Three research projects within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences have been awarded funding by the Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP) to find improvements and answers to questions that will benefit the entire industry.

Reducing dust exposure

One project, led by Associate Professor Ting Ren from the School of Civil, Mining & Environmental Engineering (CME), will develop and test a simulation training tool for dust control to reduce dust exposure among workers. The project, titled VR-CFD Based Simulation and Training Tool for Dust Control in Gateroad Development Panels, is supported by $379,684 in funding.

The project’s main objective is to develop an immersive simulation tool to provide interactive 3D visualisations of dust and ventilation flow patterns to demonstrate the impact of dust in various working conditions.

“A simulation tool will help raise awareness about the danger of dust exposure in the workplace and gain an understanding of dust and airflow characteristics to determine best practices for dust controls in underground coal mining,” A/Prof Ren said.

“Managing dust exposure doesn’t just depend on effective engineering controls. It’s also about education and training programs so workers can identify changing conditions, understand the potential impacts of operational changes, and know how they should react to correct the situation in a timely manner.”

The research team includes Professor Faisal Hai from CME; Dr Jon Roberts from School of Mechanical, Materials, Mechatronic and Biomedical Engineering; Senior Professor Willy SusiloAssociate Professor Casey Chow and Dr Guoxin Su from the School of Computing and Information Technology; and occupational hygienist Dr Jennifer Hines from the School of Health and Society in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

Mitigating gas emission

With $146,500 in funding, a second project, also led by A/Prof Ren, will investigate how to improve ventilation to mitigate gas emissions to minimise production delays and safety hazards. Working on the project, titled Optimise longwall face ventilation to mitigate coal goaf gas emissions onto walkways and tailgate end, is Honorary Fellow Dr Dennis Black with the School of Civil Mining and Environmental Engineering, Visiting Professorial Fellow Professor Jianming Wu, and Research Fellow Dr Patrick Booth.

The 12-month project will include a survey and review of current ventilation methods related to underground coal mining machinery (specifically longwall machinery) and a study of ventilation and gas control practices at mines in NSW and QLD. Computer modelling will be used to visualise gas flow patterns and how they change with different variables and in different scenarios.

“This project will offer immediate benefits to mines experiencing issues,” A/Prof Ren said.

Insights into coke reactivity

Professor Brian Monaghan from the School of Mechanical, Materials & Mechatronics Engineering will lead the third project – The Effects of Ash Minerals on Coke Reactivity at High Temperatures (Phase II) – which builds on work done in 2020 (Phase I)

“We are focused on improved understanding of how coke performs as high temperature in process units such as blast furnaces. This should lead to more efficient use of coal in such processes,” Prof Monaghan said.

“In phase one, we focused on studying the gas-coke-mineral interactions at high-temperatures. In this second phase, the focus will be on liquid iron-coke-mineral reactions and the outcomes will offer new insights into coal blending for high temperatures coke performance, complementing existing knowledge and other studies on-going in this area.”

The project received $207,079 in funding and is in collaboration with Post Doctoral Research Fellow Ray Longbottom and Graham O’Brien, Principal Coal Technologist in the CSIRO’s Mineral Resources Sustainable Mining Technologies Program.

ACARP is a collaborative program that utilises the experience and technical strength of both the coal mining industry and research institutions in solving technical problems and addressing issues of significance to the industry.