Quality as an Essential Element in Energy ControlMon, 10/21/2013 - 17:42
Because the levels of energy required to locate deposits, construct a mine, and run production are so intense, a mining company’s ability to succeed can often hinge on its ability to ensuring access to a high quality and reliable energy supply. “Energy saving is equal to growth. Most of the time, companies are limited in their ability to supply their own energy. Mines are usually located remotely and many of them have problems with energy, because the CFE cannot provide power to some of the mine sites,” says Pedro Berriel, Director General of Power Electronics. “Mining companies that do not have access to the CFE grid have to be very careful about how they use their limited energy supply. They have to use variable speed drives and selfstarters so that they can optimize the energy being used at each stage of their processes.” Power Electronics’ industrial division serves the oil and gas, mining, and water industries internationally, with its main product for the mining industry being medium voltage switchgears, including self-starters, self-protectors, and medium voltage drives. “The mining companies that are using our equipment are able to save important amounts of energy in one process that can then be used in another process. Self-starters and variable speed drives are two elements that can save important amounts of energy,” explains Berriel.
A real focus point for Power Electronics is the quality of the energy its solutions deliver, since quality energy translates into quality operations. “When a variable speed drive is installed in an engine the quality of the energy will decrease, affecting other equipment such as PLCs, hard drives, screens, and everything around the variable speed drive, because of the electrical noise. With the equipment that we provide it is possible to maintain the quality of energy at its best, because the electrical noise is easily canceled out in our reactors and filters,” says Berriel. “The energy supplied by CFE is of very low quality and its fluctuations can induce electrical failures. We know about these fluctuations in the power supply, so our equipment is prepared to receive and moderate them.” For Berriel the quality equation is simple: the better the technology that is used the more energy can be saved, thus reducing costs. “It is very important to measure how much energy can be saved, and which processes can or cannot be optimized to save energy. Sometimes operators believe that by integrating certain equipment they will be able to save energy where it cannot really be saved. Mining operators have to be very careful about this because it can ruin equipment,” warns Berriel.
Power Electronics’ emphasis on quality comes in part from the fact that the company’s formation took place in the mining industry, which for Berriel represents one of the most demanding sectors for energy quality, availability, and performance, because of the consequences and costs of equipment failure. “Most of Power Electronics’ solutions were developed with the aim of supporting the mining industry at its core. Our products are very reliable, designed to be ‘non-stop’, and very easy to maintain and operate. We can provide any medium voltage solution that a mine could require, and if the technology suits the mining industry it will exceed the expectations of any other industry,” he says. Because of the complexity of the processes that Power Electronics provides solutions for, failure is not an option – the problems that arise as a result of malfunctioning equipment can lead to big complications that are difficult and costly to fix. “Mining companies have to be prepared and they need to count on non-stop, reliable technology,” says Berriel. A particularly poignant example is the work that Power Electronics is currently conducting for AHMSA in the transportation of large quantities of iron powder from its Fénix project in Chihuahua to Monclova, Coahuila. “This project relies heavily on the drives we have installed for AHMSA in their iron pipeline. If any of our systems fail, over 300km of transported material would get stuck and then flooded, and the company would have to open the pipes to remove the condensed iron. It is therefore extremely important that our equipment functions well,” he adds.
Berriel sees a good deal of room for growth, particularly because automation is still relatively underused in Mexico. “There is a huge market for automation in the Mexican mining industry because there are very few companies that are taking advantage of it. Our products are designed so that they can be monitored and controlled, but process automation in Mexico is still under development,” says Berriel.