Sweden-based hardware and software automation and control company Gefa System’s Arctic Vent Control system can significantly reduce a mine’s energy consumption by ensuring underground areas are efficiently ventilated, the company says.
Arctic Vent Control is an autonomous control system comprising a software and a hardware package, which can be incorporated into a new or existing ventilation system. The system is decentralised, but can also be controlled through a remote control platform.
“The technology acts as an instrument and can be implemented during greenfield planning or when mining companies are aiming to modernise and upgrade their infrastructure,” says Gefa System international business development manager David Jack, noting that the Arctic Vent Control system is especially helpful when planning energy reduction strategies.
The system has its own control modules, operator dialogue and alarm functions, and creates reports from which the operator can analyse energy consumption and emission data.
Jack tells Mining Weekly that Gefa System can provide a solution with basic ventilation and on-demand functionality; thereafter, the system can be gradually expanded into advanced control processing that spans the entire mine.
He says the greatest advantages of the system are its low capital investment coupled with a short payback period, quick installation with multiple stage options, flexibility and its ability to control ventilation in line with demand. In addition, the system brings about immediate energy savings.
“Arctic Vent Control enables a mine to continuously adjust the fan speed, which extends the life of the fans, as they will only be used . . . when required,” says Jack.
He notes that, generally, fans are only switched on or off, which leads to inefficiency, as they operate on the basis of overcapacity when switched on as there is no fine adjustment option.
Jack adds that mines’ existing ventilation control systems are usually centralised, which causes vulnerability to communication failures. Much user interaction is also required, which increases unnecessary time being spent on system control and vulnerability to human error.
“Arctic Vent Control is easily integrated into existing fans and drive units,” he says, adding that the system also provides for shaft-door monitoring and control, which helps to maintain air pressure within the shafts. The system can also monitor harmful gases.
He states that using the control system will also result in indirect savings from heating and cooling the mine.
Further, Arctic Vent Control does not require any special operator training and the hardware enables the operator to control the mine’s system through touch-screen or remote-controlled devices.
Expansion into Africa
Jack states that Gefa System recently started marketing efforts to promote its solutions in South America and Africa. “Gefa System’s ventilation control software and hardware are available to South African clients and in Africa.”
He notes that Gefa System provides turnkey delivery for its solutions.
“Our [hardware and software] packages are put together, tested and shipped to designated locations,” he says, adding that support and consultancy are offered with system installation if the client requires these facilities.
Meanwhile, in August 2014, Gefa System relocated to a new office in Företagscentrum, Gällivare, Norrbotten County, the northern-most county of Sweden.
He notes that Gällivare is a town known for its strong mining community, where most of the businesses provide products and services for the two large mining companies operating in the region, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) and Boliden AB.
The new office is double the size of the previous office that housed Gefa System, as the company outgrew the previous offices, Jack says. However, he notes that the current office is temporary.
“We are planning to build larger offices that include more sophisticated research and development and testing facilities. This will assist with the increased improvement of our products,” he adds.
The development of the Arctic Vent Control system started in 1999, in collaboration with Swedish mining company LKAB’s underground iron-ore mine, in Malmberget, in the north of Sweden.
Development has continued since then, with the latest version having been launched in 2011 and installed at a smaller mine in southern Sweden, Jack tells Mining Weekly.
“Using LKAB as our main reference, the mine achieved more than a 40% reduction in energy consumption in five years, despite simultaneous expansion at the mine,” he notes.
LKAB ventilation engineer Sven-Ove Nilsson Mäki says the system has been adding value to LKAB’s underground iron-ore mine since 1999.
“After the Artic Vent Control system had been installed in the Malmberget mine, there was a 29% decrease in energy consumption from the mine’s fans and an overall 40% decrease in the energy used to heat the mine air in cold weather conditions. The introduction of this new system in the mine has led to a decrease in the yearly electricity energy consumption from 167 GWh to 72 GWh,” he concludes.