Electrical engineering professionals will have to roll with the punches as new technology takes over the quarrying business and sends the industry into the future. Volvo Construction Equipment and partner Skanska are testing an Electric Site project — a quarrying operation of the future that will look completely different to anything that has come before it.
It's all going down at Vikan Kross quarry. The group is experimenting with new concept machines, work methods, and brand new site management systems, which have never been tested at a quarry before. They are focusing on electromobility and automation to meet new emissions targets — a move that will set the bar for the mining industry for some time to come.
Gunnar Hagman, CEO of Skanska Sweden said:
“This is the first time that anything like this has been attempted in the quarrying industry and, if successful, Electric Site could serve as a blueprint for transforming the efficiency, safety and environmental impact of quarries around the world.”
On 29 August 2018, the engineers were ready to debut their new Electric Site. For ten weeks, the autonomous Volvo machines will engage in production. They will only emit 95 percent of the emissions that a normal mining setup would produce. The companies will also spend 25 percent less than they would have with the old technology. The engineers have electrified each level of the transport stages in the quarry. Hagman said:
"We have to completely rethink the way we work and how we look upon machine efficiency — pushing the boundaries of our competence. The total site solution we developed together with our customer Skanska is not a commercial solution for sale today and we will evaluate the outcome of the tests but we have learnt so much already, elements of which will be fed into our future product development."
The quarry is utilizing eight prototype HX2 autonomous battery-electric load carriers. These fully electromobile vehicles will carry the extracted resources from the quarry. The engineers had initially tested out a first iteration of the load carrier called HX1. Once they had confirmed the electric drivetrain was capable of being driven by the battery technology they went ahead with producing the HX2.
The engineers then went on to fit previously emission-emitting technologies with electric motors. A primary crusher excavator prototype was born, ready to work on the site. One benefit of electric motors is that the site is much quieter than a normal quarrying site. But Chief Project Manager for Electric Site at Volvo CE Uwe Muller explains just how complicated an electric upgrade to an excavator is:
"To fit the new components in the machine without increasing its size required a significant amount of repackaging work. However, in terms of the operator interface and controls, nothing has changed - it's operated in exactly the same way as a conventional Volvo extractor. If the cable is connected, the machine will automatically start in electric mode. If it's not, it will start in diesel mode. Because the machine will be relatively static - only moving a few meters once or twice a day as the excavator works its way through the blasted rock - it's ideally suited as a fully electric machine on a cable."
The thinking behind this reflects the kind of renewable energy setups at mining setups. Some mines have solar panels and diesel setups so that when the renewables cannot pick up the slack, it can default back to diesel generators and continue powering the mining operation. Muller continues:
“This has allowed us to make it a zero-emission excavator when it’s plugged into the grid. However, we’ve designed it with flexibility in mind, so that we can have the option of using the diesel engine when it’s needed, for example, to reposition the machine or quickly movie it prior to blasting.”
Casey, JP. “Volvo and Skanska Begin Tests at Prototype All-Electric Mining Site.” Mining Technology, 4 Sept. 2018, www.mining-technology.com/news/volvo-skanska-begin-tests-prototype-electric-mining-site/.
“Testing Begins at World's First 'Emission-Free' Quarry.” Volvo Construction Equipment, www.volvoce.com/global/en/news-and-events/news-and-press-releases/2018/testing-begins-at-worlds-first-emission-free-quarry/.