ESG targets

Slashing energy costs

Smart-VOD’s ventilation on-demand system can significantly reduce energy consumption while driving high savings.

Amid an ongoing global energy transition, mines are constantly seeking ventilation solutions to suit their underground needs.

It can be a difficult process – the solutions must comply with industry standards while also minimising power usage and costs. This can be complicated by the fact many underground mining vehicles are still powered by diesel motors, which means forced air ventilation is required to remove exhaust and blast gasses while reducing ambient underground temperature.

Smart-VOD has an innovative off-the-shelf solution: the ventilation on-demand system.

The system uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) to track vehicles as they enter a ventilation zone, providing demand control signals based on vehicle movements. It’s been described as a “game-changer” for those in the underground mining sector.

At one mine site, Smart-VOD saved about 1.7 million litres of diesel.
Image: Smart-VOD

“Over the last 100,000 hours of ventilation on-demand operations, Smart-VOD has delivered an overall 54 per cent energy saving,” Smart-VOD said.

“This has resulted in significant reductions in ventilation power usage, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as operating and all-in sustaining costs.

“At one diesel-powered mine site, Smart-VOD has saved around 1.7 million litres of diesel. This volume of diesel equates to about 1.2 million kilograms of CO2 emissions being avoided.”

Fan output can be controlled with a variable speed drive (VSD), which offers continuous control over fan speed, or a Smart-Starter, which allows remote control of both stages of a dual fan starter.

“Based on pre-production testing, a dual-fan direct online starter fitted with the Smart-Starter core can deliver up to 50 per cent in energy savings,” Smart-VOD said.

“A dual-speed fan fitted with a Smart-Starter can be operated with one stage on and one stage off, which will deliver about 80 per cent of the air volume at half the power usage. 

“Alternatively, both stages can run and provide 100 per cent of the air volume, using 100 per cent power.”

By accurately understanding vehicle movements, the fully automated system can consistently etch out energy savings. 

“From our experience, the majority of the energy savings in a VOD system are attributed to the control signal, not the fan control method,” Smart-VOD said.

Smart-VOD’s ventilation on-demand unit has been designed to operate autonomously, meaning it doesn’t require continuous network connectivity or manual input from those at the surface.

“By utilising RFID tracking information, a Smart-VOD zone unit and a Smart-Starter, the switching off and on of the fan stages is fully automated, leading to more power savings,” Smart-VOD said.

When network connectivity is available to Smart-VOD’s ventilation on-demand unit, a centralised mine dashboard will display the status of the ventilation zone, along with the savings performance and reports on vehicles in each zone.

At a glance, operators can see the fan’s current speed, how much energy is being saved in the current shift, and even how much energy was saved in the financial year to date.

“Ventilation requirements in Australia are based on the size of the engine in the working area,” Smart-VOD said. “By understanding the vehicles through the Smart-VOD dashboard, we can demonstrate compliance.

“We can also generate accurate reports of the ventilation system to demonstrate that everything is working and identify if there’s an issue that requires maintenance.”

Overall, Smart-VOD adopts an incremental approach to ventilation.

“Our low upfront capital expenditure makes incremental establishment a sustainable approach,” the company said.

“This incremental approach to ventilation on-demand is proving to be easier to implement than a whole-of-mine ventilation on-demand system and is applicable to smaller underground mining operations.

“Because the energy and cost savings are realised by the operator, they can be used to expand ventilation on-demand throughout the mine site, leading to further savings and efficiency.

“These savings can also be used to further develop renewable power generating facilities.”

By helping mining companies minimise their carbon emissions and waste, Smart-VOD is a sustainability enabler and has an increasingly critical role to play as the energy transition ramps up.

This feature appeared in the June 2024 issue of Australian Mining.

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