A comparison of the economic benefits of centralized and distributed model predictive control strategies for optimal and sub-optimal mine dewatering system designs


Alberto Romero,  Dean Millar, Monica Carvalho, José M. Maestre & Eduardo F. Camacho


Applied Thermal Engineering


Mine dewatering can represent up to 5% of the total energy demand of amine, and is one of the mine systems that aim to guarantee safe operating conditions. As mines go deeper, dewatering pumping heads become bigger, potentially involving several lift stages. Greater depth does not only mean greater dewatering cost, but more complex systems that require more sophisticated control systems, especially if mine operators wish to gain benefits from demand response incentives that are becoming a routine part of electricity tariffs. This work explores a two stage economic optimization procedure of an underground mine dewatering system, comprising two lifting stages, each one including a pump station and a water reservoir. First, the system design is optimized considering hourly characteristic dewatering demands for twelve days, one day representing each month of the year to account for seasonal dewatering demand variations. This design optimization minimizes the annualized cost of the system, and therefore includes the investment costs in underground reservoirs. Reservoir size, as well as an hourly pumping operation plan are calculated for specific operating environments, defined by characteristic hourly electricity prices and water inflows (seepage and water use from production activities), at best known through historical observations for the previous year. There is no guarantee that the system design will remain optimal when it faces the water inflows and market determined electricity prices of the year ahead, or subsequent years ahead, because these remain unknown at design time. Consequently, the dewatering optimized system design is adopted subsequently as part of a Model Predictive Control (MPC) strategy that adaptively maintains optimality during the operations phase. Centralized, distributed and non-centralized MPC strategies are explored. Results show that the system can be reliably controlled using any of these control strategies proposed. Under the operating conditions considered, total annualized cost savings in the range of 50%, in comparison with nonoptimized designs, can be achieved through design optimization and the use of predictive control.