Networks installed at Curragh Mine

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PACE Engineers Group (not associated with PACE magazine in any way) and Belden Australia have worked together to install two connecting Gigabit Ethernet networks at Queensland’s Curragh Mine, operated by one of Australia’s largest independent coal producers.

Like all plans on paper it seemed straightforward, but complications with existing infrastructure and issues that surfaced after hours on a Friday evening looked set to cause undesirable delays to a scheduled plant shutdown.

The mine currently produces 6.5 million tonnes of export coal and 2.5 million tonnes of domestic coal per year comprising hard coking coal, PCI coal and steam coal. Open cut reserves at Curragh allow production levels to be maintained to at least 2025.

Network connections

Following PACE Engineers Group’s (PEG) successful network upgrade for Curragh’s Coal Handling Preparation Plant 1 (CHPP1) earlier in 2011, they were again engaged to assist in connecting a new CHPP network (CHPP2) to the CHPP1 network.

PEG were engaged on these projects as part of its role in the CHPP owner’s team support. The company is Australian owned and operated, providing professional services in the electrical and IT disciplines with experience in the mining, minerals processing, energy, industrial and commercial industries.

Assistance was also provided in the connection of CHPP2 to the CHPP1 network which includes all areas of the CHPP including train loading, raw coal and control rooms.

PEG designed the interconnection between the new and older wash plants by utilising Hirschmann RS40 components and achieved a seamless connection and commissioning without incurring any downtime or interruption to the running of the plant. The connection between the plants has been operating without any issues.

Prior to the commencement of either project, Curragh engaged PEG to undertake a feasibility study on the existing network to identify shortcomings as it was operating in a heavily congested state.

This congestion was resulting in a loss of data, which in turn further choked the existing capability to a level where functionality for production was being compromised.

These system issues had the potential to impact production capability. Therefore a re-engineered solution was required to ensure long term functionality and high production availability that could be maintained for the life of the mine.

The CHPP1 network upgrade and change management system was designed by PEG based on Belden’s Hirschmann RS40 range of compact configurable managed industrial 9 port full Gigabit Ethernet switches.

Poor condition of existing infrastructure

Details of the design were provided to Curragh to allow them to advise their stakeholders of the systems and infrastructure that were to be installed in the existing plant. This allowed Curragh to make allowances with full knowledge of how the interconnections between the plants would best operate.

An issue arose during the implementation of the equipment due to the poor condition of the existing optical fibre cable infrastructure. This problem wasn’t identified during the investigation phase because the existing network was not able to be interrupted for backbone testing.

This issue caused the rollout to be put on hold mid installation with the likely scenario to cancel and implement a rollback plan.

While a decision was made to prepare for rollback, PEG meanwhile called Belden’s support service on a Friday evening. After the issues were detailed, the Belden support engineer recommended an alternative course of action.

Following this alternate methodology, PEG was able to continue its implementation of the network as designed and within the scheduled plant shutdown period.

Chris Ward was pleased with the service and support he received.Chris Ward (pictured on the left), PEG’s lead control systems designer, said, "Whilst this support request was made after hours on a Friday afternoon we held little prospect of receiving such valuable support expertise.

Belden’s technology and support services locally have proven to be superior to that offered by many suppliers to the industry".

During the last quarter of 2011, PEG commenced installation and commissioning of the second network, including dual power supplies and optimising network device connections.

PEG engineers were able to bring the data connections between the network it upgraded earlier in the year and the new coal wash plant online without the need for any downtime for either operation.

During the design phase for the existing wash plant, allowances were made for the connections between the two wash plants utilising Hirschmann’s Gigabit Ethernet managed switches, with Layer 2 Enhanced software for DIN rail store-and-forward-switching incorporating a fanless design.

New wash plant

When the new wash plant was coming online PEG was able to connect the new wash plant to the old wash plant via redundant links without interruption.

"This demonstrates the flexibility of the Hirschmann redundant networks using HYPER Ring technology. With no additional configuration required to the old plant, the new plant could be connected months later when construction was completed," Ward said.

"The high level of support and product knowledge from Belden was second to none. This greatly assisted our engineers during some very testing times encountered during these projects. The outcome was a very successful installation and commissioning phase without interruption to the client’s production.

"The flexibility and reliability of the Hirschmann HYPER Ring and ring coupling configurations allowed us to provide our client with a high quality, redundant, high speed solution that met their present and future needs."

Kjell Schwab, a PEG control systems engineer who was involved in the Curragh projects, recently attended the inaugural three-day Belden Mission Critical Network Design Seminar.

He said: "Sessions and workshops provided knowledge-building training that further developed my understanding of not only Hirschmann products but how they fit into the network as infrastructure providers.

"The content, delivered particularly through hands-on training with Belden and Hirschmann experts, allowed for experimentation time with a simulated large network. This has allowed me to increase my level of understanding of all network installations."