Since their formation in 2006, Exxaro Resources Limited has grown to become one of the largest and foremost black-empowered coal and heavy mineral companies in South Africa, with other business interests around the world in Europe, the United States of America, and Australia. Our asset portfolio includes coal operations and investments in iron ore, pigment manufacturing, renewable energy (wind), and residual base metals. In 2019, Exxaro produced 45.6 million tonnes (Mt), reflecting contributions from our expanded flagship Grootegeluk mine. At 31 December 2019, the group had assets of R68.8 billion and a market capitalisation of R47 billion (US$3.3 billion).
Like many industries, coal processing is complex, and digital transformation provides an opportunity for improvement. The absence of advanced process controllers (APCs) in the coal processing industry led Exxaro to explore research into opportunities for improvement, particularly in the area of throughput.
With research showing that Exxaro could expect a 5% gain in throughput, the company worked with Wabtec to implement Advanced Process Control, leveraging GE Digital’s Proficy CSense and process digital twin technology, at its GG45 process plant. Following success, the team implemented two more APC projects and explored a skills transfer process to Exxaro engineers to maximize use of the solution.
- Nearly 10% gain in throughput
- Utilization higher than 98% (from commissioning to date)
- Proof of concept completed within 6-month budgeted cycle
- APC solution is now solely utilized to control the GG5 plant, including start-up, shutdown, and steady state conditions
- Continued collaboration and continuous improvement
Hennie Engelbrecht, Principal Engineering – Process Improvement & Performance, Metallurgy, Exxaro Resources
Hennie Engelbrecht is the Principal Engineering for Process Improvement & Performance, Metallurgy for Exxaro Resources. With nearly 20 years in mining and metallurgy including managing the operations of the largest coal beneficiation complex in the world, he has extensive experience with process and performance improvement. Prior to his current role, Hennie served as the metallurgy manager, coal beneficiation manager, and chief engineer of process development. He holds a Master of Engineering from University of Pretoria and a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical Engineering & Extractive Metallurgy) from Stellenbosch University.
Marnus Olivier, Lead Project Manager and Advanced Process Control/Data Science Engineer, Wabtec
Marnus Olivier is a Lead Project Manager and Advanced Process Control/Data Science Engineer for Wabtec. In this role, Marnus develops and implements advanced process control solutions for global mining companies – with outcomes ranging from stabilizing pH and temperature to optimizing throughput and reducing waste. His expertise in applying advanced process control, predictive models and analytics spans 10 years at a diverse set of mines. Marnus holds a MScEng in Chemical Engineering from University of Stellenbosch along with certifications in data science in machine learning. LinkedIn