ABB introduces one of the first underground DC fast chargers in Australia for Glencore’s CSA copper mine in New South Wales.
Producing some 50,000 tonnes of copper each year, the CSA copper mine in Cobar operates 24/7 and employs 500 people. As part of its commitments to more environmentally sustainable operations the mine has undertaken an assessment of zero emissions vehicles and how they could help.
Peter Smith, Project Manager for Electrification at ABB Australia, says that when the CSA Mine invested in its first zero emission battery electric loaders as a replacement for their diesel fleet, it called in ABB to find a bespoke fast charging solution.
“At two kilometres underground, the operation of combustion engine vehicles are a challenging environmental scenario,” he says.
“CSA’s goal was to assess zero emission electric vehicles not only for the health and safety benefit – less noxious gases, less heat and less particulates in the air to manage – but also to reduce the operational expenditure of managing a complex ventilation system underground influenced by the need to manage emissions from operating equipment.”
Last October, ABB completed commissioning the first of two planned high power electric vehicle charging systems in the challenging underground conditions.
“We developed a customised solution that connects to their existing electrical infrastructure,” says Smith. “Placed 1,000 metres underground, it plugs into the loader in a similar way to the way a passenger electric vehicle is charged.”
ABB’s solution is one of the first underground DC fast chargers in Australia, says Smith. While engineers were able to apply their expertise from heavy vehicle surface charging, they had to come up with some new solutions for mining conditions.
The CCS2 Charging Connector delivers 150 kilowatts of continuous output to fully charge the truck’s battery pack – enough power to get it through an eight-hour shift.
“Selecting an industrial charger suited for heavy vehicle applications, we improved on it by working with our integration partners to build the power electronic components into an air conditioned IP56 kiosk. This allows the equipment to operate within a stable 25 degrees Celsius environment without issues that could be caused by the ambient environment – including avoiding pulling in dust, moisture and heat. This will result in increased longevity for the system.
“One of the key challenges was to create this piece of equipment that was rugged enough to be transported underground by sledding on a steel plate 14 kilometres down to the location.
“Dragging sensitive electric equipment like this means it may experience high amounts of vibration or acute forces from bogging into the uneven ground surface. This is not something any surface EV charging station would typically come across. We built vibration dampening into the base which absorbs a lot of vibration that comes from moving the kiosks around in this way.”
The solution also includes state-of-the-art digital tools such as ABB Charger Connect and ABB Ability Energy and Asset Manager, which allows the monitoring of the underground charging network and maximises availability.
“As with all of ABB’s EV chargers, we use a 24/7 connection for visibility. Along with an operational dashboard, this provides service access so we can see exactly what the customer is seeing, including how frequently it is being charged, how much energy the charger is delivering to the vehicle and the status of the electrical distribution supplying it,” says Smith.
“This means that we can diagnose issues without having personnel on site at any particular time. We can also guide them on how to resolve issues that may arise. Finally, it lets us know what spare parts would be needed if site service was required.”
Smith says that maintenance of electric-powered loaders is simpler than the maintenance of a combustion engine, due to the electric motor having significantly fewer moving parts.
“ABB was the perfect business for this innovative project. We have the ability to combine decades of mining experience from our electrification business and our proven expertise in electric vehicle charging.”
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