Simulation’s Role in Natural Resources and Mining Equipment
The Natural Resources sector is fully-dependent on the adoption of new technologies, closely integrated with the Energy and Utilities sectors. Humanity is more and more dependent of natural resources. Even technology progress is coming with a large variety of alternative energy solutions (wind farms, solar cells power stations, hydroelectricity, geothermal energy or biofuel), mineral and fossil natural resources still fueling an energy-dependent economy.
Exploring new resources areas and developing new technologies are the most important drivers in the exploration, extraction, and industrial treatment of oil, gas, and minerals.
Looking at the manufacturing process for equipment and components, the natural resources industry is based on the same common workflows, from engineering to design, testing, production and field installation. But the big differences could be found in the prototyping laboratory, where testing is quite difficult to reproduce the real conditions from the field. Let’s imagine how complicated is the testing in real conditions for a high-volume mining excavation machine or a +10 km high deep drilling column.
The biggest and the heaviest mining machine in the world is the bucket wheel excavator from Bogatyr Mine, Kazakhstan . With a 12 meters in diameter saw component and weighing 45,000 tons, this monster is capable to extract more than 4,500 tons of coal per hour, being operated by 27 miners.
The deepest drill hole in the world was located in the north of Kola Peninsula  reaching 12 km into the Earth’s crust during 1980s period. More recently, in 2011 Exxon Mobil recorded an even longer borehole at just over 12 km, in eastern Russia.
These are only two examples of engineering performances in natural resources. Any manufacturing process for extraction equipment should assimilate modern engineering and design solutions able to reduce time, risk errors, and money. Integrated CAD or CAE solutions allow real-time corrections, dramatic cost reduction associated to physical testing of prototypes, and continuous improvement of product quality and performances.
Enabling natural resources companies to simulate extraction, transportation and industrial process equipment, machinery or various devices, SimScale can play an important role in testing designs, making repeated changes and increasing overall efficiency in the energy industry. Providing a full range of analyses, from structural mechanics and thermodynamics to fluid dynamics or particle analyses, SimScale offers a large area of functionalities for the natural resources industry.
Mining and Oil & Gas are two main areas where SimScale simulation can improve natural resources equipment and machine optimization:
Mining & Mineral Resources Industrial Process
For centuries we have been using the same exploitation processes for salt, coal, gold & silver, or metallic minerals. The differences occur starting with mineral mass processing, having specific extraction methodologies for each resource.
The US Bureau of Labour Statistics  divided the mining industry in 5 major segments: coal mining, gas and oil extracting, metal ore mining, non-metal mineral mining and supporting activities such as resource transportation. Each segment requires specific equipment, but there are several types of mining equipment that are used throughout the industry:
• Excavators – machines used to dig and remove earth, sand, etc. Special dimensions and critical working conditions request machine and component optimization based specially on static linear and nonlinear and dynamic analysis.
• Draglines – enormous earth moving machines used to drag away and expose underlying coal or mineral deposits. Draglines are some of the largest machines on the planet, and can remove hundreds of tons of material in a single pass.
• Drills – coal and mineral miners use drills to create extensive series of holes, which they then fill with explosive charges to blast away chunks of earth.
• Roof bolters – large, hydraulically-powered machines used to force bolts into roofs. Miners use roof bolters to support tunnel roofs and prevent underground collapses.
• Continuous miners – machines with massive rotating arrays of teeth, often made from tungsten carbide. In coal miners machines are used to scrape coal from coal beds. In particularly dangerous situations, workers control robotic continuous miners remotely.
• Longwall miners – in contrast to continuous miners, longwall miners remove large rectangular sections of coal instead of scraping coal from a bed bit-by-bit. Continuous miners consist in a series of large cutting shearers and a self-raising hydraulic system that supports the mineshaft ceiling as sections of coal are removed.
• Rock dusters – are pressurized pieces of equipment that miners use to spray inert mineral dust over highly flammable coal dust. The inert dust helps prevent accidental fires and explosions.
• Shuttle cars and scoops – some miners use electric-powered shuttle cars to transport coal from the coal bed to safer points in the mine. From there, miners can use standard scoops, or haulage vehicles, to drive their loads completely out of the mine. Miners of all types use haulage vehicles for various tasks.
Mining Equipment Simulation
Real time optimization for these mining equipment and machines is requesting a comprehensive set of specific analysis methods:
• Mineral excavation equipment – structural linear, nonlinear and dynamic analysis
• Belts and other transportation – structural dynamic, particle
• Large drill holes and elevators – structural stress and dynamic
• Industrial water pipes, pumps, reservoirs – multiple CFD analysis
• Underground ventilation pipes: structural mechanics, CFD, thermodynamics, acoustics analysis
• Roof consolidation – structural stress analysis
• Mineral mills: structural, CFD, particle analysis
Let’s see a few mining equipment specific simulation examples available in SimScale Public Projects:
1. Wheel Loader Arm Simulation
In this wheel loader arm simulation, a static linear structural analysis of a wheel loader arm is performed. The results show the relative movement between the components and at the same time allow an assessment of the stress performance. Without any physical prototype the design engineer is able to improve the design early in the development process. Calculations were made to check which forces the hydraulic cylinders have generated to lift the applied load. The figure above shows the von Mises stress response of the analysis.
2. Harmonic Analysis of an Impeller
In this simulation, we can see the stress distribution within an impeller analysed under vibration load due to bearing tolerances. The stress and deformation fields is analysed via the harmonic analysis type on SimScale. The right bearing is fixed while at the left bearing the harmonic excitation is applied. First, a large frequency bandwidth from 10 to 1670Hz is analyzed in order to identify critical frequencies. Therefore a second harmonic analysis is carried out for this specific frequency and additionally the resulting displacement and stress field is printed out for a post-processing review. These fields show that both the deformation and the stress field do have critical regions for the material type used.
3. Rotor Eigenfrequency Analysis
In this analysis, the eigenfrequencies and the corresponding eigenmodes of a rotor have been computed with SimScale. The simulation has been set up using the Frequency analysis type which allows a straightforward setup of all boundary conditions and other settings of the simulation. The results provide the numerical values of the eigenfrequencies, but also allow to visualize the displacement behavior for the corresponding eigenmodes of the rotor.
4. Particle mixing analysis of a mill profile
One of the most typical projects for the mining industry is this particle mixing analysis of a mill profile. The outer shape of the mill geometry is extracted automatically and used as boundary for the particles. The filling is done at the beginning of the computation. In this case the half of a cylinder geometry is used. In the beginning of the simulation, the particles fall to the ground due of the gravitational load. The mill does not move at that time (t<0.5s).
After the particles come to a rest the acceleration process is started. The mill is constantly accelerated so that the angular velocity (rad) is proportional to the time. For lots of industrial applications, it is important that the particles inside the mill slide from the top to the bottom part during the rotational movement of the mill and do not fly and hit the mill wall on the bottom in order to prevent the particles from damage or fracture. The particle simulation can help the engineers to design the mill profile as well as accelerate and drive the mill efficiently.
5. Particle Analysis of a Screw Conveyor
Another typical project for mining equipment is this particle analysis of a screw conveyor, where the mixing and moving of granular particles through a screw conveyor are simulated. Screw conveyors are normally used in industries where the mixing or moving of a liquid or granular materials are required. This mechanism uses rotating helical-shaped blades in a tube shape container to transfer the material. The filling zone on top right of the conveyor was filled with particles having a radius of 3e-3 m and in-between distance of 6e-4 m.
The domain wall was assigned and then material properties were given to particles and the screw conveyor assembly. Next the rotating motion was assigned along the axis of rotation of the blades of screw conveyor with an angular velocity of 15 rad/s.
All the projects presented in this article can be imported into your own workspace and used as templates. Feel free to browse the SimScale Public Projects for other interesting simulations.
If you’re interested in learning about how SimScale can be used for other industries, you can find more information here.
Discover all the simulation features provided by SimScale. Download the document below.
1. “You have to see this saw! Incredible 45,000-ton machine has blade the size of a four-storey building“, Mail Online, January 2015
2. “What’s At The Bottom Of The Deepest Hole On Earth?”, IFL Science, March 2015.
3. “A list of mining equipment”, ehow.com