Cummins powers up solutions drive in face of mining energy evolution

Craig Wilkins, Director of Prime Power & Global Sales Support at Cummins, sees the company’s new HSK78G natural gas generator as a mainstay in the mine power sector, able to offer companies fuel flexibility, reliable power generation and comparatively low emissions.

With the industry currently undergoing an evolution in power inputs – the focus having shifted towards renewable and clean options that can offer both a reduced carbon footprint and energy diversity – the HSK78G can be used alongside the likes of diesel, solar and wind energy to ensure mining companies have a reliable power solution in place.

Cummins debuted the 1.6-2 MW generator series at the 2019 Middle East Electricity show back in March and Wilkins told IM at the AIMEX 2019 show in Sydney, Australia, last week (Cummins stand pictured above) that the reception from the mining sector has been positive.

The HSK78G (pictured, left) has been running at Blackham Resources’ Matilda-Wiluna gold mine, in Western Australia, for a few years, in addition to units being deployed at mine sites in China. The company also has plans to test the generator’s efficiency at altitude with a mining customer trial lined up next year in Latin America.

Cummins says the HSK78G is a prime power solution for heavy industry installations in the most extreme environments. Its engineering is designed to push the boundaries of performance and challenge the perceived limitations of natural gas generators for mining operations, according to the company, with the generator designed to operate at the highest altitudes in the most remote locations, all far from the closest grid. This sees the unit offer full power capability without derating at 50°C (122°F) and 500 m (1,640 ft) above sea level (asl), and up to 4,000 m asl with some derating.

It also offers “barrier-breaking fuel flexibility” and the ability to burn pipeline natural gas, flare gas down to 40 methane number (MN), biogas and ultra-low fuels down to 273 BTU/scf without derating. At the same time, it can handle contaminant levels on very aggressive fuels, Cummins says.

This sees the generator deliver high electrical efficiency of up to 44.2% (50 Hz) and 43.5% (60 Hz) on a range of pipeline natural gas down to 70 MN, with as low as 250 mg/NM³ nitrous oxide emitted without aftertreatment – bringing it in compliance with the relevant EU and US standards.

The most obvious markets for the generator are those regions with plentiful natural gas supplies – Australia being one – according to Wilkins. Yet, as all operators are looking to cut their fuel and electricity consumption and diversify their energy mix, the 78 L generator set could end up reaching a far wider audience.

Battery backup is being discussed across the mine power sector currently, with installations such as the wind power solution at Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine in Nunavik, Canada, held up as an example of how effective renewable energy can be even when the wind is not blowing.

Despite this, not all renewable power solutions using batteries offer an economic business case for mines. In some applications, a battery’s weight and size can also inhibit operations.

This leaves a void for other energy inputs to fill. Wilkins is confident natural gas and the generators Cummins is now producing can fill that void in many markets looking for a cleaner power supply than the alternative diesel equivalent, and one that can be relied on regardless of weather.

Cummins has invested heavily in the HSK78G, which it is hoping will become a platform it can build a natural gas generator portfolio on.

“It can deal with all different gas types,” Wilkins told IM, explaining that the generator has been fitted with a variety of sensors that assess the energy input and react accordingly. This allows customers to use a variety of natural gas in the generator from different industrial sectors, while benefitting from the same performance.

Different sensors on the machine can constantly monitor the generator’s performance, providing the baseline predictive maintenance solution every mining customer operating in a remote region is currently after.

Realising this 12 cylinder generator is likely to be used as part of a wider power solution – not necessarily being in constant operation – the HSK78G is also fitted with a load variation system that is able to manage fluctuations in power supply.

As the ‘platform’ comment would indicate, the HSK78G is not the start and end of Cummins’ venture into the gas generator field.

Wilkins said the company is already working on the launch of a 500 kW gas generator that could be used in remote communities (such as those around mine sites). This is expected to be launched later this year.

He also said Cummins’ engineers envisaged both 16-cylinder and 20-cylinder generators being added to the range.

The company is not setting its sights solely on natural gas as far as mining energy diversity goes.

Wilkins said. “We have got to be across a number of different solutions.”

To this end, Cummins has made investments in natural gas, diesel and batteries. It is also awaiting approval for its acquisition of fuel cell manufacturer Hydrogenics.

This corporate activity is a clear indicator of the changing power characteristics of not only the mine power segment, but the wider industrial energy sector.

“Customers are demanding more of a ‘solution’ than a product now,” Wilkins said. “There are a lot of companies out there that can provide the individual components, but we want to provide these solutions.”

Source: International Mining