Every industry on the power grid today looks to reduce its costs for power consumption. The mining industry is no different than other market sectors in its desire to lower its cost for power usage. And ensuring you have the best power supplies for the field is what fuels a successful mine site. Here are some of the top ways to provide power to mine sites through contract power.
What “Contract Power” Means
Contract power is offered to mine sites by power generation experts that provide electrical power to mine sites on a contract basis. These models are designed to pass the risk of electricity supply and efficiency from mine owners to the power generation company, so site power supply is effectively engaged.
Mine sites rely on contract power for their power requirements and sustainable power resources. Utilizing power generation experts is beneficial because they design, build, own and manage power plant projects which takes on all electricity supplies for the mine site. Having an all-in-one company allows mine sites to concentrate on getting the job done properly, without the risk of power outages and issues. As mine site owners start using capital funding for mine operation investments, contract power has become a reliable, practical and cost-effective means to power mining operation.
Delivering Long-term, Improved Mine Operations Outcomes
Traditional Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracts concentrate on exacting a low capital cost in order to win the mine’s contract. Power generation companies focus on long-term operation components such as electricity availability, plant maintenance, fuel consumption and overall more efficient mine operation outcomes to provide mine sites with the most reliable power source for the job. These benefits are usually packaged into the one power solution so commercial demands can be met and mine sites have a consistent flow of power 24/7.
Delivering Energy Efficiency
Fuel usage is typically 85% of the total cost of supplying electricity to mine operations. By utilising and investing in contract power, power generation companies are in a position to better understand your fuel usage and costs involved to tailor an energy efficiency solution based on proven performance tested in the field. These services are continually evaluated with new technologies implemented like low heat waste recovery and intake cooling in order to maximise energy efficiency to the mine operation.
Using waste heat to produce power is an innovation used for factories in today’s energy conscious manufacturing sector. This new technology also has a place in the electricity production for mines. Some power generation companies have developed a new technology for waste heat that recovers the energy lost through exhaust gases that are usually released into the air. Through new heat recover technology, reductions in fuel consumption have been noted when compared to original equipment manufacturer performance and when compared to one’s own fuel generation standards.
High availability and reliability is a core part of any surviving mine site. You want electricity when you need it and that means all day, every day, even during your peak use periods. Contract power ensures:
- minimum redundancy for each power station;
- equipment and technology that extends the life of equipment components and reduces maintenance expenses; and
- concentrates on its maintenance efforts to avoid outages caused by breakdowns.
Without stable power quality, mine sites run the risk of losing valuable time and money. Quality power management is one way a mine site can run more efficiently.
Efficiency at the Power Plant
On the other hand, power generation companies must also run efficiently. In fact, some utility companies that run on coal – that may have been mined at their own customer sites – are applying tools to help ensure efficiency, productivity, and quality. Controlling coal quality, increasing the availability of coal, and reducing the cost of generation without sacrificing boiler performance are main goals of most power gen plants these days.
One Pennsylvania-based plant was constructed to burn a specific type of Eastern Bituminous coal that was in abundant supply and located in close proximity to the plant. However, fluctuations in coal and emissions markets combined with dwindling availability of the design coal caused the plant to consider burning alternate coals to reduce operating costs. They came up with a new coal handling system which included stacking tube stockpiles, an on-line coal analyzer, and an automated coal blending strategy system. This system optimized the economics of the plant by giving the power plant the ability to adapt to market changes in coal supplies, coal prices, and allowance markets.
Other plants are trying to reduce the number of power outages caused by slagging — the molten or partial melting pasty ash deposits in their boiler. A plant manager in one Utah-based power company generation company believed a low ash fusion temperature was causing slagging which impacted their boiler performance – which in turn reduced operating efficiency and availability, and prompted unplanned unit outages. (Read more details about using an online elemental coal analyser to reduce power outages here.)
In both cases a Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA) online coal analyzer was installed which could provide minute-by-minute analysis of the coal. The data from the analyzer allows the plant to supply more consistent coal blends to the units and allows the plant to maximize the ash softening temperature of the blend, while reducing the need for more expensive, high fusion coals. With a more reliable coal blend, the stations re-gain electrical generation capacity and more consistently achieve the maximum rated capacity of the plant. If operating problems occur, they can be immediately determined whether or not there is a coal quality issue. There is less potential for lost generation because both quality and equipment problems are identified and addressed sooner.
So while mine site managers are worrying about the stability of their power sources, the power source managers are concerned with the quality and blend of their mined resources.