Diesel engines are widely used in underground mining vehicles. The emissions from diesel engines are known to be human carcinogens. Provincial and territorial regulations govern the amount of exposure to mine workers by these diesel fumes.
In addition to their health effects, ventilation systems need to work extra hard to dilute the diesel fumes in the underground mine air. This means a large amount of energy is expended to dilute the diesel fumes for the safety of the mine workers.
Alternatives to diesel, such as hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, and lithium-ion batteries, are advancing in their development and cost-effectiveness. These alternatives have many advantages over diesel power, including:
- ventilation and fuel cost savings;
- maintenance savings, and sometimes;
- priceless advantages (health).
There can also be side benefits to alternatives to diesel power, such as increased power/torque, less waste oil handling, quiet operation of the vehicle, and reduction in cooling needs, possibly reducing ventilation infrastructure requirements.
Future research at CanmetMINING will seek to identify and develop technologies which use energy sources other than diesel fuel, with the aim of energy savings and a healthier workplace for miners.
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