References

The salt route. The K+S flow speed management (FSM)

Modern IT for an industry steeped in tradition. How salt transport underground is controlled digitally.

K+S conveyor management

Salt, also known as “white gold” of the earth, is one of the most important raw materials and of fundamental importance for all life on this planet. Its underground mining goes back to a centuries-old history, and its way up to the earth’s surface is still astounding today. What used to be tedious and life-threatening manual work has now become a combination of state-of-the-art technology from the areas of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. On behalf of K+S IT-Services GmbH, Micromata has programmed a flow speed management system for the KALI plant in Zielitz, which supports the transport of salt extracted underground. The focus is the conveyor belts, which run through the active pits like a road network.

Process

At tipping points, the salt is loaded by the front-end loaders, broken by a crusher to a manageable size and then transferred to the tipping point belts (delivery belts). These transport the salt toward collecting conveyor belts, which, in turn, continue on to the storage area (bunker). The KALI plant Zielitz has around 50 tipping points, as well as conveyor belts totalling a length of around 50 kilometres.

Challenge

Since the haulers operate intermittently and the tipping point belts have different lengths, the flow of salt is irregular and can cause overflow on the collector belt.

Solution

An ultrasonic sensor at the tipping points measures the salt charge in kg/sec and forwards this information to a PLC controller. Micromata’s FSM software retrieves this data through an intermediate OPC unit and uses various algorithms and defined parameters to calculate which tipping points need to be throttled or released in tempo in order to prevent overfilling. The result is then sent back to the PLC controller in the opposite way, which then triggers the required measures. In the form of signals and measured values, the real world is thus digitally read in seconds, simulations are performed and corresponding control signals are generated. The whole process is automatic.

Result

As a result, the intelligent flow speed management system at K+S provides for a smooth underground salt transport process. The intermeshing of the various transport subsections is harmonised, thus achieving a higher throughput of extracted salt. With FSM, the mining sector, which is steeped in history, is technologically connected to the digital age by means of IT.

Outlook

Flow speed management started in 2011 with the goal of performing basic tasks such as modelling, mapping of runtime behaviour and overflow avoidance. Today, the technologies and frameworks that are used are checked, and the source code is modernised and adapted where necessary.

 New technical objects, such as cribbed chute conveyors, are also integrated – a prerequisite for also introducing the flow speed technology in other plants.

Technology used:

  • Java 8
  • Tomcat 8 (Applications Container)
  • Hibernate (OR-Mapping)
  • Spring
  • LogBackPostgreSQL
  • OPC connection
Hendrik Spiewok

Project manager & senior developer