Reshape the mining industry with Industrial Internet • The Register | Wbactive

advertorial Coal, sometimes referred to as “black gold”, has been one of the most important fuels for almost all industries worldwide since the 18th century. This is especially true for China, which has little oil and gas but lots of coal, making it an important source of energy.

At the same time, to promote sustainable development, the Chinese government announced that the country’s carbon emissions will peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Fueled by these 2030/2060 targets, coal mining companies in China have been feasting on bits ever since to accelerate intelligent digital transformation for green mining.

For example, Hongliulin Coal Mine, a subsidiary of Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Industry Group, is a major player in the industry. The Company’s coal mine is located in the Maowusu Desert between the Yulin area of ​​Shaanxi Province and the city of Ordos in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. It lies at the core of the Shenfu Mining District, one of the eight largest mining districts in the world. The coal mined here is transported daily to plants throughout China by more than 1,500 heavy-duty trucks and six special trains.

Hongliulin’s Journey to Intelligent Transformation

In line with its parent company’s strategy of using technological innovation to build a world-class energy company, Hongliulin has stepped up efforts to lead innovative, intelligent, and industry-leading digital coal mining. Achieving this transformation is no easy task. To stay focused and motivated, Hongliulin has set three goals: intelligent collaboration, improving underground air quality, and cultivating a three-dimensional green ecosystem.

To achieve these goals, Hongliulin enlisted the help of Huawei Coal Mine Team in February 2021. Their goal was to integrate next-generation ICT technologies such as cloud computing, big data and AI into coal mining, and they then created a transformation plan of their network, IT infrastructure, intelligent application and integrated management frameworks. To this end, they have invested in 24 intelligent mining projects or systems, including full 4G/5G and ultra-wideband (UWB) network coverage, as well as the construction of fifth-generation (F5G) industrial and fixed-line (F5G) video ring networks.

Additional upgrades have been made to cyber security protection; a modular data center; providing cloud computing platforms; an integrated management and control platform; an intelligent operations management system; a smart campus; a fully mechanized coal mining system; and an intelligent civil protection system. Many of these systems have already been put into operation.

Standardization wins the day

Of all the solutions provided by Huawei Hongliulin, the most important was the digital cloud platform powered by the Huawei Cloud Stack and running over the Industrial Internet network. Hongliulin used to invest heavily in digital transformation, but the results have been disappointing due to the lack of standardization. For example, the company deployed many systems, but their APIs were not consistent. This meant that much of the data generated was not in a consistent format and could not be imported quickly, while data silos made it difficult to connect them. The company has long been plagued by these problems.

Huawei Cloud Stack accompanies Hongliulin Coal Mine

Huawei Cloud Stack accompanies Hongliulin Coal Mine – Click to enlarge

Luckily, Huawei Cloud Stack has helped Hongliulin unify standard APIs, break down its data silos, consolidate its data assets, create digital twins, and improve collaboration to pave the way for intelligent mining. This turnaround utilized a number of technologies. For example, the Huawei Cloud Stack used Huawei Cloud’s IoT technology, which could be adapted to APIs running over different protocols from different vendors.

It could also be used in conjunction with a converged industrial network based on 5G, F5G OptiX and an IP radio access network (IP RAN), a flexibility that allowed over 2,600 Hongliulin devices to be connected.

The Huawei Cloud Stack leveraged Huawei Cloud’s ROMA Connect application and data integration platform to import data from over 35 operational technology (OT) production systems and more than 10 IT support systems into a unified data lake. Centralized management was provided by Huawei Cloud’s Fusionlnsight big data platform, which, in addition to consolidating over 100 device and 45 system models, enabled the daily import of more than 100 million data sets into the data lake.

Huawei Cloud’s AI-powered Pangu mining model provides intelligent labeling and machine learning in a few shots, with the model making predictions based on a few training examples. It covers over 1,000 mining scenarios, including coal mining, mining, transportation, communicating, dewatering and washing, and helped Hongliulin reduce its development effort by 90 percent.

It took Huawei engineers four months to identify Hongliulin’s devices and import their data into Seen using Huawei Cloud Stack. They helped Hongliulin build China’s first-ever smart coal mine based on industrial internet architecture and develop many smart applications such as the integrated management and control platform, smart ventilation, smart transportation, smart campus, and disaster prevention.

The end result is a robust platform for integrated management, effective decision making, and service delivery.

Integrated management and control platform based on industrial internet architecture

Integrated Management and Control Platform based on Industrial Internet Architecture – Click to enlarge

Improved visibility and safety Down Under

Hongliulin’s integrated management and control platform is supported by digital twins – a technology that replicates and simulates entire mining processes to predict how they will behave during data collection and analysis to make the entire system safer and more efficient. The simulation depicts the 138 km² Hongliulin coal field on a 3D dashboard that allows operators to remotely control autonomous machines from an above-ground space, rather than having to toil in a dangerous sub-surface environment. It gives operators a meaningful overview of the entire mining picture, including how coal is mined and conveyed to the ground, and whether autonomous shears, crushers, transport vehicles and conveyors are operating as instructed, with just a few mouse clicks.

The digital twin also enables autonomous analysis, decision making and collaborative control across the different mining systems. For example, dispatchers can make video and voice calls at surface, and underground miners can quickly assign tasks. Before the operation, around 100 miners were needed in three rotating shifts to cover peak times in fully mechanized mining. Thanks to real-time monitoring and centralized remote control, over 40 percent fewer miners are now needed, workloads underground have been reduced and worker safety has been dramatically improved.

Operators remotely controlled autonomous machines from an above-ground control room

Operators remotely controlled autonomous machines from an above ground control room – click to enlarge

More efficient personnel management

Underground coal mining typically goes through different phases, from exploration and heading (the construction of shafts and tunnels) to extraction and transportation. Traditionally, tasks, problems, and incidents were assigned, reported, and investigated by employees orally, or written down, which was slow and inefficient. Now Hongliulin’s intelligent operations management system has digitized coal mining on all fronts, including manpower, machinery, materials, methods, environments and measurements. It provides real-time insight into operations and has improved workplace safety.

This system allows managers to quickly distribute tasks to employees online and uses AI to replace manual inspection of foreign objects at specific times with a 24/7 intelligent inspection program. This reduces the time a worker would normally have to spend underground by about 2 hours, improving overall efficiency by 30 percent.

By collaborating with partners like Huawei Cloud, Hongliulin expects to further advance its intelligent digital transformation while reinventing the coal mining industry with the power of technological innovation.

Sponsored by Huawei.

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