Optimisation of ventilation systems is no longer purely a cost exercise ; it also has positive implications for companies ’ energy footprint and emissions . Dan Gleeson touches base with those providing solutions to the market to see how they are tackling these requirements
The current ‘ numbers game ’ in mine ventilation involves more than just dollar amounts . With every reduction in cooled or heated air pushed to parts of a mine comes a cut in energy use and , with it , a potential drop in emissions .
Those involved in this market have become savvy enough to use existing data streams to show all three metrics – cost , emissions and sustainability benefits .
Such data adds to the business case for deploying real-time ventilation solutions that can react to environmental conditions below ground , as well as more accurately and efficiently push air to locations that require ventilation ahead of time .
Howden strives for further VoD optimisation
Earlier this year , Howden ’ s Lead Software Engineer , Benoit Dussault , told IM that the company was starting to delve into machine learning as part of the evolution of Ventsim CONTROL , and he provided a few more details for this feature .
The company ’ s aim for this project – as with all ongoing ventilation projects – is to optimise the flow of air and the other varying parameters that come with adequately ventilation underground mines .
Ventsim CONTROL has proven in the past to improve the ventilation process , with its highestlevel solution – level 5 – offering a ventilation on demand ( VoD ) solution bolstered by “ optimisation algorithms ”.
Dussault said the company is looking to bolster these algorithms with machine learning to help predict and detect certain parameters that influence the way mine ventilation systems work .
“ With that , we could detect something that a sensor alone cannot do and analyse data to see things we could not see before ,” he explained .
For instance , with Howden ’ s recently added temperature controllers for Ventsim CONTROL – both for cooling and heating purposes – the system could leverage machine-learning algorithms to predict how long it would take to reach a specific temperature sub point at an area of a mine , optimising the heat and airflow so that the set point is reached at the scheduled time . This type of process reduces not only the energy consumption associated with ventilation but also the emissions associated with powering the processes .
“ There is already optimisation happening with Ventsim CONTROL on a regular basis , but , with the assistance of machine learning and predictive modelling , we can optimise this further ,” Dussault said .
As both software developers , engineers and mining practice leads , Howden , a Chart Industries Company , is well positioned to make the most of the industry ’ s machine-learning advances , according to Dussault .
“ In the mining industry , there are a lot of PLC
Mine ventilation represents the single largest electrical load at the Olympias mine
programmers and automation specialists , but very few of these are software developers ,” he said . “ I think we have much unique expertise to allow us to lead this adoption .”
To facilitate this move , Howden is moving Ventsim CONTROL over to a web-based user interface with BI Dashboards and reporting , making it easier to understand what the data is saying about potential ventilation optimisation advances .
Howden is currently evaluating the customer needs to build a machine-learning prototype that will be tested extensively in-house ahead of deployment at a mine site .
Feeding the algorithm with the right kind of data will be paramount to the project ’ s success , according to Dussault .
“ No matter what you try to do with machine learning , if your data is wrong , your model will be wrong ,” he said .
One location where the company may be pulling data from for this machine-learning algorithm is the South Deep mine in South Africa .
Earlier this year , Gold Fields , the mine ’ s majority owner , confirmed it was collaborating with Howden to implement a state-of-the-art ventilation optimisation system that could support a safe working environment as well as reducing the mine ’ s energy consumption , contributing towards South Deep ’ s environmental and operational goals .
12 International Mining | JULY 2023