecting people and equipment, in the event of a failure, new, smart circuit breakers are able to isolate part of the circuit, so the rest of the network still has access to power. Smart circuit breakers also offer embedded metering capabilities to support connected power management and predictive maintenance.
Connect with expert services for predictive maintenance
If your organisation has limited onsite technical resources or expertise, then utilising a cloud-based power management application can let you access a portal to remote expert services. These ‘digital services' can help you reduce the complexity and time needed to manage your power distribution systems, while improving power quality, reliability, and availability.
Expert advisors can be called upon to remotely monitor your site and deliver condition-based insights about your electrical system health and asset performance. These insights enable a more predictive maintenance approach, resulting in fewer operational failures and a downtime reduction of 30 to 50%. Advisory services, including Schneider Electric EcoXpert partners, can help you evolve your system over its life cycle.
Fault localisation and power recovery
The best way to prevent downtime is to prepare for it, but part of this preparation must include dealing with unexpected events. To ensure your mining facility and plant can quickly restart in the event of downtime, you need to pivot your resources to finding the cause of the shut down, and then work towards power recovery - minimising the fault duration and impact. Having the right products and software will help ensure a rapid recovery. Some of the newest tools, such as EcoStruxure Power Operation, can allow the on-site facility team to automatically correlate system-wide data and reveal the propagation of a disturbance to isolate the source. In addition, smart protection relays, trip units, and accessories can help to quickly localise a fault, identifying the tripped circuit-breaker and its associated circuit.
Implementing smart, digital tools that enable organisations to make informed decisions and empower people across the value chain to make strategic choices based on sound advice is an excellent starting point in the move towards greater power availability and operational uptime.
For more information visit the Schneider Electric website at se.com/au/power-availability