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In a country such as South Africa that relies heavily on coal production for electricity generation, the quality of the fuel can determine the difference between a fully operational power plant and one that’s crippled by breakdowns or - at best - running at below optimum capacity.
Ensuring coal quality needn’t be a hit-and-miss prospect. Modern data-driven (real-time) coal quality management systems (CQMS) remove the guesswork and offer certainty and profitability to coal producers and users such as power utilities.
German Expertise Transfer
Through a recent partnership between Barzani Mining, a subsidiary of Barzani Group and MIBRAG Consulting International GmbH, the South African mining support services company now offers a highly sophisticated CQMS developed by its German partner – enabling local coal producers to mine, stockpile and deliver coal of consistent quality with predictable outcomes.
Coal Quality Control = Certainty
MIBRAG Consulting International CEO Dr Hendrik Lamert outlined the objectives of a coal quality management system such as the one his company has proven and perfected at the coal face for over 20 years: “It’s about certainty and security of supply. It’s a predictably sure way to achieve efficient usage of existing coal resources because it allows power plants to be optimised through ensuring high levels of coal quality throughout the stockpile. What’s more, the right CQMS assures coal producers and their clients of compliance with contractual or expected quality standards. And by effecting more efficient combustion, it minimises environmental pollution. The bottom line is that a modern quality management system, custom designed for the producer’s unique geological, logistical and other production realities will optimise profits.”
Entire Industry Will Benefit
Barzani Executive Director of Mining Thabo Moloto is the project leader driving the success of the partnership from the South African side. For him, the advantages of the agreement are many, not only to the two partners, but to the industry as a whole.
“Barzani Mining will benefit from MIBRAG Consulting International’s vast expertise and established track record. Securing the know-how of such an accomplished international consulting partner enables us at Barzani to transfer valuable knowledge to the South African mining industry. And of course, it enables MIBRAG Consulting to venture into the very promising South African mining market and to work here successfully,” he says.
Use Cases in Europe
Expanding on the German partner’s track record, Lamert cited a recent example of the implementation of a CQMS at a power producer, where the desired outcome of MIBRAG Consulting International’s extensive planning and system design was environmental improvement as well as more efficient production.
“Between 2006 and 2020 we had a very fruitful business relationship with the state-owned Serbian electricity company Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS). The most recent project, which was realised between 2013 and 2020, included an installation of stockyard equipment including a stacker, crushers, belt conveyors, two portal scrapers and of course, the coal quality management system,” he explains.
Other examples of the company’s international activities include the preparation of a production and investment plan for a new mine in Kosovo, and the recommissioning of an underground site in Poland, which involved modernising the excavation and transport technologies, upgrading laboratory equipment and the coal washing system, as well as analysing and optimising the mining plans and processes.
The End of Loadshedding?
Given South Africa’s all too regular experiences of power outages and the effect of these on the economy, it would seem a no-brainer for both a power utility and its coal suppliers to have an effective CQMS in place.
In fact, Moloto sees it as “essential”.
“Every power station is designed to operate optimally with a specific quality of coal. It is therefore essential to ensure that the coal that gets delivered to the power station suits the plant’s design. If this doesn’t happen, you are likely to face serious breakdowns at the power station, which on too many occasions result in inefficiencies and ultimately power outages,” he says.
Avoid These Consequences
Lamert agrees. “Without a proper CQMS, there could be numerous technical, environmental and financial consequences for the power plant operators as end users of the coal. Overheating and damage to the burners, increased slagging and fouling, heat loss, increased particulate emission, additional maintenance costs, and so on. Of course, coal producers could also be affected financially by out-of-spec coal deliveries, through contract penalties or even more severe no-payment clauses.”
Fortunately for coal producers and industrial users of their product, a bespoke CQMS, designed for their unique South African circumstances, is now within reach through the Barzani Mining-MIBRAG Consulting International partnership.
A Logical Fit
Moloto emphasised that the CQMS offering of the partnership was
a logical augmentation of Barzani Mining’s services. “We are a value-adding mining services provider. Providing project management consulting for the implementation of the most appropriate CQMS is another way in which we add value for our customers, over and above our already wide range of contract mining services.”
Lamert summed up the importance of implementing a CQMS: “An effective coal quality management system is the key to maximising your deposits, delivering the best product you can and reducing the impact on the environment as much as possible. In short, it keeps your customers and your own company happy.”
The Basics of a Coal Quality Management System
A brief drilldown by Dr Hendrik Lamert, CEO of MIBRAG Consulting International
“Coal quality management starts with the initial exploration, which should provide a thorough knowledge of your deposit and quality distribution along the seam, at strike and at depth. Accurate measuring tells you the characteristics of the product you can produce. The main part, of course, is the operation itself. The mining model and schedules predict a certain quality, which meets the standards of our customers. During the excavation process, the location of the digger along the face is aligned with where the deposits of the required quality occur in the geological model. This is done for all excavators in the mine, predicting the coal quality based on the actual locations. By taking the speed and length of the conveyor belts into account, the CQMS creates a prediction of the coal quality and quantity. Online measurement points along the belts take real-time readings, informing us precisely of the quality of the coal arriving at the stockyard. The stockyard is the last point in the system, and this is where efficient blending takes place to homogenise the coal. The blending is done through a combination of stacking and reclaiming techniques. These methods are not limited to continuous equipment; the CQMS can be adjusted for shovel-truck operations, though the basic setup would be the same.”
“Finally, I would like to invite all potentially interested companies to Germany to see the CQMS system at our operations in action and how our customers benefit from it.”
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MIBRAG Consulting International GmbH
Phone +49 (0) 3441 684-290
Fax +49 (0) 3441 684 65-290
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