Some of the biggest challenges in the industrial world today are finding methods to conserve energy, reduce environmental impact, and improve workplace safety. Mining operations in particular are seeking ways to help reach these goals. BESTECH, a Northern Ontario firm specializing in engineering, automation, software development, and energy management, offers three software products to help mines address these challenges: NRG1-ECO™, AQM™, and RopeInspector™. With the implementation of these products, mines will reduce energy costs, encourage environmental sustainability, and enhance safety, while increasing operational productivity.
Created by BESTECH itself, NRG1-ECO™ is a mine-wide energy management system used for energy consumption optimization applications that can save mining operations millions of dollars in energy costs per year. With five control strategies, NRG1-ECO can be applied to automated equipment and processes such as compressors, pumps, and ventilation to significantly reduce energy consumption. The five control strategies are as follows:
Manual Real-Time Control, which can be used to stop or start any devices through the user interface or to disable them from any programmed automatic function
Environmental Monitoring, where air quality sensors monitor and respond in real-time to CO, NO, SO2, temperature, humidity, barometric atmospheric pressure and air flow
Event-Based Control, where devices will be stopped/started or reduced based on an event
Tagging, where the system instantly responds and increases ventilation when tagged mining personnel or vehicles enter a zone
Time-of-Day Scheduling, where the system starts/stops devices at specific times of the day (e.g. start/end of shift).
The NRG1-ECO system can be customized to reflect each mine’s needs and protocols in order to leverage the highest Return on Investment (ROI) for each mine site.
Consider a mine ventilation system that usually operates at peak capacity 100 per cent of the time. NRG1-ECO’s ventilation module enables the mine to actively control the ventilation system’s air flow with respect to time and location. This ability allows a mine to reduce its ventilation costs by as much as 30 per cent, which represents significant savings given that ventilation usually represents more than 50 per cent of a mine’s energy costs.
One of NRG1-ECO’s convenient features is that the software was developed with an open architecture so that it will operate with technology already in use at any mine. Integration is at the core of NRG1-ECO and its ability to incorporate with new or existing mine technology offers mines, old or new, the opportunity to realize significant energy savings, as well as improved worker safety. As an added feature, assistance with Energy Efficiency Grant and Incentive applications is available to mines for both the initial NRG1-ECO site assessment and commissioning to help leverage increased profitability and savings.
With the employment of BESTECH’s AQM™ (Air Quality Monitoring) technology, mines are able to improve how they manage emissions. AQM is an ambient air monitoring solution used by the mines as a tool for monitoring their environmental impact on the surrounding communities, so that they can manage their productions accordingly. The technology offers a variety of options for acquiring and distributing data to various environmental and operational stakeholders, such as the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) in Ontario, who require real-time information about production emission processes. As the MOE sets more stringent provincial air regulations, Ontario smelters are expected to further reduce air emissions.
AQM was designed and developed by BESTECH’s own software engineers and the technology is currently in place at the largest SO2 monitoring network in Canada. With the implementation of AQM at the two largest mining operations in Sudbury, Ontario, the software ensures that industries within the Sudbury Basin do not exceed their maximum thresholds for SO2 emissions, helping to protect the environment and welfare of the citizens in Sudbury and the surrounding communities.
BESTECH offers a complete service package with AQM: the team will manage the total operation and maintenance of the air quality systems. This package includes instrument calibrations, on-going sites visits and maintenance, assisting with regulatory audits and regular reporting.
In 2011, BESTECH added RopeInspector™ to its inventory of innovative products. The RopeInspector system automates regulated visual rope inspection by providing continuous 360-degree coverage at full hoisting speed. While defect analysis is performed offline, RopeInspector™ improves maintenance time, and increases daily hoisting availability. It provides early detection of rope failure, which also reduces equipment damage. It can observe ropes at up to 20 metres per second and identifies potential rope defects, such as nicking, birdcage and fraying. With a return on investment of less than five weeks, implementation of the system improves efficiency while meeting safety legislation requirements.
With RopeInspector™, mines have an alternative to the legislated mandatory task of hoist rope inspections. Hoist maintenance personnel is removed from rope proximity and placed in an office setting where they can be responsible for multiple hoists. As a result, mines are meeting and surpassing current regulatory requirements as well as increasing hoisting availability and reducing maintenance down time. BESTECH is currently developing the third generation of RopeInspector™ in order to further address the needs of the mining industry.
BESTECH’s NRG1-ECO™, AQM™ and RopeInspector™ are receiving world-wide attention regarding their potential to not only increase operational productivity, but to also save mining companies millions, help sustain the environment and further strengthen workplace safety. For more information about BESTECH’s NRG1-ECO, AQM, RopeInspector and other products and services, please visit www.bestech.com.