Fuel cell risk assessment, regulatory compliance, and implementation of the world’s first fuel cell-powered mining equipment at the Campbell Mine

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 98, No. 1087, 2005

F.C. Delabbio, D. Eastick, C. Graves, D. Sprott, T. MacKinnon and M.C. Bétournay

The world’s first hydrogen fuel cell locomotive was successfully demonstrated at the Placer Dome Campbell Mine in Balmertown, Ontario. This demonstration was a success based on the following criteria: safely demonstrated the operation of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell locomotive in a production situation; determined the regulatory and operational requirements for future fuel cell mining equipment; determined technical and soft issues critical for future fuel cell applications; and determined the level of market acceptance for a fuel cell in an underground mine. The success of this project was due to both the implementation process and the large team effort from the 12 companies involved. The successful implementation of a new technology, such as a fuel cell application in an underground production mine, requires many challenges to be overcome. These challenges included mine hardening of new technology, mitigation of safety risks and hazards, ensuring mine operation personnel support, and coordinating the technology transfer to mine staff. As with all aspects of mining operations, health and safety are the number one priorities. One of the more challenging aspects of implementing a new technology is addressing both the perceived and actual health and safety risks early in the development of the project. Significant effort was required for risk and hazard identification, analysis, response planning (risk mitigation), and monitoring and control. Of the 127 risks identified, 40 required action plans to mitigate the potential risks. These action plans were appropriate to the severity of the risk and realistic to the project context. Before testing commenced, all identified health and safety risks had been mitigated sufficiently to be monitored and controlled during the underground tests. For new equipment, such as a fuel cell locomotive, existing regulations and standards for underground mines usually do not specify requirements. For this situation, a significant review was undertaken to identify pertinent legislative requirements, available industry standards and codes. The participants of the risk analysis workshops also identified a number of standards to consider in addition to the standards identified during the investigation. Regulations were identified from the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. The workshop participants included specialists in the areas of research and development, manufacturing, mining operations, regulatory bodies, and engineering consulting. An engineering review of the design was undertaken to ensure that good engineering practices were utilized for all aspects. The engineering review considered recognized standards related to pressure vessels, pressure piping, electrical codes, and the use of electricity in mines. Through this multi-discipline approach, all aspects of design, safety, and operation of the equipment were addressed. Early involvement of the demonstration site contributed to the success of the project. Strong support of mine management and support from corporate office provided the commitment and the required people for the ongoing progress of the project. A person from the site became the site champion and maintained communications with mine staff about project developments and ensured their concerns were considered and resolved. By maintaining the same team that participated in risk workshops, designs, and regulatory reviews, the consistent information was vital to answering questions and alleviating concerns from mine staff. A final report that detailed regulations and standards compliance, the engineering review, risk assessments, and operating procedures was compiled and formed the basis of completing the pre-development review as required by the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants.
Keywords: Fuel cell, Risk management, Regulatory compliance, Campbell Mine.