Quality Management at Bogatyr Access Komir
Dennis C. Price, Director General of Bogatyr Access Komir
Bogatyr Access Komir (BAK), the largest Kazakh coal mining company, is planning to complete the modernization of its mining and stripping operations and secure supplies of blended coal to all our consumers by 2015. We began the changeover to this technology, which is new to us, two years ago. A long-term program has been devised and we plan to implement it in three phases. In particular, the main technical development of phase one (2001-2005) will be to reconstruct the conveyor and rail system at the Bogatyr opencast mine to an annual capacity of 14 million tons of blended coal. Blending at the facility is carried out by simultaneous loading of coal onto a conveyer by two rotary excavators with different preset speeds. The two coal flows mix and blending is achieved as the conveyor unloads onto railway cars at the loading station. This method allows the fluctuation in ash content from car to car to be reduced by 2-2.5 times, so that the maximum deviation does not exceed 3-5% of the average.
Supplies of blended coal will approach 3 million tons in 2004, and they will be boosted in subsequent years to 14 million tons or 40% of the annual output. Reconstruction of the complex will be completed in the third quarter of 2004. The bulk of the work has now been finished at Bogatyr. In particular, inter-terrace and coal face re-loaders and coal face and lifting conveyors have been installed. The complex will continue in operation until 2015 when the opencast mine will switch completely to the cyclical and continuous method.
In addition, a large project was launched in 2000 to improve the environmental situation in the region through the conservation of blocks 2 and 3 at the Severny opencast mine. As a result, mining operations will be concentrated in blocks 1 and 4, the overburden transportation distance will be reduced considerably and preparations will be made for switching to mine car and conveyor technology.
Phase 2 (2006-2008) envisages the introduction of a method relying on hydraulic excavators and large dump trucks in combination with the conveyor and rail technology. Rotary excavators at the coal faces will be partially replaced with single-bucket hydraulic excavators. Coal will be loaded onto large dump trucks with a 100-150-ton capacity and transported to the points where coal piles are formed and then loaded onto railway cars; at this point the existing rotary excavator will be used. Coal piles of specified qualities will be formed using motor vehicles according to the current quality management system. The ash content fluctuations in railway cars will be maintained at 3-4% of the average. It should be noted that after phase 2 of the program is completed, the weight of blended coal supplied in 2008-2014 will increase to 94% of total output, ousting group II quality coal.
During phase 3, the final part of the program (2010-2014), the complete switchover to the cyclical and continuous production technology will be completed, with all Bogatyr’s output being blended. Huge investments in technical modernization will be delivered by BAK at that stage. In particular, two main conveyors will be built with crushing and handling points for reloading coal from mine cars to conveyors. In addition, a powerful lifting conveyor will be installed for transporting coal from the opencast mine (length 900 m, lift height 200 m, capacity 40 million tons per annum), as well as a blending and loading complex (BLC) at a height of +170 m with an annual capacity of 40 million tons.
Coal blending, which is necessary in order to satisfy differing consumer requirements, will be carried out at a high-capacity complex consisting of piling and lifting gear and a system of conveyors for receiving and loading. The loading point will allow railway cars to be loaded with an accuracy of up to 250 kg. The loading siding will be equipped with a tensometric balance for checking the weight of individual cars and whole trains. Also within the framework of phase 3, replacement of rotary excavators with single-bucket hydraulic ones will be completed at the coal faces. The fleet of large dump trucks will be increased in order to handle the planned annual output of 40 million tons.
The total investment planned for 2010-2014 is estimated at $220 million. At this point the company will discontinue the use of rail transport within the production complex and guarantee only class I quality coal supplies. At present coal from Ekibastuz is divided into two quality classes: class I with an ash content of up to 43% and a low heat value of 4,000 kcal/kg, and class II, with values of 47% and 3,500 kcal/kg. A batch of class I coal may include material with an ash content of up to 47%, and a class II batch may include coal with an ash content of up to 53%, provided that the marginal ash content for the whole batch is not exceeded.
The coal-bearing series at Bogatyr include four commercial quality coal-seams in which all the coal reserves are concentrated; however, only the first three closely located seams with a total thickness of 160-180 m are being developed. The quality of the coal in seams 1-3 has been quite well studied: this is high-ash coal with an average ash content of 43%. The general trend in the basin is for ash content to increase with depth. Coal with the lowest ash content and a relatively uniform quality (average ash content 36.5%, total seam thickness 60-65 m) is found in the upper part of the complex in seams 1 and 2. The coal content of these seams is high, averaging at 92% of the total seam volume. The specific characteristic of Ekibastuz coal is the high content of dispersed mineral impurities in the organic matter, which reduces the efficiency of coal cleaning. Therefore the coal is categorized as hard-to-clean.
A number of designs and methods for processing have been developed and implemented to date, in order to minimize ash content fluctuations and reduce supplies of class II coal. For example, a buffer blending store has been set up at Bogatyr opencast mine. In this technology, a coal pile with a volume of up to 300,000 tons is formed by a rotary excavator, with high and low ash content coal forming layers in proportions that ensure class I quality for the whole pile, with subsequent transverse loading. This method allows up to 150,000 tons of class II quality to be blended while forming a single pile.
Blending at coal faces is also envisaged. In the latter case, coal from different quality layers is loaded onto open mine cars in the required proportions, which results in better overall quality. These methods are certainly not original. They result in a considerable increase in operational costs because of the need to transport coal to a buffer store and reload it three times using excavators, with time and energy consumption increasing accordingly. However, the company must accept these additional costs in order to be able to supply coal of the required quality.
At present, class II coal supply minimization and blending are only carried out at surface blending and loading stores, following the example of the neighboring Vostochny opencast mine owned by the Eurasian Energy Corporation. But that opencast mine, unlike Bogatyr and Severny, was initially designed and constructed for continuous-flow coal production and coal blending at surface pile stores. The formation of the piles is carried out by loading coal of different quality using the “chevron” method (triangular-shaped piles with the apex on the long axis). Complete blending is achieved when the coal is loaded into cars by transverse loading along the pile width using special drum-type machines. BAK is planning to switch to the same technology at Bogatyr and Severny.
Today the management of BAK believes that implementing these investment projects and improving the quality of its coal are prerequisites for strengthening the company’s position in both the domestic and international markets. This action is dictated by competition in the fuel market.
Russia, as the main consumer of Ekibastuz coal, only permits supplies of this product that conform to GOST R51591-2000, adopted on 1 January 2002. BAK supplies about 20 million tons of coal annually to power plants in the Ural region. The ten largest power plants in that region and in West Siberia depend on coal from Ekibastuz. This year, coal consumption at the Russian Verkhne-Tagilskaya, Krasnogorskaya and Troyitskaya power plants increased, the latter resuming the use of Bogatyr coal at the end of the last year after a short interruption.
BAK plans to produce over 30 million tons of coal in 2003 as compared with 28.6 million tons last year. Of this figure, 13 million tons will be supplied to Kazakh consumers and the remaining 17 million tons to Russia. In order to optimize coal supplies to Russian power plants, BAK founded a subsidiary, Bogatyr Trans in late 2002; this was initially orientated towards coal shipment from the Bogatyr opencast mine using its own fleet of railway cars. This summer Bogatyr Trans commenced delivery to Russia. Currently coal is only being supplied to the Zolotaya Sopka station over two routes using the company’s cars. In the near future a contract will be signed with the Russian Sverdlovenergo for coal supplies using Bogatyr Trans cars. The company is striving to make the maximum possible use of its own transport capacity. Nine months ago its rolling-stock comprised 70 open-box cars, but today the number has increased 13 times to 920 units. An average of 90% of the rolling-stock (which is expected to increase to 1000 units in a few months) will be employed on the Russian routes by the end of this year. The overall cost of the project to set up this transport company was over $25 million. The current plans of Bogatyr Trans include building up a fleet of 6,000 open-box cars and implementing high-quality maintenance.
Taking into account the general state of rolling-stock in Kazakhstan, the company also plans to organize quality depot facilities and major repairs at existing and new Kazakh bases in co-operation with the largest Russian rolling-stock manufacturers. A long-term agreement on strategic co-operation has already been made between the U.S. Access Industries, owner of BAK, and the Russian Altaivagon. This document envisages building about 500 new open-box cars annually in the next three years, organizing major repairs, and other projects.
The international transit tariff (ITT) imposed by Russia on Kazakh coal shipments across its territory continues to pose a serious problem, as it renders Kazakh coal uncompetitive. Currently the ITT is three times the rate paid for transporting coal by rail within Kazakhstan. This problem will be addressed by the Ekibastuz Coal program developed by the government of Pavlodar Oblast together with companies operating in the Ekibastuz basin and approved by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. In addition, in order to ease the tariff burden in Kazakhstan, the program envisages dividing cargoes into three tariff classes, with coal falling into Class I as a strategic product. These recommendations are supported by several Members of Parliament. If a solution is found allowing the cost of coal transport within the country to be reduced, and the governments of Kazakhstan and Russia succeed in optimizing the tariff policy, the potential of Kazakh coal companies to serve the interests of the state will be fully unleashed.
According to forecasts by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the existing potential appears to be sufficient on the whole to boost coal exports to 35 million tons per annum. In recent years the national oil output amounted to 70-75 million tons per annum (15% of the CIS output), making Kazakhstan the ninth largest coal producer in the world (11.7%). In accordance with the Ministry’s draft development strategy for the coal industry, coal production will be increased to 82 million tons in 2005, 90 million tons in 2010 and 95 million tons in 2015. The industry is facing the tasks of introducing certification of the coal produced and bringing its quality up to ISO-2000 standards, which is especially important in the light of Kazakhstan’s forthcoming membership of the WTO. The achievements of the industry are already palpable: the structure of the coal produced has improved, resulting in a reduction in coal imports from 700,000 tons in 2000 to 200,000 tons in 2002. There is no doubt that BAK’s contribution to this success has been significant.
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