IM-Mining - Spotlight Feature Article |

Mining Simulators & Virtual Training

For concentrators, Outotec has developed a new technique of Virtual Experience TrainingIndian supplier Tecknotrove says, and all simulator suppliers would agree, “effective training has a huge impact on productivity levels in a mine. For any mining company it is essential that their operators and drivers are skilled and trained to deliver the highest level of productivity.”

Mining simulators are designed to ensure effective training of operators of mining vehicles in complex and real hazardous scenarios under complete safety. Training operators on advanced simulators can help reduce accidents and improve safety, and reduce training costs by removing the need to put as many hours into training on real machines – let the virtual machines bear the brunt of the training needs. 

In late August Immersive Technologies’ 1000th TrainerAdvantageTM participant received certification.  This certification program was launched by Immersive Technologies in 2006 to assist its customers to achieve a strong return on investment from Immersive’s simulators, through improved understanding and application of the technology.

Designed for simulator training supervisors, the three level certification program includes classroom and hands on sessions working with their simulator under the instruction of an Immersive instructor. Each level is designed to progressively increase the trainer’s knowledge, from basic operation of the simulator to advanced administration and management.

Peter Salfinger, CEO of Immersive Technologies’ said, “We are extremely pleased by the global acceptance of this certification program. Consistent feedback from our customers confirms TrainerAdvantage is an important tool to help drive the value from their simulator investment that they expect.”

“The training and certification of 1,000 operator trainers is a positive reflection that the industry recognises the significant difference well-utilised Immersive simulators can make to a site’s safety and profitability.”

“It also provides mines with a valuable standard to use when recruiting new training staff for their simulators. It is common now to see mines advertising for training staff with the TrainerAdvantage certification.”

TrainerAdvantage is one part of a comprehensive package of support services available to Immersive Technologies’ customers. Other elements include technical support, training systems integration and analytical
measurement.

Salfinger concluded, “We recognised long ago that we needed to do much more than just deliver great technology to mine sites. We work hard to listen carefully to our customers and provide intelligent and customised solutions that solve their site specific issues.”Immersive Technologies Caterpillar 793F simulator

Immersive has sold 595 simulator equipment modules (Conversion Kits) to date, up from 380 in 2008. Highlighting the growing interest in this technology, 125 were sold in the 12 months ending June 2011. Advanced equipment base simulators have increased to 251 from 130 in 2008, 45% to existing customers. In the 12 months ending June 2011 55 base simulators were sold, with the majority of these being the new PRO3 simulator. The number of countries using Immersive simulators in 2011 has increased to 30 from 23 in 2008.

Also from Australia, Sydac creates leading edge operator training simulation products and solutions. These simulators immerse the user in the task at hand by accurately simulating the behaviour of equipment and the environments in which they operate.

The company says that with “a large team of software and mechanical engineers, vision specialists and digital artists Sydac can produce an earthmoving or mining simulator for a wide range of applications. The simulator will deliver measurable benefits in staff performance and safety levels, whilst minimising training and operating costs.”

ThoroughTec Simulation, one of the well established players in mining equipment simulation has had some very interesting new sales recently. Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia recently selected ThoroughTec’s latest generation CYBERMINE4 mining simulators (IM, April 2010, p71). Richard Storrie, the Technical Services Manager at Oyu Tolgoi, advocated the purchase of the simulators for the mine afterwitnessing the results attained by Aurora College and Rio Tinto’s Diavik mine in the Northern Territories, Canada.

“Oyu Tolgoi’s development workforce includes local employees and highly skilled expatriates entrusted with training and supervision. As mine development morphs into full-scale production however, more and more experienced local operators will be needed and Oyu Tolgoi is committed to having a minimum of 90% of its workforce employed from the local community.  To effectively train and up-skill these local operators for a mega mine like Oyu Tolgoi will require specialised training equipment and an exceptional training program,” said Storrie.

Wesfarmers Curragh, one of Australia’s largest independent coal producers, has chosen to integrate CYBERMINE4 surface mining simulators into its training programs.  Construction works are ongoing for the expansion of the mine up to 7.7 Mt/y of export metallurgical coal capacity. Project completion is expected in the March quarter of 2012.

Greg Sheppard, Wesfarmers’ Manager of Engineering and Projects, said: “We had taken a diligent review of the major mining simulator players in the Market. ThoroughTec impressed us with their superior accuracy, authenticity and broad coverage of machines.” Wesfarmers has purchased ThoroughTec’s 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) base simulator unit and interchangeable cabs for the Komatsu 730E truck, CAT D10T dozer and Bucyrus Eyrie 1570-W dragline.

Richard Giumelli from Wesfarmers Mining Services, added:  “ThoroughTec’s ability to customise to our needs and schedule is just the kind of customer-centric partner we are looking for to ensure continued adaptability to our business dynamics.”

ThoroughTec will also develop customised CYBERMINE ‘own mine worlds’ to replicate the operating conditions of the mine in the simulators, increasing the effectiveness of the training experience. Student operators of each of the equipment variants will therefore be familiar with Curragh’s mining environment before entering the mine. 

Instructor training on CYBERMINE simulatorThe Assmang Khumani iron ore surface mine will be significantly improving its capability to enhance operator competency with the acquisition of two CYBERMINE4 mining simulators. Khumani mine has also purchased interchangeable cabs for Komatsu’s 860E AC haul truck and PC5500 hydraulic face shovel.  The new units will not only enable Khumani’s HR, engineering and mining management to train on loading, hauling and digging, but also on more advance equipment like drill rigs in the near future.  ThoroughTec says its “attentiveness in supporting customers, along with the flexible approach to their development schedule and low cost of ownership model and value for money service plans were accredited as key differentiators with their competitors.”

Mark Walker, ThoroughTec Simulation’s Executive Director of Mining & Construction said: “Assmang Khumani’s selection of ThoroughTec Simulation is a significant validation of our new fourth generation CYBERMINE4 mining simulators’ leadership in the market, with the recognition that military level simulators in the mining industry is the future and it further emphasises our dominance in the Northern Cape area in South Africa.”

ThoroughTec says CYBERMINE4 is the industry’s “only dual-role (interchangeable between surface and underground) simulator. It is upgraded with many new features including a full 360° panoramic display, enhanced reporting software, and two HD instructor screens in an enlarged classroom environment.

ThoroughTec produces surface mining simulators for rigid trucks, ADTs, drill rigs, excavators, shovels, dozers, loaders, draglines and graders. Drill rigs, roof bolters, LHDs, haulers, XLP (extra low profile) dozers, locomotives and scalers are among its underground simulators.

“Although the mining industry’s use of simulation is relatively young, the world’s leading mine sites and training schools are increasingly aware that they need to integrate simulators into their training programs,” Walker said.CYBERMINE Komatsu 730E simulator -workshop

“You can’t imagine a pilot not training on a simulator before taking his first solo flight, so why isn’t it the norm for operators of 90 to 360-plus t mining trucks to enhance their competency?”  Safety, productivity, emergency scenarios, damage to an expensive vehicle and excessive fuel usage and emissions were among matters that could be addressed with simulator training, he said.

America’s first advance underground mine training simulator to be acquired by a University is a ThoroughTec CYBERMINE4.The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Mining and Petroleum Training Services (MAPTS) Director Dennis Steffy said: “From start to finish, ThoroughTec’s professionalism has been a real treat, not to mention that they had all the underground equipment that each mine required.”

The University of Alaska Southeast’s goal is to develop a world-class training centre that meets the workforce training needs of the mining industry by providing high quality, accessible training for both new and experienced miners. The simulator will be housed at the UA Center for Mine Training, located in Juneau’s UAS Technical Education Center and will have the ability to train students in modules fully representing an articulated haul truck (CAT ADT 45B), LHD (Atlas Copco ST14) and bolter (Atlas Copco Boltec MC).

The timing of the new acquisition will coincide with the ramping up of Kensington and other mines. “This was a missing piece of the puzzle for training miners from Alaska to be productive and safe from the first day on the job,” said MAPTS Director Dennis Steffy. “It will vastly improve the opportunities of students for mining employment”. More than 700 students are currently enrolled in mining classes at UAS.  Kensington mine employs 60 UAS trained miners.

Walker said: “We are pleased to see the superiority of our simulators is being well recognised in North America.  This follows recent expansion of our presence in the region, with the Yukon Mine Training Association (YMTA) also acquiring an additional purchase of six machine simulator cabs to support both surface and underground machine training.” YMTA’s Training Manager Jennifer Russell said: “ThoroughTec is a great company to deal with because of their high levels of customer service.”

Oryx simulator for Atlas Copco Pit Viper blasthole drillOryx partners with Atlas Copco and says “everything you can do in the real Atlas Copco drilling machine you can do in the simulator, in your own language.  Two new Oryx mining simulators for surface drilling are the Flexiroc D (L6-L8) and Smartroc D65 and they are already in use in Russia, Chile, Brazil and South Africa.  Earlier models – the Pit Viper and Smartrig D9C simulators and for underground drilling the Boomer E2C simulator – are in use around the world.

All of the simulators are designed as a tool to use together with an operator training program based on the Atlas Copco Master Driller program. This program combines theory and practical training for operators at three distinct levels – bronze, silver and gold. The program mirrors the conditions and tasks the operator faces in different situations in mining operations.

Sister company Algoryx Simulation is a leading provider of software and services for visual and interactive physics-based simulation.  Algoryx has a team of developers and researches, many with more than 15 years of experience in interactive simulation.

CAE, a global leader in modelling, simulation and training for the aviation industry, entered mining in 2010 following its acquisition of Datamine, the long-time provider of mining technical software for geologist and mining engineers. CAE Mining is therefore focused on bringing leading technologies and services to enhance productivity and safety in mining.

CAE trains in the order of 80,000 pilots each year using a variety of delivery mechanisms designed for fast efficient learning and high training effectiveness. CAE develops the full range of simulators from 2D e-learning modules right through to its full-immersion simulators.  Whilst the technology is very important, CAE says it is its “ability to take a holistic approach that resonates with customers.” It begins with gaining an understanding of an organisation’s workforce requirements to meet production plans. In the current expansionary environment, not only is additional equipment required but also a corresponding workforce of competent operators. And typically just in time, so workforce planning is important and so too is determining required competencies to effectively and proficiently perform tasks. Both are essential inputs for determining the appropriate delivery mechanisms for training and assessment. It is also important to have the appropriate framework and infrastructure to support training. The entire approach can be wrapped up in a business case that captures the role simulators play and the value of outcomes to be achieved.

CAE uses a methodology of blended learning coupled with an integrated total solution.  “Working with our clients we can build competency profiles of each role required on the site(s), determine the level of skill, knowledge and behaviours required for operational excellence and test individual applicants on their current capabilities.”

“While those new to the industry can commence with our Computer Based Training (CBT) system, more advanced operators can be assessed and enter into the programs further along the training continuum. Aimed at transferring knowledge on the basis of mine terminology and theory and specific mining machinery, new students are staged through a learning strategy of both face-to-face and elearning solutions prior to moving into the simulator learning. Entry points into the programs for students will be dependent on their pre-training assessment.”

After simulator training, CAE’s next stage is to validate the operator’s capabilities in the ‘real thing’. This component of the learning continuum is accomplished on-site and commences with a familiarisation of the environment and mine equipment. As mine planning and traffic conditions often change it is imperative that operators are fully aware of the up to the minute situation. The operators will now be assessed on-site and verified as operational ready.

CAE does not however believe that is the final stage of learning. “Taking lessons from the aviation industry, it is imperative that to maintain production, safety and life expectancy of equipment the behaviour of the operator must be monitored. By collating data from the fleet management system, individual performance can be assessed and data re-used in corrective training in a simulated environment. Whereas retraining or refresher training does not typically take account of behavioural issues, CAE’s approach uses real performance information to build a training continuum where simulators can play a major role in the development of people.”

eBook training

With the release of the Track Type Tractor Simulator System, Cat Simulators published an interactive companion eBook for the tablet to extend simulator training. The tablet technology replaces the traditional paper textbook, creating a fully interactive learning experience for the user. The eBook allows the student to use the material in a self-guided format in conjunction with the simulator, or the instructor can use the material as part of a classroom environment, assigning each chapter and testing the student on knowledge learned before the student trains on the simulator. The eBook covers a multitude of information that ties back to machine and simulator training.Cat simulator ebook

■ Find out size, capacity and uses for the dozer in the machine introduction. View the inside and outside of the machine in 360° walkarounds and a terrain map of the worksite
■ Discover what blades and rippers are used on actual worksites
■ Learn how to perform dozer machine applications fully, along with helpful how-to drawings and images
■ Find a definition and explanation of each training exercise and result measured. The simulator system records and reports the results of each simulation session through the training records management program, SimU CampusTM. The eBook explains what these results lead to and why recording and analysing the results mean becoming a more efficient operator
■ View narrated video examples of the correct way to perform simulated tasks and achieve the best outcome by seeing what is expected during the training exercise before actually attempting to perform the task
■ Use the SimCalc App to figure fuel use and double-handling of materials during several training excercises
■ Make safety a priority any time the machine is in use. The eBook features personal, machineand job site safety information.

Cat Simulators is publishing interactive eBooks with every new model of simulator.

Timing is everything

VISTA Training has been in the mining business for over 20 years. In those years it has witnessed what drives employers to train. Bruce Rabe, CEO of VISTA Training, notes it “long ago lost track of the number of times [it] received an urgent call looking for training materials on a specific subject right after an accident. Most of the time the accident was a wake up call that something more serious could happen.  Occasionally the request followed a fatality and was intended to help avoid future similar situations. On rare occasions an employer may have been advised by their attorney to get some safety training started as a show of good faith when a law suit was eminent.

“The point is; with good consistent training many of these incidents or sometimes serious and occasionally fatal accidents could have been avoided. Yet to do employee training when everything is going well may be considered a waste of productive time. It frequently isn’t until an accident happens the true cost related to ‘failure to train’ emerges. Think about the time lost after an accident happens. There may be a need for medical help for injured employees, time spent on accident investigations, time for insurance or government investigations added to the cost of lost production as well as possible machine repair or replacement costs. Of course by then it’s too late!

“Years of exclusive involvement with mining and heavy equipment make it easy to relate to the difficulty of scheduled training in mines that are constantly pushed for production.” Rabe says it thoroughly understands the need to make every single available work-hour productive.

It has devised visually and audibly interesting lessons and totally flexible delivery methods designed to task and safety train workers in small doses. These ‘drip-feed’ important information to workers using instructional design techniques proven to leave a lasting impression on the learner. “Nearly every VISTA lesson was created by someone who had done that type of job. Lesson creators are assisted by professional educators trained in instructional design techniques to achieve maximum longlasting positive results,” says Rabe.

“Of course the key is to get the training to the people most in need before the accident happens.  It takes less than 1% of normal production time to do that. Timing is everything, but most importantly it is critical to remember; you will never have a chance to train a dead person.”

Immersive Technologies has sold a PRO3 advanced equipment simulator to ResCo Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian global recruitment and labour hire agency Humanis Group. The simulator will be used as part of Humanis’ ongoing strategy to expand its mining services operations and build on the strategy to become the largest labourhire agency in Australia. The PRO3 acquisition will extend ResCo’s ability to provide high quality RTO (Registered Training Organisation) certified recruits to the market.

Salfinger said “Utilising the PRO3 simulator, ResCo will be able to greatly enhance their recruitment, assessment and personnel offering to the mining market, reducing costs and improving the qualification process of its recruits to their growing customer base.”

“The simulator provides ResCo the ability to safely train new and existing mining personnel in a broad range of operational and safety scenarios, measuring operator’s skill and experience levels prior to being placed on site.”

Humanis Chairman Craig Ransley said “This investment is part of the strategic growth for Humanis in the global resources sector. We believe that the simulator will provide cost effective, high quality training and up-skilling of candidates assisting our clients to address the critical labour shortages faced by the industry.

“ResCo is well recognised for its leadership in safety management. The introduction of the simulator to our operator training strategy will assist in maintaining this position. Being able to develop the fundamental operational and safety skills of our operators in a controlled environment will ultimately reduce safety related risks on the mine site.”

ResCo says the PRO3 will initially be used with client Rio Tinto (Coal & Allied) at Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine, located 15 km southwest of Singleton, NSW, Australia. The simulator will supplement the sites own simulator based training program which is focused on operator up-skilling and efficiency training.

The sale to Humanis includes Caterpillar and Komatsu OEM Alliance modular equipment units to support both haul trucks and Immersive Technologies’ Training Systems Integration (TSI) package. The TSI package provides Immersive Technologies’ customers with a benchmark standardised training program for implementing simulation training. TSI packages are developed to meet the needs of specific simulator implementations based on best practices gathered from Immersive’s extensive global mining customer base.

Plant simulation

Outotec has developed a new training and probably unique concept, Virtual Experience Training, designed mainly for concentration plant operators. The training course uses Outotec’s extensive knowledge of minerals processing. The training provides operators with a safe and controlled environment to study process dynamics, process equipment and control systems. Learning and practicing process situations, such as failures of critical equipment and process start-up or shut-down sequences, are certainly safer and more cost effective in a virtual environment.

Outotec’s Virtual Experience Training, designed mainly for concentration plant operators provides operators with a safe and controlled environment to study process dynamics, process equipment and control systems“Successfully trained personnel make it possible to improve the utilisation of equipment and extend the lifetime of the investment. The results can be seen in terms of cost per tonne and the total cost of ownership. Competent employees are essential for profitable operations and stable process control. Investing in personnel and their expertise pays for itself fast, as skilful personnel are able to get the most out of production,” says Kai Rönnberg, Product Manager at Outotec.

Over the past few years Outotec has supplied the Almina plant in Portugal with basic engineering for process modification, two grinding mills, 51 flotation cells (including four refurbished flotation cells), a Courier analyser with complete sampling system and a service agreement. This was followed by a request: for Outotec to provide training for the plant’s flotation operators.

As most of the operators at the Almina plant were inexperienced, management wanted to organise training for them to ensure that the process would get off to the best possible start.  “We wanted our operators to understand what is happening in the process, to make the necessary corrections and to take the right actions,” explains Almina Plant Manager Carlos Gil.

Only three of Almina’s five team leaders had previous experience with operating the flotation process. “We wanted to make process evaluation and decision-making available also for the line operators, not only for the team leaders,” Gil continues.

Almina requested that the training be scheduled for July 2010, before the start-up of the plant. “We had conducted internal training before, but this time we had no time to arrange the training ourselves. We needed the training ASAP, and it was essential to increase the expertise among the operators,” explains Gil.

Almina also considered other options, providers and concepts for the training. “What was most attractive about Outotec’s proposal was the interactive element. In simulations, people need to think for themselves,” says Gil, summing up the purchase decision.

“We have worked with Outotec before, and we consider them a partner. Based on our experience with Outotec in the past, we felt comfortable and assured about signing up for this training, as we knew that Outotec would live up to its reputation.”

“Outotec promised to deliver Almina a new concept of training in which the operators would learn how to operate the flotation process, evaluate how it is reacting, and test different scenarios without hampering productivity at the plant,” explains Luis Rudolphy, Sales Manager at Outotec.

“Normally operators learn from senior operators as they work, which can take years.  Now the operators instantly experience how their decisions affect the entire process, and they learn to change parameters and make the best decisions,” explains Rudolphy, summing up the benefits of the training.

The customer requested that the training be held on its own premises. Outotec limited the number of participants to a maximum of ten to guarantee the best learning outcomes.  To maximise the learning experience and avoid language barriers, the training was offered in Portuguese. All the training materials were translated into Portuguese, and an assistant teacher who spoke Portuguese was involved in the teaching. “Using local language is very beneficial for both trainer and the trainees, as it is easier to communicate and it made the operators more comfortable to focus on the training. Many of the operators did not speak English very well, therefore the Portuguese material was very important to support their learning,” Jair Hortelan, Services Sales Coordinator from Outotec Brazil, who acted as a co-teacher for the training, explained.

Ten of the Almina plant’s flotation process operators participated in Outotec’s Virtual Experience Training. Out of these ten, only three of the operators had previous experience as a plant operator from years ago. Seven of them had never set foot in a concentrator plant before.  “With basic level training, the backgrounds of the participants are not an issue as the training suits everyone,” Rudolphy says, and this was later proven to be true.

Almina’s operators began with one week of basic training based on generic flow sheets with no adaption to the customer’s own process.  “The basic training provided the operators with a real feel for how to run and operate the plant, including how to react to changes in the process and how the process reacts to any changes that are made in the operation,” Rönnberg explains.

The technology used in the training impressed the operators participating. “I was surprised by the similarity of the program to real life,” stated Pedro Pinto, a team leader with three years of experience as a process operator. Although the course was compulsory for the operators, they were happy to participate. “I think we were all committed to the training and eager to learn more every day. It was a good experience,” agrees Telmo Rosa, another operator at Almina with three years of previous experience.

“The operators were quite excited over the opportunity to have practical issues simulated in the computers and it was the first training that they had which was more than only theory”, Hortelan continues.  The participants were clear about the learning objectives of the training: “To learn about the circuits, how they work and how we can achieve better results.”

The basic training lasted for one week, but according to the operators it could have been longer. Their expectations were fulfilled, and they gained expertise that benefits them in their everyday work. “We learned about
the performance of the circuits, parameters and levels. We tried almost everything in the training,” Rosa says.  “For me the reaction times and learning to react to the circuits were the main benefits,” Pinto adds.

The operators were tested both at the beginning and end of the training . Based on the tests the learning curve was tremendous, improving from a knowledge level of 43% to 96%.  “We now have more confidence in making decisions. I believe our learning grew by 60%. It was a very useful course, and I would recommend it to operators at all levels,” Rosa said.

“Although we felt that the training was expensive, it was worth it. After the training we realised that our operators were able to provide insights and suggestions regarding the process, changes and reactions to the process changes.  Now our operators understand the complexity of the flotation process and are not in the dark.  They can identify what is important in the process,” Gil summarised.

“The operators are more confident and committed, and they are eager to apply what they have learned. By offering this training, we have also strengthened the bond between the operators and the company. I would recommend this training to other operators as well,” Gil said.

The basic training as offered to Almina’s plant operators can be followed by advanced training, helping operators further understand and analyse the flotation process. They also learn to interpret trends and optimise the process by using additional intelligence tools. The cost and revenue structures of the process circuit, maximising recovery and maximising profit in changing conditions are also taught.

… and new plants

Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) Gove was embarking on a $3 billion expansion of its alumina refinery in Australia’s Northern Territory. The expansion was expected to nearly double alumina production, and was predicted to have a 10% improvement in recovery of alumina from bauxite and a 25% reduction in residue through improved digestion technology. RTA Gove had not previously used this digestion technology which represented a significant operational risk.  In order to mitigate some of the risk, RTA Gove decided to develop an operator training simulator of the process.

RTA Gove turned to Honeywell’s UniSim® simulation technology for testing and training. A UniSim simulator was constructed and connected to RTA Gove’s distributed control system (DCS) to mitigate the risk by training the operators and testing the control system configuration prior to plant commissioning. The benefits achieved through the use of UniSim include:

■ Operators were trained in advance without adversely affecting plant operations
■ Simulator allowed for comprehensive code testing before transferring data to the site
■ Operating procedures were created and validated.

The RTA Gove bauxite mine and alumina refinery are located at Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula in the east Arnhem Land region of Australia’s Northern Territory. The expansion increased alumina production from 2 to 3.8 Mt/y. The double digestion process chosen to be an integral part of the expansion uses both low temperature digestion for removal of trihydrate alumina followed by high temperature digestion for the monohydrate alumina.  Few double digestion circuits are in use today so RTA Gove could not learn from other refineries’ experience. Without a simulator, it would be difficult to effectively train operations personnel without adversely affecting plant operations.

Another hurdle was that the control system architecture involved interfacing between multiple DCS platforms, presenting a strong probability for a mismatch of data.

RTA Gove chose UniSim to maximise the effectiveness of its new double digestion technology by enabling many months of operator training prior to plant startup. UniSim Operations is a direct connect, full replica, dynamic process simulator. It is an integrated collection of computer and control system hardware and software, which allows a high fidelity model of the process to run in real time and appear from the DCS console as though a real plant is being controlled.

UniSim software contains a library of modules that mathematically represent the behaviour of process equipment, logic and control components under dynamic conditions. The modules include heat and material balances, operating equations, thermodynamics and physical property calculations. These modules are used as building blocks to create a realistic representation of a specific process, area or plant.

At RTA Gove, the digestion process model includes 135 tank modules, 85 pumps, 1,037 control valves and approximately 158 other pieces of unit process equipment such as heat exchangers. There are 386 field operated devices, mainly manually operated valves and 7,370 control points are simulated. Training features include 1,242 malfunctions. The process model takes about 0.2 cpu seconds to run on a personal computer and the model runs every two seconds, which is more than sufficient to realistically simulate the process dynamics.

In order to enable operator training in advance of plant commissioning, the control system had to be developed six months earlier than would have been necessary without the simulator. While this placed an additional burden on the control system engineers, the system was able to be tested and commissioned on the simulator well in advance of plant commissioning. This resulted in more than 240 suggestions ranging from “nice to haves” to critical needs. This meant that the control system was fully tested and operational prior to commissioning allowing the commissioning engineers to focus on the process and equipment.

“One of the biggest benefits we’ve received from UniSim is improved operator effectiveness.  Like most operating alumina refineries, our equipment is operated continuously and many operators are not well practiced in running
under startup, shutdown or emergency conditions. Similarly, in new installations, operators may have even less skills in managing the process and the knowledge of the equipment limits, even under normal operating conditions. UniSim enabled us to train our operators in advance so they could practice new skills without adversely affecting the plant,” said Manoj Pandya, Manager , Alumina Projects, Rio Tinto Alcan.

The RTA Gove project was delivered to enable many months of operator training prior to plant startup. This resulted in the operators being knowledgeable on the process and the control system, and how to control the process. Thus the operators became a valuable part of the commissioning team and were able to retain the lessons learned from commissioning. IM

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