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High-Power Drives for Energy Efficiency and

abatement of carbon emissions in Mineral
Jorge Pontt, IEEE Senior Member
Department of Electronics, Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa María-Chile
e-mail: jorge.pontt@usm.cl

Abstract- Mineral processing is one of the most energy intensive II.HAUL TRUCKS WITH DIESEL-ELECTRIC DRIVE
industrial operations with important direct emissions given by
the Diesel fuel used in mining equipment like haul trucks for Fig.1 shows the block diagram of a diesel-electric haul truck
mineral transportation and indirect emissions generated by the drive system. For large-scale operations, the main objective is
use of electrical energy in grinding mills, slurry pumps and high- to reduce the cost per ton of material hauled. Ore and rock
current rectifiers. Therefore, there is a challenge for improving transportation from mines to stockpiles or to crushers is made
the efficiency of energy use, the abatement of carbon emissions, with haul trucks. Looking for productivity, fast run speeds
the use of water and environment care. Other challenges are uphill and downhill require the biggest haulage capacity and
given by the environment around the mining operations, with the most powerful haul trucks to transport the ore and rock
altitudes above 3000 meters above sea level, mountain conditions, from mine to stockpiles for further mineral conveying and
as well as, the growing problems stated by lower ore-grades, crushing processes. In traditional haul trucks, power is
deeper mine pits and longer tunnels, requiring systems with transferred to the rear wheels via a mechanical transmission.
higher transport and beneficiation capacity. For economy of One relative drawback of mechanical drive haulers is high
scale, high-power drives and modern technologies are needed. maintenance and repair costs associated with their
This work reviews the trend of technology and potentials for sophisticated and complex mechanical transmissions system.
carbon emission abatement and energy efficiency in mineral Elimination of the mechanical torque converter, transmission
processing. and differential is one of the major advantages of electric haul
trucks [2], [3]. AC Drives with IGBT-Inverters and vector
Keywords- Energy efficiency, Power Converters, Mineral
Processing, Industrial Applications. control offer a smooth stepless full torque operation by
motoring or braking at full operating speeds. A high starting
I. INTRODUCTION torque and high top speed allow for more ore to be transported
and at the same time giving the operator greater capacity from

M INERAL processing is one of the most energy intensive

industrial operations with important direct emissions
given by the Diesel fuel used in mining equipment like
trucks carrying the same load. Smooth and efficient electric
braking offer improved safety and reduces the wear rates of
the mechanical brakes. Powerful retardation is made with fine
haul trucks for mineral transportation and indirect emissions control down to standstill, with automatic blending between
generated by the use of electrical energy in grinding mills, electric and service brakes. Potential improvements with better
slurry pumps and high-current rectifiers. Therefore, there is a energy efficiency and emissions can be stated by the use of
challenge for improving the efficiency of energy use, the new super capacitors, batteries and control in order to enhance
abatement of carbon emissions, the use of water and the smooth operation of the diesel engine under variable
environment care. In the year 2008, Chile’s copper production operating conditions in comparison with the conventional haul
an energy use factor average of 22.869 MJ/TMF (6,35 truck. Use of bio-diesel, let’s say 20% of the fuel, can improve
MWH/TMF) [1]. Other challenges are given by the further the carbon emissions.
environment around the mining operations, with altitudes
above 3000 meters above sea level, mountain conditions, as
well as, the growing problems stated by lower ore-grades,
deeper mine pits and longer tunnels, requiring systems with
higher transport and beneficiation capacity. This work reviews
the trending and potentials for carbon emission abatement and
energy efficiency in mineral processing. Direct emissions are
produced by fuel combustion, mainly in diesel engines and
indirect emissions are generated by the use of electrical
Fig.1. Block diagram of the diesel-electric haul truck drive system

978-1-4244-5697-0/10/$25.00 ©2010 IEEE 5


III. GRINDING MILLS WITH GEARLESS DRIVES noisy, slow and with high variability, because of dependence
on mechanical components and calibration uncertainties.
About 65% of the energy demand is consumed in concentrator
plants, mainly in grinding mills. Fig. 2 depicts a gearless mil
drive (GMD). The mechanical power is transferred
electromagnetically between the stator and poles of the rotor
[4]. Due to the mass flow, materials, and power involved in
the process, SAG mills face the problem of high-energy
impacts caused by steel balls cataracting against the shell of
the mill, with loss of energy and accelerated breakage of balls
and liners. These harmful impacts result from the dynamics of
the load movement within the mill. Mill feeding, ball charge,
liner profile, load filling and speed in the mill are the main
variables [5], [6].

Fig..3 Typical SAG Circuit

Fig.2. High-power gearless drive for a SAG mill

Fig. 3 shows a typical grinding circuit with a SAG mill and

two ball mills. Grinding power is split into the SAG and ball
mills. Commonly, when the SAG mill stops its operation, the
other two ball mills should also halt. Fig. 4 outlines the charge Fig. 4. Positioning alternatives of the load cataract in a mill
motion in the mill. The lifters lift the load and produce
cascade and cataracting. Load dynamics depends mainly on Several authors have made important efforts in addressing
the speed, liner geometry, size distribution, load rheology and this problem. Their purpose is always to avoid the mentioned
load filling level. SAG non-programmed downtimes caused operational problems by proper control actions. For modeling
by broken mill liners, excessive grinding media consumption the charge behavior, direct observations using scale Lab-mills
(steel balls) and energy losses (kWh/ton) reduce availability were shown by [5], [6]. Motion simulation has been proposed
and increase the costs. In addition, unproductive impacts steel- using discrete element modeling (DEM) by [7], [8]. Modeling
to-steel inside the mill, excessive ball chips produced by the may be also supported with in-line measurements. Other
steel-to-steel impacts, reduces global efficiency. The variable authors have proposed a lifter bar instrumented with a strain
load inside the mill causes process variability, stating the gauge and a method for determining charge mass in SAG
challenge to stability and optimization. Therefore, in order to mills by using hydrostatic lift pressure, bearing loads, mill
mitigate these problems, load movement monitoring inside the power and speed. An interesting approach for modeling and
mill is required, where load filling behavior is the main inferential measurement of SAG mill parameters has been
operational variable. A too high load filling may conduct to given by [9], comprising a formulation for soft sensor
poor performance and a too low load filling may produce development based on the use of combined state and
harmful impacts in the shell of the mill. Commonly, parameter estimation. [10] and [11] presented approaches
measurement of bearing pressure and weight measured with based on non-contact acoustic measurement for sensing the
load cells have been employed for monitoring the load filling. charge status by measuring the vibrations on the mill surface.
However, these mechanical variables may be unreliable,


For detecting harmful impacts on the shell of the mill [12] and
[13] have described a new system, the impactmeter, based on
the non-contact acoustic measurement with an array of sensors
around the mill. [14] presented a study on impacts behavior in
grinding mills. A very interesting instrumentation system
called SAG Analyzer was described by [15]. It gives an on-
line measurement of total load filling. It can deduce the filling
level of grinding media. It is based on acoustic sensor
electronics fed by rechargeable batteries, mounted in the outer
shell of the mill and information wireless communication. An
inductive sensor is employed for synchronizing the position
Some relative drawbacks of the above mentioned methods
are the dependence on mechanical variables and a certain
degree of invasive nature of the instrumentation.
Increasing industrial applications and benefits of such new Fig. 5. MONSAG for a Gearless Drive
instrumentation are discussed by [15], [9] and [16].
MONSAG system is a non-invasive method based on Additional (non-desired) input excitations are given by
digital signal processing of electrical signals of the motor the noise vector K. The noise vector represents external
drive for the on-line monitoring of load filling of a tumbling perturbations, uncertainties in parameter and measurement
mill. It allows the improvement of operational control of variables. The output vector y represents the output variables.
variables, like the speed and mill feeding for optimizing the The parameter vector T represents the system parameters. For
load movement in the mill. The method may be used for any the sake of simplicity the estimation variables will be written
type of synchronous motor, as compared in [17] where it was as X, U, 4, Y for the estimation of vectors x, u, T, y,
introduced for application with gearless drives only. respectively. The control problem may be formulated with the
Experimental results at an actual industrial installation are goal for minimizing the estimation errors given by the set of
presented. differences shown in Eq. (3)-(6), under presence of noise K:
dx/dt = f (x, u, K, T, t) (1)

A. Background y = g (x, u, K, T, t ) (2)

MONSAG is a system for estimating the load filling of a ex = x – X (3)

SAG mill (patent pending). It is based on the robust
measurements of the electrical variables of the motor. Fig. 5 ey = y – Y (4)
shows the application in a gearless drive mill. Ore lumps, steel
balls and slurry comprise the internal load of the mill and react eu = u – U (5)
against the driving torque of the motor. In both cases, the
drive motor is a synchronous type and is considered as a eT = T - 4 (6)
sensor. The internal variables of the motor build the
electromagnetic torque and flux. Torque, flux and speed Because of the random character of the system, variables
belong to the state variable of the system. should be handled, such as random variables and the analysis
In general, the dynamics of the mill drive can be modeled should be carried out with statistical methods. Clearly, the
in the time-domain and in the frequency-domain. Both better the measurements, the better the estimations. Boundary
approaches may be used for the analysis and synthesis of the conditions and restrictions should also be considered. Of
digital signal processing employed in the electronics. The time course, some variables cannot be measured directly and
variation of space vector dx/dt is a nonlinear function of the auxiliary instrumentation variables may be defined, where
state x and control vector u as given by Eq. 1. The output experimental correlations in the frame of specific applications
vector y is described by Eq. (2). are very useful.
The control vector u includes voltages of stator, excitation
current of the synchronous motor and the load torque reaction
produced by the mill charge. It may include additional B. The basis of the method
excitations like bearing pressures or load cell measurements
and other operational variables. Behavior of control system, The well-known field orientation method (vector control of
controllers, and transducers with actuating and measured alternating current machines) is applied to process the
variables may be added. electrical variables of the motor drive: voltages, currents and
electromagnetic torque, flux and speed may be constructed.
The broader band behavior of electrical variables and good


quality of their measurements in comparison with mechanical

variables open the way for estimations with less uncertainties
and better performance. Process variables like bearing
pressures or load cell measurement can be applied for better


The outlined method was applied in a 36x17 feet -15000
HP (11.2 MW) variable-speed semiautogenous (SAG) mill
for copper ore concentration with nominal throughput of
24.000 tons per day. The mill is of the ring-motor type driven
by a cycoconverter. Also, it was applied in a 28x14 feet SAG
mill with 5250 kW, 15000 tons per day, for gold ore grinding
with an load-commutated inverter (LCI) fed drive.
The use of the proposed method has contributed to the Fig. 8. Improvement in specific energy consumption
process stabilization as shown in figures 6, 7 and 8, showing
the statistics comparison for about 6 weeks operation using Fig. 9 depicts the relation between measured and estimated
bearing pressures and 6 weeks operation using MONSAG, load filling. The measurements were made with inspections of
describing improvements in quality control, throughput and the mill by the well-known method of counting the free lifters
specific energy consumption, respectively. Using this new inside the mill. It can be seen that Eq. (3) is fulfilled for the
system, production average was improved by about 3.2% and individual state variable Jc, mill load filling.
specific energy consumption (kWh/Ton) was improved by 3.8%. In
addition it gives to the operator an early warning for filling 36
levels over- and under the expected values.

Measured Filling, %








26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

Estim ated filling, %

Fig.6. Improvement in Mill filling measurement. Comparison Fig. 9. Measured (inspections) v/s estimated load filling
using bearing pressures and MONSAG

In order to reduce the liner wear inside the mill and to avoid
the breakage of grinding steel balls, it is need to avoid the
impacts steel-to-steel inside the mill, given by the cascading
effect shown in Fig.4. For this purpose the impactmeter
system is employed, see Fig. 10. The system has an array of
acoustical sensors around the mill. With a pattern recognition
algorithm, it is intended to detect the high energy impacts by
analyzing the behavior of the sensor signals. A too high sped
of rotation, the more harmful impacts steel-to-steel. A too low
speed of rotation, the lower the comminution inside the mill.
Operating with the optimal speed, the charge movement is
controlled for the best effective comminution. The optimal
Fig.7. Improvement in throughput employing MONSAG speed is not fixed, because it depends on multiple factors [6].
instead of bearing pressures


power factor and efficiency with the saving of 400 kW in

comparison with the original setting. For a full loading this
saving represents a value of 1,5%. Considering an utilization
factor of 95% in a year, it represents a saving of 3328 MWh,
with an emission factor of 0,95 Tons CO2/MWH, the impact
is a saving of ca. 3162 Tons CO2 in a year.

A. Haul trucks
Potential improvements in diesel-electric haul trucks with
better energy efficiency and emissions can be stated by the use
of new super capacitors, batteries and control of power
Fig.10 Impactmer System. Array of sensors around the mill. electronics system feeding the drives in order to enhance the
smooth operation of the diesel engine under variable operating
conditions in comparison with the conventional haul truck.
VII. HIGH-POWER RECTIFIERS Another way is the use of bio-diesel component, let’s say 20%
of the fuel, can improve further the carbon emissions in the
For electro refining or electro winning of copper, high same order of 20%.
current rectifiers are employed. Fig.11 depicts a typical
scheme of an installation for Electro-winning of copper. B. Gearless mill drives
Reliability issues of high-power converters-fed drives
employed in modern SAG circuits state the trend for using
better and modern instrumentation Energy efficiency can be
achieved by improving the instrumentation and control system
in order to stabilize and optimize the control of the charge
motion inside the mill. Use of new instrumentation for
estimating operational variables and detecting unfavorable
operating conditions like harmful impacts steel-to-steel is also
a way for avoiding downtimes and getting better efficiency, as
shown for the MONSAG- and Impactmeter system in
paragraph VII.
A saving of 0,36 kWh/Ton, for a beneficiation of
Fig.11 High-power rectifier for Electro-winning of copper
12.483.000 tons/year it represents a saving of 4494
MWh/year, with an emission factor of 0,95 Tons CO2/MWH,
the impact is a saving of ca. 4269Tons CO2 in a year.
A new technology based on grinding based on HPGR
(High Pressure Grinding Rolls) have been developed and
employed for grinding ferrous ore and it is being tested in
several hard rock mining companies. In some cases it has been
reported a value for cost reductions of 14%, [18] in
comparison with gearless mill drives for SAG mills [19].

C. Power Quality in the electrical system of plant

Energy efficiency can be achieved in networks with high-
power converters with improved control system adjustments.
The value of the emission factor depends on the mix of
primary energy used for power generation.
Fig.12 Voltages at the busbars 1, 3 and 5 of network fig. 11

During commissioning of this plant several low voltage

contactors were damaged. A study was made. The problem IX. CONCLUSIONS
was related with the ringing commutation notches at the Large scale operations for mineral processing needs the
medium voltage 13,8 kV distribution level. The notches were most powerful equipment. For transportation, diesel electric
transferred to the low voltage side producing a malfunction of Haul Trucks with modern power and control devices show
electronic systems that were synchronized with the zero potential better performance and reduced carbon emissions.
crossing of voltages. After this finding a further adjustment of The utilization and availability of large SAG mills depends
operating points were made, regarding better power quality, strongly on the stability of the controlled movement of charge


as well as on the avoiding of unfavourable operating [12] Pontt J., Valderrama W., Magne L., “The Impactmeter, a new instrument
for monitoring and avoiding harmful high-energy impacts on the mill
conditions like steel-to-steel impacts in the internal liners of liners in SAG mills”, Proceedings IFAC Workshop: Future trends in
the mill. The use of modern technology with new concepts Automation in Mineral and Metal Processing, MM´2000, Helsinki,
can help productivity, energy efficiency, carbon emissions and Finland, 22-24-Aug., 2000, pp.286-289.
[13] Sams C., Dreher R., Filidore A., “Smooth transitions to performance in
economy.A higher reliability means also less downtimes and
large grinding mills”, International Conference on SAG grinding,
less man-hours working in the harsh industrial environment, SAG2001, Vancouver, Canada, 2001. CD Rom.
contributing to safety. [14] Dong H, Moys MH., “Measurement of impact behaviour between balls
and walls in grinding mills”, Minerals Engineering 16 (6), Jun 2003, pp.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT [15] Sams, C. et al, “New performance enhancements technologies for the
milling industry”, Workshop on SAG Grinding, SAG’03, Viña del Mar,
The authors want to recognize the sponsorship of the Chilean Council for Chile, 8-10 Oct. 2003. CD Rom.
Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) with the Proj. Fondecyt [16] Morrel S., Delbony H., “The modeling of autogenous and
1100988 and the support provided from MSI-Mideplan Proj. P07-087-F. semiautogenous mills, ”Proceedings of 2nd International Conference on
autogenous and semiautogenous grinding technology, Oct. 1996,
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[17] Pontt J., Valderrama W., Magne L., Pozo R., “MONSAG: A system for
[1] Cochilco, “ Consum of energy and greenhouse gases emission of copper the On-Line charge monitoring in semiautogenous grinding mills”,
mining, year 2008” (“Consumo de energía y emisiones de gases de efecto (MONSAG: Un sistema para el monitoreo On-Line de la carga en
invernadero de la minería del cobre, año 2008”), .July, 2009, available at Molinos SAG), Proceedings of Workshop on SAG grinding SAG’97,
www.cochilco.cl, page 14. Viña del Mar, Chile, 1997.
[2] G.M. Brown, W.G. Koellner, “A GTO Powered AC Drive System [18] K. Casteel, “Perfecting hard-rock High Pressure Grinding Performance”,
Increases the Performance of Off-Highway Haul Trucks”, Conference E&MJ, pp. 40-49.
Record of Thirty-Fourth IEEE-IAS Annual Meeting, Oct. 3-7, 1999, pp. [19] Rodríguez, J., Pontt, J., Newman, P., Musalem R.,Morán, L., “Technical
222 –233. Evaluation and Practical Experience of High Power Grinding Mill Drives
[3] W.G. Koellner, G.M. Brown, J. Rodríguez, J. Pontt, J. Cortés, H. Miranda. in Mining Applications”, Proceedings 38th IEEE Ind. Appl. Soc. Annual
“Recent Advances in Mining Haul Trucos”, IEEE Transactions on Meeting IAS 2003, USA. 12-16 Oct. 2003, Vol. 3, pp. 1629 – 1636.
Industrial Electronics, Vol. 51, Issue 2, pp. 321-329, April 2004.
[4] Errath, R., Riezinger F., Knecht J, “Exploring today’s limits of SAG and
ball mills technology”, Workshop on Semiautogenous Grinding, SAG’03,
Viña del Mar, Chile, 8-10 Oct. 2003.
[5] Valderrama, W., Magne, L., Pontt, J., “Semiautogenous grinding based on
the mill load movement”, (Molienda semiautógena basada en el
movimiento de la carga en el molino”), Proceedings of Workshop of
Semiautogenous Grinding, SAG’99, Viña del Mar, Chile, May, 12-14, Jorge O. Pontt (M’00–SM’04) received the
1999. CD Rom. Engineer's and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering
[6] J. Pontt, G. Sepúlveda, W. Valderrama, P. Espinoza, “New Methods and from the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria
plant experience for detection of harmful impacts on shell liners in high- (UTFSM), Valparaíso, Chile, both in 1977. Since
power semiautogenous grinding mills”, Proceedings of IEEE-IMTC’04, 1977, he has been a Professor in the Department of
May, 2004. Electrical Engineering and Department of
[7] Rajamani R., Mishra B.K., “Three-dimensional simulation of charge Electronics Engineering, UTFSM with R&D and
motion in plant size SAG mills”, Proceedings of International Conference graduate program of Power Electronics. He is
on autogenous and semiautogenous grinding technology, SAG2001, Vol. coauthor of the software Harmonix that is used in
IV, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, pp. 48-57. harmonic studies in electrical systems. He has more
[8] Hlungwani O, Rikhotso J, Dong H, Moys MH, Further validation of DEM than 100 refereed journal and conference papers. He is a consultant in the
modeling of milling: effects of liner profile and mill speed, MINERALS mining industry, particularly in the design and application of power
ENGINEERING 16 (10), pp. 993-998, Oct. 2003. electronics, drives, instrumentation systems, and power quality issues, with
[9] Apelt T.A., Asprey S.P., Thornhill N.F., “Inferential measurement of SAG management of more than 80 consulting and R&D projects. He has had
mills parameters, Minerals Engineering 14 (6), pp. 575-591, June 2001. scientific stays at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany
[10] Pax, R.A., “Non-Contact acoustic measurement of in-mill variables of (1979/1980), the University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany (1990), and
SAG mills”, International Conference on SAG grinding, SAG2001, the University of Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany (2000/2001). He is co-
Vancouver, Canada, 2001. CD Rom. pp. II 386-II 393. founder of the spin-off company ETT Ltda. (Chile) and Valtec related with
[11] Campbell J., Spencer D., Sutherland S., Rowlands T., Weeller K., Cleary instrumentation and monitoring systems for large grinding mills. He leads the
P., Hinde A., “SAG mill monitoring using surface vibrations, Proceedings Laboratory for Reliability and Power Quality, UTFSM (LACSE) and currently
of International Conference on autogenous and semiautogenous grinding he is Director of Millennium Nucleus on Industrial Electronics, Mechatronics
technology, SAG2001, Vol. II, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, pp.373-385. and Process Control (NEIM), UTFSM.