Coal Dust Explosion Mitigating the Risk of a Coal Dust Explosion in Underground Mines

Editor: Marcel Dröttboom

BMT WBM, a subsidiary of BMT Group, an international maritime design, engineering and risk management consultancy, has developed an experimental prototype system which could help mitigate the risks of coal dust explosions occurring in underground coal mines.

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Brisbane, Australia – In partnership with Skillpro, the 'Active Barrier' is designed to detect an incipient explosion and discharge nearly a quarter of a tonne of water within milliseconds. Such a system could play an integral role in enhancing the future safety of coal miners around the world.

A milestone in the development programme has been to construct the prototype system for trialling in an explosion test gallery located in Pretoria, South Africa later this year. Constructed in Australia, the system recently performed the first in a series of trial discharges prior to shipping for testing, where 240 litres of water was sent skyward in half a second, through 180 spray nozzles.

Greg Collecutt, Manager of Advanced Simulation at BMT WBM comments: "Some of the worst mining accidents in history have been caused by coal dust explosions and claimed the lives of thousands of miners. A zero harm approach remains top priority for mining organisations and we are committed to helping our customers achieve this through the development of innovative systems such as the Active Barrier. We’re very excited to move to the next trial stage in South Africa later this year and are confident it will produce positive results for the industry."

After the current series of operational tests are complete the prototype will be shipped for testing in the explosion gallery, where it is hoped that it will extinguish a real coal dust explosion travelling at speeds of over 700 kilometres per hour.

BMT WBM has been involved in this project for over five years, developing extensive and complex computational fluid and structural analysis models of the barrier. This allowed BMT to scope the feasibility of the concept and provide initial specifications for the required performance of the prototype. Both BMT WBM and Skillpro wish to acknowledge the ongoing financial support of the Australian coal industry research body, ACARP, for this project.