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BHP BMA’s Goonyella met coal mine receives ABB electrification upgrade

Sustainability, employee protection and operational insights are the drivers of a cutting-edge electrification upgrade at BHP BMA’s Goonyella Riverside Mine in Queensland, Australia, ABB says in a recent case study.

At the BHP-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) conjoined metallurgical coal mines Goonyella and Riverside in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, Subra Nedunuri, Senior Project Manager, Goonyella Riverside Mines (GRM), is responsible for delivering capital electrical projects without compromising environment, safety, quality, or mining schedules.

When a 43-year-old section of Goonyella Riverside’s power infrastructure became unreliable, Nedunuri began designing an upgrade with ABB capabilities, which protect employees, equipment and the environment, and enable predictive maintenance of 16 pumps critical to the mine’s operation.

Nedunuri said: “A rehabilitation project to move earth from one side of the mine to the other may cost $20 million, but in contrast this $3 million electrical upgrade can save lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in downtime.”

To power the coal wash treatment plant, pumps are used to direct water for reuse or into tailing dams: without them the plant can’t operate. In the past, the now obsolete electrical system communicated only three states of condition for the pumps operation – “On”, “Off” or “Fault”. The system had no protection against arc flash incidents (explosive releases of energy when an electrical arc travels through ionised air to ground or another part of the electrical system), which endanger the lives of service technicians and nearby workers.

For the upgrade, BMA wanted not only the safest switchgear to protect its employees, but a human-machine interface (HMI) that would enable remote and on-site monitoring and control of the electrical system and pumps around the clock.

ABB’s system-integrated Ultra-Fast Earthing Switches (UFES) formed the basis of GRM’s upgrade with safety, and protection of the people within the vicinity of the equipment in mind.

“The switch is installed into the panel to prevent an arc flash, if it occurs it will be detected and switch off the power in less than four milliseconds,” Nedunuri said. “In addition to UFES-enabled switchboards, the mine wanted to take advantage of new and trending technology in the form of digital communications between the switchboard and the plant.”

ABB Ability™ Electrical Monitoring and Control for Distribution Networks, known as ZEE600, integrates diverse devices from a variety of suppliers, under the IEC 61850 standard of communication preferred by BMA, ABB explained. At GRM, this condition monitoring solution harnesses the real-time diagnostic data of substation equipment and electrical assets – primarily the pumps – to alert on-site teams to respond with preventive maintenance.

“Via the HMI, you can actually see the health of the pumps, motors and starters – everything. Our analysis and improvement team also continuously collect the data and analyse it for troubleshooting and future enhancements,” he said.

Nedunuri said it’s all connected back to plant supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).

Installation and commissioning of the upgraded system took place during the mine’s biannual three-week-long scheduled maintenance shutdown in August/September 2022.

Prior to the shutdown period, Nedunuri constructed the system at ABB premises in Brisbane. Together with the ABB technicians, they matched cabling inlets and outlets with a template of the GRM system.

Henry Lin, Project Manager for Electrification Service at ABB in Brisbane, says ABB customers need to reduce the risk of costly downtime. “Our main objective in these projects is to ensure that our customer’s assets operate at peak performance levels and are available as required,” he said.

BMA has performed much research on the digitalisation of its mines and the ongoing upgrade of infrastructure involves a constant rollout of individual projects. When it comes to the safety and reliability of electrical infrastructure, Nedunuri said the company doesn’t compromise, regardless of the cost.

“All upgrades must not only comply with Australian Standards, but also require ongoing modifications to meet the higher bar set by BHP BMA to make sure it runs efficiently and effectively into the future,” he said.

“I feel proud that I eliminated a huge risk to the business through the pump electrification project. We are protecting people using the new system with arc flash mitigation and at the same time, the monitoring and control enabled by ABB ZEE600, not only improves pump efficiency, but also adds a lot of functionality – it’s easy to operate and easy to maintain.”

BMA and ABB are collaborating on a pipeline of further potential upgrades to existing on-site installations, with each project planned to deliver greater safety, reliability and sustainable growth, ABB says.