Wabtec and the electrical evolution of mining

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Posted by Paul Moore on October 21, 2021

An in-person meeting at MINExpo 2021 with Dr Bappa Banerjee from Wabtec, VP Mining; and Rogerio Mendonca, President of Freight Equipment, offered fascinating insights into cart assist technology and the technological side of the electrification of mining fleets.

Historically, Wabtec has been working on electric drive systems for mining trucks for many years. In fact, under the name GE Transportation, it pioneered this technology with the first commercially viable electric drive system for large mining haul trucks in the early 1960s. Today, it includes the built-in AC drives optimized behind it. everything from the top of the line Komatsu 980E which enjoys excellent market response globally, especially in Latin America, to the leading Chinese OEM NHL and its largest export fleet which covers 28 NTE360A trucks going to Yancoal from ‘Australia.

Dr Bappa Banerjee de Wabtec, vice president of mines; and Rogerio Mendonca, president of freight equipment

Mendonca commented, “So when we have new conversations about the electrification of mining, this is already part of our core area of ​​expertise. Obviously, the power independent technology that everyone is watching has to evolve. But whether you have a diesel engine, battery, fuel cell, pantograph, or a combination of these, our power management system is capable of handling all power sources and converting them into traction. AC wheel. Our design philosophy is very power independent and our electrical systems support it. Today, the wheel traction is electric and the controls are electric.

He added that Wabtec is also working on the electrification of some of the auxiliary systems which remain mechanical. “So when the OEMs decide where they’re going in terms of power source, we’ll be able to handle that in terms of the rest of the truck. And in the future, other energy sources will also be treated according to the same logic – with hydrogen, the industry is still considering two options, either to burn hydrogen in the combustion engine but that comes with it. storage problems on board, then use a fuel cell as a power supply. At Wabtec, we’re happy with the direction we’re going – our drive system has been electric from the start, which puts us in the best position to gradually evolve technology to accommodate new sources of power. .

The new trolley line in Boliden Kevitsa

Wabtec’s capabilities in electric mining transport also extend to its own mining truck pantograph which was on display at MINExpo 2021 – the Mining PANTO MTP100. Its pantographs inherit all the experience of the acquired company Faiveley, which introduced the one-arm pantograph in 1955 and has supplied pantographs to mining operators for over 40 years. Wabtec claims that its mining pantographs “are specially designed for aerodynamics, high traction efficiency, low maintenance and maximum wear component life.” Dynamic position compensation ensures constant line contact across the entire working range while the adjustable contact force reduces carbon contact wear. Wabtec also provides maintenance and reconstruction of pantographs and offers on-site training. Mendonca added: “The design and construction logic as well as the technology of a mining pantograph are very similar, but they must take into account the working environment, including vibrations and extreme temperatures. It is therefore very robust.

Banerjee continued, “It is also not easy to place the pantograph under the trolley and stay there, so it offers both lateral guidance and vertical guidance under the overhead line. He’s smart enough to know what he’s doing. System guidance also helps the truck driver find overhead lines. Will this Wabtec technology then also make it possible to combine trolley and autonomy? Banerjee said, “The ability to understand the position of the truck and pantograph in relation to the overhead line integrates with the entire truck control system. So when we see the first autonomous trolleybuses, they will get information from the same system. It is important to note that a lot of things come together in a mine to make autonomous transport work but in the specific cases where you will have both autonomy and cart, our technology will be plug and play with the AHS system.

On battery with cart, maintenance was also timely as iron ore miner Roy Hill in Western Australia announced that the MINExpo 2021 event was underway, the purchase of an electric locomotive at Wabtec FLXdrive battery, which will be the world’s first 100% battery, heavy transport locomotive for the region and the mining industry. Mendonca said: “In this application it fits perfectly and is real today with a commercial order – the mining truck will do that too.” Roy Hill will receive the latest version of the FLXdrive battery electric locomotive in 2023 with an energy capacity of 7 MWh. Based on Roy Hill’s route and rail operations, the FLXdrive is expected to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions by a double-digit percentage per train. Continued use of the FLXdrive will also reduce ongoing operating costs through maintenance expenses.

Roy Hill bought a Wabtec FLXdrive battery electric locomotive

Mendonca adds: “The ability to draw electrical power into a drive system is already there and it can be done in mining today with existing technology. Of course, there is the issue of how much battery power you can pack into the truck to make it viable for current operations. I think for battery-only trucks with a fixed charge it’s still a long way off. But with the battery and the cart together, it can be done now with operational success depending on things like the availability of cart lines and the types of transport routes that the trucks take. The truck will run on the cart but will also charge the battery with the battery used for certain segments such as charging and discharging.

Banerjee went on to address the broader discussions of the charging method: “There are four ways to charge a battery today – the cart is just one of them, but Wabtec can offer all four today. and is already operating today in other sectors. In addition to the cart, you can charge the batteries using wireless charging points and induction technology with a charger; then you can use a fixed load but more similar to the heavy systems used for ferries which allow some movement; and finally, of course, you have a battery swap similar to what some of the major players in underground mining equipment have to offer. He pointed out that the industry is still looking at all of these options for surface mining trucks. “Of course, there is a certain level of capital investment for the streetcar lines, which is another reason it’s not the only game in town.”

Suffice it to say, Wabtec sees forklift technology as a central part of its mining offering and is expected to experience significant growth as mining adapts to medium and long term emission reduction targets. Of course, it is already a close partner with Komatsu and Cummins and works closely with them on the 830E-5 trucks introduced with the Trolley Assist Package at the Kevitsa nickel-copper mine in Boliden in Finland and on other projects. conversion of forklifts currently underway.


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