SUNConferences, 29th Annual Conference of SAIIE

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Dynamic Optimisation of Deep-level Mine Refrigeration Control
Pieter Peach, Johan Bredenkamp, Johann van Rensburg

Last modified: 2018-10-17


Artificial cooling remains vital to the deep-level mining industry. This is mainly to ensure a safe underground working environment. Unfortunately, the refrigeration systems of South African gold mines are outdated. Aging infrastructure and the increasing distance to active mining areas present this industry with a unique set of cooling challenges. Mines are deeper and more complex than ever, yet their refrigeration systems operate according to original design specifications. The importance of mine refrigeration systems adapting to a dynamic environment becomes evident.

One solution to this challenge is to re-evaluate the control of refrigeration systems based on dynamic cooling needs. Control optimisation strategies were implemented on a case study to improve the overall performance of a refrigeration system. The implementation of these strategies resulted in multiple benefits for the mine.

The operational performance of the refrigeration system was optimised, resulting in both service delivery improvements and energy efficiency. During summer months the chill dam temperature decreased by 1°C at a lower energy consumption of 38 MWh per day. This accumulates to a financial cost saving of R9 million per annum.

This study proves that operational performance increases are possible through dynamic control optimisation of deep-level mine refrigeration systems.