Revolutionising Power Management Across African Mines

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The mining sector is growing rapidly across Africa.  However, the industry is facing complex power issues due to an under-developed domestic infrastructure, insecure supply chains, volatile fuel pricing and the transition to renewable power sources. These issues not only disrupt operations but also negatively impact on productivity, operational efficiency, costs and emissions.

Within this context, VoltVision’s power management platform ViViD is revolutionising energy management across the continent with its approach to data acquisition and analysis.  “We are helping mining companies navigate power challenges, improve efficiencies, reduce power costs by up to 15% and reduce power consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 10%,” says Manoli Yannaghas, Co-Founder and Managing Director of VoltVision.

VoltVision’s solutions are delivered in two parts:

First, VoltVision’s IoT data extraction gateway, known as the V-CUBE, liberates essential data from high and medium voltage power networks and electrical assets. One of V-CUBE’s key features is its ability to be installed onto existing electrical mining infrastructure, no matter its age or manufacturer. This retrofit capability combined with plug and play installation provides a simple, fast and cost effective means of digitising substations, meters and electrical assets –  addressing a common challenge among many mining operations: limited access to critical data, often locked within on-site storage facilities. With the V-CUBE, basic meters quickly become high resolution power analysers, without the need for replacing existing equipment.

The second part involves the transformation of this raw data into actionable information through customised, user-friendly dashboards displayed on ViViD, a cloud-based AI platform. Once the data is established within the ViViD platform, the core competencies of the VoltVision team come into play, combining expert data analytics with a deep knowledge of electrical systems and mining operations. ViViD provides centralised power monitoring, delivering critical information, simply presented and readily accessible to the mine owners and operators.

‘V-CUBE – an IoT Data Extraction Gateway’

As Malcolm Evans, Co-Founder and Technical Director explains, “The ViViD dashboards are carefully tailored to cater to a diverse audience within any mining organisation, including senior management, site managers, electrical and process engineers and maintenance professionals. What sets this approach apart is the commitment to simplicity over complexity. Instead of inundating clients with an array of dashboards, the focus is on delivering a select few, intuitively designed interfaces tailored to specific technical user requirements.”

Yannaghas adds that “these dashboards empower clients to swiftly identify and respond to critical issues, streamlining the decision-making processes”.

VoltVision works with Tier 1 and 2 mining companies who have operations in Africa, supporting them in overcoming a number of complex but common power issues in the region, including:

Understanding and Preventing Trip Events

A variety of things may cause power to trip on site, including poor power quality from the grid or within the onsite network, or both!  VoltVision enables clients to identify and correct the root causes of power trips, such as:

  • Voltage Imbalance and Frequency Fluctuations – These are becoming more common as renewable energy, from sources such as solar farms, is increasingly being integrated into the wider grid in Africa.  VoltVision can monitor supply grid voltages and frequencies. This allows clients to manage voltage alignment between phases more accurately and better identify the root cause of an outage. VoltVision’s time-stamped data allows clients to provide feedback to utilities companies, using auditable, robust evidence.
  • Sub-Optimal Protection Relay Settings – Over the lifetime of a power network, individual power relays and electrical equipment will change and be updated. This can result in the settings across the ‘whole system’ becoming sub-optimal, resulting in local outages.  Insights from the ViViD dashboards allow clients to optimise the setup of electrical protection relays, thus reducing downtime due to ‘nuisance tripping’.
  • Harmonics – VoltVision monitors and displays the total harmonic distortion produced by Variable Speed Drives (VSD). This can provide early warnings of any developing VSD faults, assist with the design and integration of harmonic filters and better manage compliance of the IEEE’s rule of not exceeding 2% current Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
  • ‘Manoli Yannaghas, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Malcolm Evans, Co-Founder and Technical Director.’

Managing Power Usage

There are many areas of ‘power usage’ that need careful management to qualify an operator as ‘responsible’ in how it uses power. In many parts of Africa this is difficult, but if done well significant efficiencies are available to clients, in some cases up to 10% reduction in static power costs and emissions:

  • Power FactorVoltVision monitors and displays power factor at the client distribution and equipment level. By locating bad power factor at this level we give clients the ability to make corrections at source, improving efficiency of the whole electrical system.
  • Reactive Power VoltVision monitors and displays reactive power flow between distribution points allowing clients to control reactive power. This improves efficiencies of off-grid power generation such as solar.
  • Diesel Generators Sites operating diesel generators need to understand how those generators are working as a group, and if they are being run as efficiently as possible given factors like the demand requirement and environment. VoltVision provide data that assists the definition and management of optimal running profiles.
  • Billing Verification VoltVision’s meter readings are automated, time-stamped and therefore auditable, meaning they can be used to accurately compare, and if necessary challenge, any utility billing discrepancies or over-charging.
  • Maximum DemandManagement of Maximum Demand allows clients to smooth out usage curves reducing power thresholds allowances and reduce the likelihood of fines associated with breaches.
  • Process AnalysisBetter understanding of how blends impact cost of processing, this allows clients to better monitor crushing circuits and design efficient processing.
  • Integration and Optimisation of Renewable Energy on SiteDue to a lack of grid power supply and the pressure to switch to renewable energy sources, mining companies in Africa are taking advantage of the sunny climate and investing in solar energy on site to provide an alternative power supply.   VoltVision can build accurate power profiles for clients, ensuring the sizing and integration of a new power sources are correct, reducing project risk (integration failures) and CAPEX.

Managing Power Blackouts

Regardless of the measures taken, mining companies on the grid in many parts of Africa are often subject to power outages.  VoltVision’s real time data and analysis gives clients instant knowledge of when power is restored, allowing clients to:

  • See when the power is stable enough to safely re-connect to the grid after an outage, rather than re-joining at the wrong time causing the system to trip again, and
  • Understand the root cause of the outage, whether it’s an internal or external issue and then feed this information back to their utility provider.

All of this minimises the disruption these events cause, reducing downtime and reliance on generators.

Reporting

VoltVision’s time stamped data allows clients to build and automate bespoke internal reporting (against KPI’s) required across different operational business centres. This auditable data gives a client the ability to baseline emissions numbers and then report improvements, independently, across multiple ESG frameworks.

Supports Multiple Operations Teams

The ViViD platform supports decision makers at all technical levels from junior onsite engineers to senior staff at head office. It has been designed for easy use providing active support to busy teams running complex processes. It acts as a constant across multiple departments when critical staff are on ‘rotation’ by allowing remote access globally.

Centralised Monitoring

Operating mines in remote areas brings additional challenges that can be mitigated by centralised and continuous monitoring and controlled power capability, so that the data and analysis can be accessed as easily as onsite in Africa as from your headquarters in Toronto.

To support the growing demand for power management services across Africa, VoltVision opened a new global power analytics centre in Johannesburg in 2023, which is now supporting mining clients in the region, including Endeavour Mining, Resolute, Allied Gold and Centamin, to manage the complex power issues they continue to face.

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