While in recent years the main focus was on optimisation of single parts like mine planning or advanced automation solutions now a seamless integration of all subsystems and an overall optimisation from the mine to the power plant is requested.
Even if high industrialised countries like Germany are discussing a long term oriented exit strategy for coal based power generation in order to cope with the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions, coal will definitely remain to be the most important source of fossil primary energy for the next decades on a global base.
The economic development in China, India and other emerging countries is based essentially on the use of coal for power generation . Therefore the development of new technologies for the handling of coal can contribute something to make the use of coal more efficient and sustainable. This article concentrates on automation trends in large scale coal handling systems based on current and future ABB projects.
From Mine to Plant
Coal handling systems are an integral part of a complete material flow and quality management system.
The increased degree of efficiency of modern coal power plants calls for an integrated coal handling management system in order to secure the coal supply in the requested quantity and quality. In order to cover these requirements ABB has developed a modular management system as shown in Fig. 2.
With the acquisition of Mincom, ABB will seamless integrate the Mincom Intelligent Mining Solution (IMS) in to an overall production mine and material handling system.
The production management level includes the tools for managing the mine, haulage and trade process in regard of fulfilment of contracts (quantity and quality), production management, maintenance and asset management. This level provides also necessary interfaces to ERP systems like SAP and others.
The Stockyard Management System (SMS) which will be described in more detail in the following sections enables a fully automated operation of the whole stockyard from a central control room and consists of the following modules:
- Pile Monitoring and Visualisation
- Material Tracking
- Quality Management
- Autonomous Stacking/Reclaiming
The local automation level covers all basic control functions, mostly implemented on the stockyard equipment itself. It includes instrumentation, electrification and automation scope on a local PLC for operator controlled stockyard machines.
This system can be customised to the needs of determined projects like:
- stockyard systems for lignite power plants (connected with the mine by rail or an overland conveyor system),
- In plant coal handling systems, and
- export or import coal terminals with ship and train loading and unloading.
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