Generators are relatively simple products compared with many of the products that make up the average mining fleet.
Available in many types, the most common type of generator used in the mining industry is a 1500rpm fixed speed diesel engine spinning an alternator. The alternator/electrical component of a generator rarely experiences technical difficulties during a generator’s life with most issues being of a maintenance nature related to the engine.
Three types of generator applications:
Standby generators are used in mine sites that rely on a mains power source with the generator only operating during a blackout. Price is usually the main selection criteria for a standby application.
Prime fixed generators function as the main source of power but will be installed for the better part of their lifetime in the same place.
Common in applications such as quarries and operating mines, these generators are selected based on fuel efficiency since fuel accounts for over 90% of the cost of running the generator.
Prime mobile generators also function as the main source of power at the mine site similar to fixed generators, the only difference being that these generators will be moved throughout their lifetime. Mobile generators require a heavy duty frame and canopy.
Fuel efficiency is still the primary selection criteria for these generators. Some mining generators are a common example of prime mobile generators as they are moved around on trucks and cranes.
Key challenges faced by Australian mine sites in generator selection:
- Maintenance of generators
- Compliance with stringent OH&S regulations
- Technical infrastructure to provide product support locally by the generator supplier including access to spare parts and repair time
- Profile of the generator supplier and their ability to provide local after sales service, spare parts and technical support
- Mining generators are ‘Prime Mobile’ or ‘Prime Fixed’ in nature
- Key selection criteria include fuel efficient engine and robust canopy
- Light loading is a common and expensive problem with fleet generators, which can be avoided by selecting the most resilient engine and developing a preventative maintenance program
- Generator supplier must be chosen carefully based on qualifications, experience and local support availability