Tag Archives: Benoit Dussault

Howden strives for further ventilation on demand optimisation

Earlier this year, Howden’s Lead Software Engineer, Benoit Dussault, told IM that the company was starting to delve into machine learning as part of the evolution of Ventsim CONTROL, and he recently provided a few more details about the impact this could have on its flagship ventilation optimisation system.

The company’s aim for this project – as with all ongoing ventilation projects – is to optimise the flow of air and the other varying parameters that come with adequately ventilating underground mines.

Ventsim CONTROL has proven in the past to improve the ventilation process, with its highest level solution – level 5 – offering a ventilation on demand (VoD) solution bolstered by “optimisation algorithms”.

Dussault said the company is looking to bolster these algorithms with machine learning to help predict and detect certain parameters that influence the way mine ventilation systems work.

“With that, we could detect something that a sensor alone cannot do and analyse data to see things we could not see before,” he explained.

For instance, with Howden’s recently added temperature controllers for Ventsim CONTROL – both for cooling and heating purposes – the system could leverage machine-learning algorithms to predict how long it would take to reach a specific temperature sub point at an area of a mine, optimising the heat and airflow so that the set point is reached at the scheduled time.

This type of process reduces not only the energy consumption associated with ventilation but also the emissions associated with powering the processes.

“There is already optimisation happening with Ventsim CONTROL on a regular basis, but, with the assistance of machine learning and predictive modelling, we can optimise this further,” Dussault said.

As both software developers, engineers and mining practice leads, Howden, a Chart Industries Company, is well positioned to make the most of the industry’s machine-learning advances, according to Dussault.

“In the mining industry, there are a lot of PLC programmers and automation specialists, but very few of these are software developers,” he said. “I think we have much unique expertise to allow us to lead this adoption.”

To facilitate this move, Howden is moving Ventsim CONTROL over to a web-based user interface with BI Dashboards and reporting, making it easier to understand what the data is saying about potential ventilation optimisation advances.

Howden is currently evaluating the customer needs to build a machine-learning prototype that will be tested extensively in-house ahead of deployment at a mine site.

Feeding the algorithm with the right kind of data will be paramount to the project’s success, according to Dussault.

“No matter what you try to do with machine learning, if your data is wrong, your model will be wrong,” he said.

Howden continues to bring energy and ventilation efficiency to mining operations

Howden’s Ventsim™ CONTROL may have been introduced 15 years ago in Canada, but the cutting-edge mining innovation continues to be refined, the company says.

Ventsim is designed to reduce energy consumption, associated costs and improve energy efficiency in underground mine ventilation systems.

The Ventsim software suite uses advanced algorithms to analyse real-time data and adjust ventilation equipment to maximise energy savings while maintaining safe working conditions. As the global mining industry continues to face increased pressure to reduce its carbon footprint, it offers a valuable solution by optimising energy usage and reducing wasted energy, Howden says.

Howden, a Chart Industries Company, has focused on innovation with this software to meet the needs of ventilation and automation engineers by developing a solution that requires no prior programming. The site team can manage Ventsim CONTROL on an ongoing basis which means there is no need to continually bring in third parties to make changes as the mine’s requirements change.

This was a need in the market in 2009 when Ventsim software was introduced. The software has become even more relevant today, where resources are expensive and scarce, and mine plans – in many cases – need to be commodity price sensitive. Ventsim CONTROL can incorporate sensors, hardware, and software from any third-party supplier and has grown to become a key ventilation-engineering tool across the mining sector.

In recent years, Howden has developed the software with the complementary addition of 3D modelling and simulation components of Ventsim DESIGN, a mine ventilation simulation software, to allow mining companies to achieve optimal visualisation of their ventilation systems across their operations.

In a recent update, the software’s 3D tracking visualisation of personnel and vehicles was improved through the ability to tap into existing site-wide tracking systems at most modern underground mines.

Benoit Dussault, Lead Software Engineer at Howden, told IM: “We are working hand-in-hand with tracking providers on this solution, incorporating the x, y, z coordinates associated with these ‘tags’ or deploying a zone-based approach where these coordinates are not available.”

A real-time gas simulation that can incorporate data inputs from gas sensors around the mine and predict the gas concentrations going into areas not equipped with sensors is also being integrated into the software platform as part of expanded control and optimisation functionality. The same can be said about heat simulation, which was introduced last year.

The company is also refining its energy management and control toolkit, building on the energy dashboards it has had in place to visualise energy consumption, energy savings and, more recently, carbon emissions.

“We are implementing a carbon calculator this year that builds on those energy reports,” Dussault explained. “The software will track your emissions, allowing companies to benchmark their consumption and emissions against a plan.”

Later in 2023 and into 2024, the company hopes to put ventilation-focused, artificial intelligence-backed algorithms to work at mine sites, potentially taking the company’s ventilation optimisation abilities to new heights.

This would also coincide with a new web-based interface, introducing BI dashboards and reporting to an already impressive line-up of features.

While all these elements have global applications – and Howden itself is a global player in the ventilation sector – Dussault was keen to emphasise Canada’s influence on the ongoing evolution of Ventsim CONTROL: “Our first full Ventilation on Demand installation projects were in Canada back in 2009 and 2012. The latter, the Newmont Eleonore mine, is still significant for us from a project perspective. They [the mines in Canada] continue to play a vital role in developing the software continuously.”