Howden is continuing to expand its flagship Ventsim CONTROL software, with the latest update to the ventilation control platform set to bring an ‘on demand’ element to mine ventilation cooling.
An upgrade from Ventsim DESIGN, Ventsim CONTROL uses intelligent software connected to Howden or third-party hardware devices to remotely monitor, control and automate airflow heating and cooling to deliver safer, more productive, and lower cost ventilation for mines, the company says.
Hugo Dello Sbarba, Director of Ventsim and Sales Mining, says the addition of a ‘cooling on demand’ module to Ventsim CONTROL coincides with an industry move to install more mine cooling plants to achieve higher standards of health and safety for workers. Howden has seen this trend up close and personal, having recently successfully delivered the first phase of an 8 MW surface bulk air mine cooling plant for Roxgold’s Yaramoko gold mine in Burkina Faso.
“We chose now to introduce cooling on demand to Ventsim CONTROL partially because more mines are getting deeper, require cooled air and are adopting higher standards in advance of incoming regulations,” he told IM. “This reflects a wider industry move towards more sustainable operations.”
There was also a push from existing Ventsim CONTROL customers for such cooling functionality, according to Dello Sbarba, with these clients realising the benefits that could come with controlling the process from the underground readings, assessing where cooling was most needed.
“While the actual capital cost associated with the cooling plant installation is unlikely to change – given these plants should be sized by engineers on a worse-case scenario basis – you should definitely see significant improvements in terms of the operating and energy cost of the plants,” he said.
This economic benefit is complemented by the health and safety advantages already mentioned.
“At the moment, miners tend to put a chilling plant on surface and just cool the air regardless of where it is destined to go,” Dello Sbarba said. “This process doesn’t consider the fact that the only reason you are cooling air on surface is for the deeper levels of the mine that experience particularly high temperatures.
“You currently don’t have intelligent control of this cooled air across the underground mine.”
With Howden’s cooling on demand module within Ventsim CONTROL, users can monitor if they are obtaining the required temperatures at these deeper levels, making sure the cooled air is pushed to where it needs to go.
Aside from a subscription to Ventsim CONTROL with at least Level 3 and 5 functionality – providing required set points for airflow, gas levels, and/or temperature – and the right-sized ventilation fans, users only require temperature and humidity sensors underground to carry out such control.
“Even though you need many of these monitors, they are relatively cheap with many hardware solutions available on the market,” Dello Sbarba said.
Equipped with these elements, users can assign certain temperature/humidity setpoints in areas of high activity, plug these setpoints into Ventsim CONTROL and allow the software to ‘communicate’ with the cooling plant and fans to automatically cool these areas to the required temperature. An advanced Level 5 installation of Ventsim CONTROL allows users to automatically optimise underground fan and regulator settings and adjusting main fan settings to maintain required cooling levels while maximising energy savings.
He concluded: “The reason it is advantageous to perform cooling on demand with Ventsim CONTROL over other solutions is the 3D modelling capabilities within the software. The model helps you predict and better control your air flows based on what you are seeing in the simulation.
“It has an edge over any other custom-made ventilation engineering solution on the market.”
The new cooling on demand functionality is now in the final throes of testing in a factory setting, with a mine site trial being lined up for later in the year.