Engineering a Windows-based SCADA Control System

When Western Mining Corp. (Southbank, Victoria, Australia) decided to expand its mining operations at the Olympic Dam site in southern Australia, the project required a large control system in a short time frame. As system integrator and lead contractor for this project, Ci Technologies Inc. (Charlotte, N.


When Western Mining Corp. (Southbank, Victoria, Australia) decided to expand its mining operations at the Olympic Dam site in southern Australia, the project required a large control system in a short time frame.

As system integrator and lead contractor for this project, Ci Technologies Inc. (Charlotte, N.C.) faced the following challenge:

The first phase of Western Mining's Olympic Dam expansion project was designed to increase production from 85,000 tons per year to 150,000 tons annually. Further expansion would boost production to 200,000+ tons annually. The new control system had to address these requirements.

The original facilities were controlled by an ABB Mod300 DCS system using proprietary hardware and software. Western Mining wanted a Windows-based SCADA system that could easily be maintained and expanded.

Ci Technologies and Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, Wis.) offered a partnered solution that uses 148 Allen-Bradley plant floor controllers, the Citect SCADA package, and Microsoft SQL servers. Windows NT was chosen as the operating platform.

Ethernet was selected as the best communications method for this application because it offers an open, non-proprietary platform. Rather than locking Western Mining into a single hardware solution, a broad range of vendor hardware could be supported across the mine site.

The new control system monitors over 450,000 real-time PLC variables, making it one of the largest Windows-based SCADA systems in the world, according to a source at Ci Technologies. Most importantly, the system is fully redundant and has improved efficiencies.

The mine's underground train system, which takes the ore from the mine to the surface, is completely unmanned. An SQL server analyzes production information, such as tonnage at each load point and times for trains to reach those loading points, and then provides train routing information back through the Citect control system. Trains are routed automatically based on this information to service each loading point.

On the surface, one operator in a control room uses joystick controls and CCTV cameras for loading at each point. When a train is being loaded, the person manually controls the loading process before the train resumes automatic control for transfer of the ore to the surface.

Benefits include: Fewer personnel underground (costs and safety benefits), less risk (due to fewer manual requirements), and lower operating costs.

The Citect system collects all data available on the site from 4-20 mA analog signals from field transmitters to tables of data available in the variable speed drive controllers and soft starters via serial communications.

All data is available for viewing anywhere on the Citect network, providing massive amounts of data for operators and maintenance personnel. The accessibility of this information makes the concept of employee empowerment a reality at Western Mining.

Not only were personnel requirements reduced but the speed of data retrieval and entry was improved, and the skill level required to perform this task was reduced from electricians to operators.

Citect's concept of Information Anywhere was instrumental in achieving benchmark performances for commissioning. Faced with the right information, commissioning engineers were able to make correct decisions sooner, and bring the commissioning schedule forward.

The smelter is the main revenue generator on the mine site, with downtime costing approximately $50,000 per hour in gross profits. Within a month of completion, the smelter was operating at 50% design capacity and reached full capacity of 200,000 tpa early in 1999.

All of these improvements have had a positive impact on the profitability and helped justify the overall $1.5 billion investment in the mine expansion and upgrade.

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For information from Ci Technologies, , or visit ; for Allen-Bradley, , or visit .

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