Case Studies

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Case Studies


Case Study 1 - IS Ethernet in Coal Mining
The Problem


Daw Mill Colliery was the flagship deep mine of UK Coal. Set against a background of the earlier wholesale closure of mines and privatisation, UK Coal found that they needed to take a complete review of their control and monitoring and find newer and more supportable technology; as the existing systems architecture was inherently slow and prohibited effective control.


Above all other considerations safety is paramount, in machine operation, transport, environment, ventilation and gas monitoring.


The Solution


Deciding upon a solution for the programme involved visits to process industry sites and discussions with several suppliers. The decision was made to use Intrinsically Safe PLCs with an Intrinsically Safe Ethernet System to add networking communication with the surface.


The PLCs are monitored and controlled at the surface control room by use of Wonderware’s Intouch SCADA system and use this to manage the underground logic controllers. High value coal cutting machines and conveyors, as well as the underground environment, were thus brought under proper control. Safety, as already stated, is the primary concern and particular emphasis was made upon monitoring airflow, methane and carbon monoxide. Alarms are set that shut equipment down at pre-determined levels and also initiate evacuation.


The PLCs control Machinery including the coal-face coal shearing machines, ventilation, and conveyors. The coal face at Daw Mill is currently 10km from the control room; therefore communication has to be fast and effective - fibre optic Intrinsically Safe Ethernet is being used throughout the mine.


Within the project period it was noticed that a motor was drawing higher than normal current, but examination of the fine resolution data showed that this was caused by external effects rather than imminent motor failure. The fault proved to be a belt scraper that was pressing on the belt and causing it to slip – thereby explaining the high current.


The benefit to UK Coal of accurate diagnosis that prevented a shutdown was about £500K (calculated from the cost of replacement parts and lost production). The diagnosis allowed the problem to be fixed in 5 minutes by clearing a blocked air pipe. This diagnosis was possible due to the availability of high resolution archive data which is continually updated from all controllers to the historian server.
These examples show immediate cost savings that were made possible by the system. The benefits of real-time systems applied at the colliery are felt in day to day running by improved insight to events and ease of access to meaningful and useful information.


The system has become the backbone of the way that the colliery operations communicate; information that is required underground is readily available where and when it is required. This allows manpower to be allocated in an optimum way – with added certainty that the right team is being deployed for the right reasons. When distances underground are measured in kilometres, it is clearly very time consuming to be “on the wrong mission”.


The IS Ethernet infrastructure allows the options of adding wireless access points to connect to IS mobile computers, cameras for operations, safety and security, RFID for asset and people tracking and VoIP telecommunications in the future.

The use of IS PLCs and Intrinsically Safe Ethernet system has benefited UK Coal by providing advanced features that are easy to assimilate and take advantage of. The system is subject to constant change and development according to changing operating conditions and the realisation of solutions that will directly affect productivity and cost, cutting edge technology delivering benefits in depth!


UK Coal have taken the IS PLCs and Intrinsically Safe Ethernet system and are now using them extensively at six other collieries.



The Products


Initially the Daw Mill used the 9260 range of IS Ethernet infrastructure components but more recent extensions have employed the 9466-ET 5-port IS Ethernet Managed Switch together with the option of Power-over-Ethernet (PoEx™) to distribute the d.c. power.


IS Ethernet cards in PLCs throughout the mine are connected to a ‘local’ 9466-ET switch together with 9461-ET IS Ethernet Serial Gateways that are used to communicate with a range of IS serial devices. The 9466-ET switches are all interlinked with lengths of fibre-optic cable via 9465-ET IS Ethernet Copper-To-Fibre Media Converters, ultimately reaching the surface to link into the control system servers. The use of multimode fibre-optic Ethernet connections is invaluable for the long distances involved in coal mining, supporting 2km distances at 100Mbps or 5km at 10Mbps, while IS Ethernet over copper supports the standard 100Tx Ethernet distance of 100m.

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"CSL provided an excellent solution and first class technical support." Eddie Ruck, Group Electrical Engineer, UK Coal - Daw Mill Colliery


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