Canada is the largest producer of potash—a mixture of potassium chloride and sodium chloride used to improve water retention in soil and improve food crops. K+S Potash Canada is undertaking the first greenfield potash mine to be built in Saskatchewan, Canada, in nearly 40 years, and has selected relays and communications products from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) to protect and control it.
The new $3.7 billion Legacy Project mine, near Moose Jaw, is targeted for completion in 2016 with a total of 36 production caverns. SEL has been providing protection and control solutions to Canada’s potash industry since 2005, helping to ensure the safe, reliable delivery of electric power in the industry. After almost 10 years of success in Saskatchewan potash mines, the Legacy Project is taking SEL equipment one step further by introducing IEC 61850 communication for complete electrical distribution system control, monitoring and integration.
Today, SEL equipment is installed in nine of the 10 major potash mines across Saskatchewan. SEL relays and fault indicators provide protection in some of the harshest mining applications, such as the mobile underground substations called sleds.
In 2013, as part of a different project, Mark Payton, senior specialist for SEL Engineering Services, visited a mine in Saskatchewan. That project included upgrading many of the mine’s sleds with SEL relays. “Each sled had a breaker, a transformer, and two SEL-751A feeder protection relays—one primary and one secondary,” he said. “There are two types of sleds: miner sleds power the mining equipment, and drive sleds power pumps, fans, lighting, and everything else in the mine.”
SEL relays are designed to trip a circuit breaker when a fault is detected or when too much electricity could damage the system or create an unsafe environment. The need for relays to act quickly, within a few thousandths of a second, is especially difficult in these environments, and also of the utmost importance in order to keep people safe in mines.