System 800xA mine ventilation control at Boliden

Mine ventilation governed by needs reduced costs by 30%


Ventilation is responsible for a large part of the energy costs in a mine. For this reason, in collaboration with ABB, Boliden has installed an automation system for ventilation that is governed by needs in the mines in Kristineberg and Garpenberg.

One of Sweden’s deepest mines

Boliden is a European metal company with operations in  mines and smelting plants and 4,600m employees.The main metals are zinc and copper; other important metals produced are lead, gold and silver. Boliden is the third largest supplier of copper and zinc metal in Europe. And the recycling of metals is a different, growing part of operations.

Kristineberg is one of Sweden’s deepest mines operating at a depth of more than 1.100 meters. The ventilation system has a capacity of all of 550,00 m3 per hour and the first generation of systems for ventilation governed by needs was already installed in 1997.

However, the ventilation system from 1997 was limited to three positions, off, half speed and full speed. It was difficult to get the air to suffice.

Main facts

Industry Mining and minerals processing
Customer Boliden Kristineberg and Garpenberg
Country Sweden
  • Automation System 800xA adapted and simulation-tested for controlling mine ventilation

One of the world’s most modern mine ventilation plants

In the breaking rooms in a subterranean mine, among other things, air is polluted by diesel vehicles and blasting. Creating the ventilation able to remove the pollutants is a complicated business.

“This was an important piece of the puzzle to even allow mining to continue in Kristineberg. In this way, we could push an expensive investment in a new ventilation shaft into the future,” says Mats Isaksson, development engineer at Boliden.

In 2007, Boliden decided to invest in developing the new ventilation system and chose ABB as its partner. This time, they would substantially increase the precision in governing by needs. ABB’s 800xA automation system was selected as the platform, where all automation would be handled in one and the same control system environment. ABB’s static frequency changer was already being used from earlier.

This has resulted in one of the world’s most modern ventilation plants for subterranean work:

  • The plant ensures that the air flow is automatically adapted to activities in the rock shelter in question.
  • The fans are programmed to only operate in those rooms where an activity is in progress.
  • On vehicles used in the mine, there are transmitters with unique identity numbers. When the transmitter starts, ventilation is increased according to a pre-programmed volume to the vehicles in the breaking room. This volume is calculated in accordance with Boliden’s norms.
  • The fan operates for approx. 14 minutes after the last vehicle has left the room in order to vent residual exhaust gases.
The plant ensures that the air flow is automatically adapted to activities in the rock shelter in question
Emil Fjellner, electrician at the mine in Kristineberg and person responsible for the ventilation system.
A lot of air is needed down in the mine. Large fans press down fresh air a thousand meters using ABB’s Automation System 800xA
Fredrik Ekenstedt, project leader for the Technical Staff at Boliden
“Full capacity is required in a room with a loader, while fans for breaking rooms without vehicles operate at a quarter speed”

Expanding operations

Garpenberg, another Boliden-owned mine, has a similar control system for a part of a new major mineral deposit, Lappberget, which will substantially extend operations in the area. The system, which was taken into service in May 2009, consists of twelve fans in Lappberget between a level of 985 and 1,080 meters. After the installation, current consumption for these fans fell by approximately 500 A or 200 kW, signifying a reduction of around 40 percent.

“This has made it possible to remove the current limitations on all room fans so that these can run at a higher speed pressing in more air when a load is in progress. Consequently, the energy savings even contribute to better air quality,” Fredrik Ekenstedt maintains, interjecting that the investment also means that the electricity grid will not have to be expanded, which otherwise would have been inevitable.

At Garpenberg, approximately 50 fans will be connected to the control system in the initial phase. The company estimates that this will be completed during 2010.

At present we are carrying out a major study of the possibilities of further expanding the mine. “The new solution for ventilation will play a major role for ventilation in the study,” Mats Isaksson stresses.
Fredrik Ekenstedt
“Energy savings will be so extensive that within a period of three years we will have recovered the investment.”
Mats Isaksson, development engineer at Boliden.
“This has reduced the costs for ventilation by at least 30 percent”
Currently, about 30 % of fans are frequency-controlled.
“Our aim is that all fans should be retrofitted to frequency control so that the air flows are even more customized to needs”

Increasing the chances for profitable mining

Both Mats Isaksson and Fredrik Ekenstedt are very pleased with how collaboration with ABB has worked.

“The problem with this kind of project is that it takes an awfully long time.” The mining environment is very special and the production staff must always prioritize operations,” says Fredrik Ekenstedt.

Before the system is taken into service, many hours have been spent on simulations at ABB’s laboratory in Umeå. “These tests have made the installation a great deal easier,” Fredrik Ekenstedt states.

Lars Brännström, ABB’s sales supervisor for the projects at Kristineberg and Garpenberg, is also pleased with the collaboration. “This is an fine example of how customer-based development can work. Boliden is a demanding customer, but we have shown that we can satisfy their requirements,” he says.

Mats Isaksson is convinced that Boliden will install this type of ventilation system in all new subterranean mines that are established. “The energy savings it provides clearly increase the chances for profitable mining.” 
Before taking the system into service, many hours have been spent on simulations
Lars Brännström, ABB’s sales supervisor for the projects at Kristineberg and Garpenberg and Fredrik Ekenstedt, project leader for Boliden’s Technical Staff, are both pleased with Boliden’s savings.

System 800xA is discrete but an effective “brain” in the Kristineberg mine ventilation system.

Lars Brännström, ABB’s sales supervisor
“This is an fine example of how customer-based development can work. Boliden is a demanding customer, but we have shown that we can satisfy their requirements.”
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