Power Bytes

Microgrids in Mining

March 01, 2021 Caterpillar Inc. Season 2 Episode 3
Power Bytes
Microgrids in Mining
Show Notes Transcript

Microgrids, decentralized power, and hybrid energy have dominated the news for some time now.  We wanted to take some time to look at specifically Microgrids in some different applications.  So, today, we're going to focus on mining.

Lou:  Good Day and welcome everyone to Power Bytes!  I am your host Lou Signorelli  and Power Bytes is your destination Podcast for power generation conversation.  As always please know how much we appreciate you, our listeners.  We hope you find our topics helpful and interesting.  There are several ways for you to get in touch with the show. You can send us an email at [email protected], visit us at Cat Electric Power on Facebook or LinkedIn.  If you enjoy your time with us today Please remember to subscribe to our podcast. 

Lou: Microgrids, decentralized power, and hybrid energy have dominated the news for some time now.  We wanted to take some time to look at specifically Microgrids in some different applications.  So, today, we're going to focus on mining. 

Lou: Joining me today via the Cat Electric Power hotline is Greg Hasler.  Greg has a Mechanical Engineering Degree from Bradley University.  Has been with Caterpillar for 30 years and holds several patents.  His career has spanned everything from engine development to microgrid system design and integration.  

Greg thanks for joining me today! 

Greg: Hello, glad to be participating today in this exciting pod cast. 

Lou: Greg, as part of my prep for today's show, I learned that there are 4 different types of mining: Underground, Surface, Placer, and In-situ and it seems that depending on the ore being mined, the same site my use more than one approach in an "as needed" fashion.  To keep things simple, would it be ok if we focused on "Surface" mining for today's discussion? 

Greg: Sounds like a plan. No matter what type of mining operation is taking place, the common thread to all is the need for electrical power to run operations. 

Lou: So Greg, what are the key considerations of a mine when we look at their power requirements. 

Greg:  Extraction, Material Handling, Processing, & administration?  

Lou: So how much power are we talking about? 

Greg: 10s of MW to 100 MW is a potential 

Lou: That's a lot of power.  So what are surface mines most focused on?  Is it the upfront cost or the operating costs. 

Greg: We have seen mining operations put a keen focus on both CapEx and OpEx, there is a very fine balance similar to running any business operation. 

Lou: That certainly makes sense.  Let's talk now about how Caterpillar has entered this market space.  What kinds of solutions has Caterpillar brought to the mines? 

Greg:  Caterpillar has been in the microgrid business for much longer than the term has been coined. A genset installation either on grid running as standby back up or multiple sources of power can create a microgrid. The official definition of microgrid is a small network of electricity users with a local source of supply that is usually attached to a centralized national grid but is able to function independently. Microgrids can be gensets only or configured with renewable sources such as Photovoltaics, Wind, Hydro Electric.  Since renewable sources can be very intermittent, adding a source of energy storage improves the resiliency of microgrid and improves the power quality.  A final component of the microgrid is a supervisory control system.  The Master Microgrid Controller can be thought of the conductor of the orchestra. The MMC coordinates all the power generating and storage resources to operate in the most efficient manner. 

Lou: I don't think most people knew Cat had such advanced technologies.  Can you give us some of the highlights on your BDP (1k? 250?)  That's an inverter? 

Greg: Correct, the BDP, which stands for Bi Directional Power inverter is a Caterpillar designed product which leverages Caterpillar's technology in electric drive machines. The first product we introduced is the BDP250, 250 kW @ 0.8PF. The nomenclature was initially derived to align with our genset nomenclature.  The BDP250 contains the same inverter, with slight modifications, as the D7E electric drive dozer which was introduced at ConExpo in 2008.  Caterpillar has 20+ patented control technologies for our BDP product line.  The BDP250 is a 2 stage product which means it contains a DC/DC converter and a DC/AC inverter. The 2 stage product allows for a very wide range of DC inputs and multiple DC sources to be connected. For example, we have deployed BDP250s with battery and PV dc inputs. The BDP250 serves as a single device for the microgrid.   

In contrast,  For pure energy storage applications, single stage designs are desirable. And we've developed our BDP1000 is a single stage, direct connect device. It only contains the DC/AC inverter and is designed to directly connect to a single DC source.   The design is lower cost to produce but limits the DC sources to one and has a much narrower range for the lower and upper dc limits. 

Lou: Can Cat integrate the entire solution?  How is it controlled? 

Greg: Yes, the Cat Microgird Master Controller (MMC) as mentioned is the Caterpillar designed supervisory controller.  The MMC interfaces to the microgrid assets via an ethernet connection.  The  factory trained Caterpillar Dealer is capable of supporting of the entire product line.  

Lou: Greg, can you elaborate on the MMC and it's importance to the integration? 

Greg:  The beauty of the MMC is if the control is nonfunctioning or loses communications to the devices, the generating devices will still function, power will be delivered to sources but the power plant will be running in a less efficient manner. The MMC serving as a supervisory control manages all the resources to operate in the most efficient operational means.   

If the controller at your site is not properly integrated, it will/can cause power quality issues, instability, blackout conditions, and/or in efficient operation. This is where Caterpillar and our dealers really stand out. 

Lou: So Greg, it sounds like, while a mining operation certainly can use an independent source of power for their many needs, really, any business that seeks to 

  1. Lower their operating power expense
  2. Reduce emissions 
  3. Increase their participation in stabalizing the grid

 Would benefit from considering a microgrid for their own facility. 

Do I have that right? 

Greg: Lou, you are spot on target. Microgrid installations can have the ability to fulfill several business and social needs. 

Lou: There you have it folks.  I'd like to thank Greg Hasler for sharing his insights with us today… and thank you, our listeners for listening to Power Bytes. If you'd like more information on how you can best take advantage of micrigrids for your facility please go to cat.com and enter "Microgrid" into the search bar at the top of the page. 

If you’d like to suggest other topics for the program or have some feedback to share,  please write us here at [email protected] or visit Cat Electric Power on Facebook or LinkedIn.   Please remember to subscribe to our Podcast wherever  you listen to your favorite podcasts.  Till next time, thanks for listening to Power Bytes and have a great day!