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Fuelcell Versus Diesel Loader Operation: Cost-Benefit Analysis Study

Marc C. Bétournay, Pierre Laliberté, Roger Lacroix, Charles Kocsis, Steve Hardcastle,
Gaetan DesriviPres
Mining and Mineral Sciences Laboratories, CANMET

Pierre Mousset-Jones, Gary Righettini

Mackay School of Mines


Under the requirement to define the economic advantages of using hydrogen fuelcell vehicles, a broad-
scoped project was initiated to quantify the costs associated with operating fuelcell vehicles and diesel
vehicles. While ventilation savings are clearly an advantage for the former, a complete and detailed
analysis of this and other operational and capital cost elements was undertaken in order to provide the
mining industry with factual information in considering the changeover from one technology to another.

This article outlines the results of the investigations to date defining the costs/benefits associated with:
capital purchases, operations (electrical/diesel, mine air heating fuel, ventilation, openings, surface and
underground infrastructure, maintenance, labour, etc.), delivery of energy, regulatory obligations, and
mine production. Considerations are given to the type and size of a mining operation, the depth, and
location in North America.

Significant ventilation power, equipment and infrastructure savings are possible with the application of
fuelcells for shallower mine applications. At depth, where heat is an issue, there is a reduction in benefit.
Specific qualifiers such as minimum air velocities, dust dilution, shaft and heating system velocity limits
must be considered on an individual mine basis.

While the capital cost for fuelcell mining equipment is currently higher than diesel versions, the high cost
of fuelcells is anticipated to be reduced significantly in the near future with the intensification of
manufacturing. In either case the operational savings would probably be sufficient to balance the
supplementary capitalization costs.

A comprehensive cost-benefit report will be issued in the near future.


Over the last few years, a number of research projects to prove out the concept of applying fuelcell
technology to underground mining vehicles have been managed by Vehicle Projects LLC for the Fuelcell
Propulsion Institute. These have been carried out with the support of mining companies, trade unions,
regulatory agencies, equipment manufacturers, research laboratories, technology developers, universities
and consultants.

Hydrogen fuelcell technology is clean and produces only water and electricity. This yields several
advantages, in the health area (by eliminating diesel emissions and reducing noise generation), in
supporting better mine vehicle automation and in lowering green house gas emission production.

Working vehicles are powered by a combination of a fuelcell power plant and an electric motor. The
main power plant elements are fuelcells that generate the electricity and a hydrogen fuel storage unit.
Proton Exchange Membrane type fuelcells have been adopted for their reliability, simplicity, and
functioning in the temperature range of mining activity. They have also been proven to operate
successfully under typical dust, gas and shock and vibration conditions encountered in underground
mining [Bétournay et al., 2003]. In order to minimize risk associated with vehicle hydrogen storage
underground, a metal hydride system has been selected. These consist of containers filled with a
powdered alloy in which hydrogen is stored in the crystal lattice interstices, analogous to the way a
sponge stores water. This constitutes a safe, low-pressure solid medium for hydrogen, which can only be
released at a low rate. The safest option at this point in time is to deliver hydride beds underground and
swap the vehicle hydride beds. Other projects are being considered that would have electrolysers
underground to produce and deliver hydrogen directly to the vehicle.

This project has carried out an in-depth study of the range of costs associated with diesel and fuelcell
power application in underground mining vehicles. The range of considerations cover energy delivery
and costs, ventilation, maintenance, type, depth, and size of the mining operation, delivery infrastructure
and manpower, and equipment capital costs.

This paper focuses primarily on operating cost aspects and examples of mine savings. The complete
study will be made available in the near future.


In Canada, underground metal mines have become increasingly mechanized since the introduction of
diesel engine powered mobile equipment in the 1960’s. Mines are also getting deeper and consequently
hotter, with six mines in Canada planning production at depths of up to 3000 m. Regulations limiting the
underground workforce’s exposure to harmful substances such as diesel soot are becoming increasingly
more stringent with a greater understanding of the health effects. Consequently, increasing diesel powered
equipment usage and the need to dilute their exhaust constituents, machine and strata heat removal, and
exposure regulations are the three primary design criteria of our current ventilation systems. In Canada’s
metal mines there can be other issues such as mineral dust exposure and strata gasses that can become
part of the design criteria, however, for the most part their demands are normally met because more
significant air volumes are required for diesel exhaust dilution and heat removal.

As a consequence of the changes in mining, the volume of air mine ventilation systems supply has been
increasing, and with this there have been significant increases in both capital and operating power costs as
increasingly larger fan systems and supply infrastructures (shafts and raises) are required. In Canada the
operating costs are significant with ventilation typically accounting for 40% of the energy used within a
mine, either through electricity for fans or through fossil fuels needed to heat the air during winter. Today,
this energy usage is also a concern as it contributes to mining’s greenhouse gas emissions, in particular
when considering Canada’s commitment to reduce their production.

Within this ventilation/energy scenario, fuelcell technology if introduced into underground mines has
several potential benefits:
§ Fuelcells have zero toxic emissions so diesel exhaust dilution and more limiting exposure
regulations pertaining to specific exhaust constituents become less of an issue in ventilation
§ Fuelcells are mechanically more efficient in regard to the amount of heat they introduce into the
mine atmosphere, so their heat rejection is less of an issue compared to a comparable diesel unit.

§ Reduced air requirements result in decreased power consumption, heating fuel usage and hence
operating costs, and also smaller future capital investment for any upgrade of the ventilation
§ Reduced power and energy usage for the ventilation system, plus the reduction in diesel fuel
usage would also benefit the global environment.


The ventilation analysis study comprises three parts. First, and still on-going, a classification of all
underground metal mines in Canada with respect to tonnage mined, depth, mining method, equipment,
haulage, ventilation infrastructure, etc., with a view to define characteristic mine types by design criteria
such as heat or diesel, bulk or selective mining, size of diesel fleet and individual units.

Second, detailed analyses of selected mines such as a large and deep base metal operation using large
diesel equipment, medium sized precious or base metal mines using medium sized diesel equipment and a
precious metal mine using small diesel equipment. Additional variants would be whether mobile diesel
powered or tracked electric equipment were the primary haulage method and also the differing Provincial
diesel regulations that dictate air volumes. The analysis of two such mines is the basis of this paper which
serves to show the varying benefit of introducing fuelcells depending on such qualifiers as heat issues,
production schedule and the relative contributions of heating and primary and secondary systems in total
ventilation operating costs.

Third, upon completion of all the detailed mine analyses, a summary report will be produced of the
potential benefits of using fuelcell powered equipment in mines along with the mitigating qualifiers that
could apply to individual mines, and if possible projections of cost, energy and environmental benefits
(GHGs) across Canada.


The first mine analyzed, a base metal mine in Ontario, produces 4,000 tons/day from a near continuous
operation comprising a schedule of two back-to-back 10hr shifts per day, with a 4 hr blast clearance
period during the night. On each weekend day one shift is non-productive. Consequently this mine
operates at peak ventilation demand 85% of the time and in the remainder it employs some ventilation
cost management through turning down, or off, a portion of its primary ventilation fans. Currently,
approximately 2,500 tons/day are extracted from the upper mine (above 2100 m depth) through a vertical
retreat mining (VRM) method, and 1,500 tons/day are extracted from the upper levels of a new deep
orebody (between 2100 and 2500 m depth) through a combination of VRM and cut-and fill (C&F)
methods. In the future, this mine’s primary production is currently planned to be solely be from the deep
orebody and could be exclusively by a C&F method. The typical drift dimensions in this mine are 4.9 m
wide by 4.5 m high.

Figure 1 shows the general layout of the mine’s ventilation system from the surface through to the future
bottom of the mine 2500 m below surface. The mine has three main intake airways; Shaft A from the
surface down to 2100 m, the main fresh air raise (MFAR) and a ramp system, which ultimately delivers
air to 2200 m and the internal Shaft B taking air from 390 m to 2200 m. The deep orebody has a single
main intake fresh air raise (MFAR) and an extension that will eventually deliver air to 2500 m. To
exhaust the air the mine predominantly uses a main return air raise (MRAR) from the lower orebody and
a dedicated ventilation shaft, Shaft C, back to surface. To provide the flow through this system and to the
required depth, the mine employs 11(or 13) primary and booster fans, the majority of which, eight (or ten)

in parallel arrangements of two fans, are in the intake system. The remaining three fans, also in parallel,
are at the top of the exhaust shaft.

Fresh air to the production areas is drawn off of the intake system usually under the assistance of auxiliary
fans. Auxiliary ducting then delivers this airflow to the desired production areas. From the production
areas the return airflow is exhausted through the production levels to the MRAR or return shaft.

In this mine, the current ventilation design criteria is a combination of diesel and heat requirements,
however in the future, the primary flow to the production areas will be exclusively dictated by heat
rejection needs, but local auxiliary flows could still be based upon diesel exhaust dilution needs.

Shaft A Raise A Raise B Shaft C


Shaft D

Shaft B

2100 level

2500 level

Figure 1. Ventilation scheme of a large-sized base metal operation.

In the subsequent analysis of this mine, the potential benefits of fuelcells will be explored initially under
current the conditions but also for the future when flows are dictated by heat concerns.

Ventilation Design Criteria for the Upper Area and the Deep Orebody

In the current ventilation system, with the majority of production above 2100 m, the controlling design
criterion is diesel exhaust based upon the rated output power of diesel equipment. This mine uses an
airflow of 0.079 m3/s per rated kW of diesel power in its overall primary design. This is higher than the
Provincial requirement of 0.063 m3/s/kW at the point of application to take account of leakage and also in

recognition of increasing heat rejection issues. Secondary considerations are blast fume clearance and
dust control.

As a consequence of the mine’s adopted diesel design criteria the mine uses the following flow allocation:
- Minimum airflow for active stopes: Qstope = 336 kW x 0.079 m3/s/kW = 26.5 m3/s
- Minimum airflow for development headings: Qdev = 243 kW x 0.079 m3/s/kW = 19.2 m3/s
- Minimum airflow for haulage ramps: Qramp = 354 kW x 0.079 m3/s/kW = 28 m3/s

In the ventilation simulations of this mine minimum flows allowed were 15 m3/s on inactive levels to

Airflow Requirements and Intake Airflow Temperatures as a Function Of The

Mining Depth

0.180 18.90

0.160 18.60

0.140 18.30
Required Airflow (m 3/s/tpd)

Intake Airflow Temperatures (

0.120 18.00

0.100 17.70

0.080 17.40

0.060 17.10

0.040 16.80

0.020 16.50

0.000 16.20
2100 2150 2200 2250 2300 2350 2400 2450 2500 2550
Depth (m)

Reqired Airflow (m3/s/tpd) Intake Airflow Temperatures (grad C)

Figure 2. Airflow requirements and intake airflow temperatures a function of the mining depth.

permit service vehicles access and 11.5 m3/s to maintain a minimum velocity of 0.5 m/s. As a
consequence of these flow allocations, the current mine ventilation system was simulated with a primary
flow of 608 m3/s.

For the deep orebody, the mine has determined through climatic modelling the airflow requirements for
each production level. Figure 2, shows the increasing intake airflow temperature and minimum airflow
requirement for each particular level of the deep orebody, as a function of production rate, upon taking
into account the heat generated from strata, and the mining machinery involved in development and
production processes.

Consequently, the flow requirements in the lower portion of the mine will increase from 0.099 m3/s/tpd at
2100 m to 0.170 m3/s/tpd at 2500m, an increase of 72%. In this analysis, the potential benefits of fuelcells
was determined when all the future production will be between 2450 m to 2500 m, and similar to the

current analysis, minimum flows will be maintained on all inactive levels. Under these conditions the
mine ventilation system was analyzed with a primary flow of 652 m3/s for diesel based production.

Ventilation System Operating Costs Using Diesel Powered Equipment

Current Situation – based upon diesel exhaust criteria

Ventilation modelling and simulation exercises of the current situation have shown that in order to deliver
the required air volumes to the production areas and throughout the mine, an intake flow of 608 m3/s is
needed during production. This requires the mine’s main and booster fans to develop a total pressure of
16.708 kPa, at a cost of Cdn$3.1M/year. Across the weekends the flow drops to 558 m3/s at a combined
total pressure of 14.011 kPa and a cost of Cdn$0.3M/year. The combined annual operating power cost of
the primary ventilation system is Cdn$3.4M/year.

For the secondary distribution of ventilation, the mine uses approximately 200 auxiliary fans with motor
powers ranging from 37 kW (50 hp) through to 112 kW (2 x 75 hp). The combined installed power of
these fans is 6,197 kW and it has been assumed that these fans when operating are working at their rated
power. For two shifts during the weekend, the mine estimates that 50% of the auxiliary ventilation system
fans are turned off, and during statutory holidays all auxiliary systems should be off. Based on this
information the auxiliary ventilation operating power cost in the current system has been estimated as

At this mine, heating of the mine air during winter is predominantly through natural effects and
consequently the mine’s consumption and hence cost of fossil fuels for heating is minimal in comparison
to the electrical costs. Therefore the mine’s annual ventilation operating costs effectively comprise the
electrical costs for the primary and auxiliary ventilation system’s, namely Cdn$4.9M/yr for an electricity
consumption of 891 MWh.

Future Requirements – based upon heat management considerations

Using diesel powered mobile equipment, modelling and simulation exercises have shown that the mine
will have to supply 652 m3/s, an increase of 7%, when all the production is from the lower three levels of
the mine and to minimum flows throughout the rest of the operation are maintained. For this flow and its
distribution, ventilation simulations indicate that the mine’s main and booster fans will have to develop a
combined total pressure of 19.95 kPa with a resultant annual operating power cost of Cdn$4.2M/year, an
increase of 23%.

For the auxiliary ventilation distribution at this future point it has been estimated that the mine’s auxiliary
fan power requirement would increase to 7,436 kW with a resultant annual operating cost of
Cdn$1.8M/yr, an increase of 20%. This increase is due to larger auxiliary fans needed to assist in
overcoming additional pressure losses along the ventilation raises.

Therefore upon neglecting the relatively minor cost of heating, the mine’s future ventilation operating
cost would be Cdn$6.0M/year for an electricity consumption of 1,091 MWh.

Ventilation System Operating Cost using Fuelcell Powered Equipment

Current Application – based upon fuelcell airflow requirements

Determining the appropriate ventilation requirements in a mine employing fuelcells presents some
difficulty, depending upon the degree of conversion and on how the light-duty diesel vehicles plus other
secondary requirements are accounted for in the original design.

However, assuming that the 4,000 tpd are produced from eight active stopes within the upper area of the
mine and using the 0.042 m3/s/tpd plus 25% additional allowance for miscellaneous needs, and
maintaining minimum flows elsewhere, the mine would require a total intake airflow of 459 m3/s, which
represents a 24% reduction when compared to the diesel-based requirement. To deliver and distribute this
airflow during the production period, ventilation simulations show that the required total power of the
primary and booster fan system drops to 6,232 kW, with an associated cost of Cdn$1.63M/yr, a 51%
reduction. For the weekends and statutory holidays, the magnitude of reduced air volumes and subsequent
costs would not change. Therefore the overall annual cost of the primary ventilation system would be
Cdn$1.77M/year, a 48% reduction.

Operating costs in the secondary ventilation system are even more difficult to estimate. If it were possible
for the mine to downsize its current inventory of secondary fans then savings would result. A reduction
would probably be possible for the short drawpoint mucking locations of the VRM method, however, it
may not be possible for the C&F mining method where the potential for a high volume blast clearance
would have to be maintained. However, if the mine’s total auxiliary fan power could be reduced by
approximately 15% the operating cost would drop to Cdn$1.27M/year.

Therefore if fuelcells were introduced immediately to this operation the combination primary and
auxiliary ventilation system operating power costs would be Cdn$3.04M/year for an electricity
consumption of 553.3 MWh, both show a 38% reduction.

Future Situation – based upon fuelcell airflow requirements

In the future the airflow requirements for the deep orebody will be determined upon heat rejection
demands of the hotter strata at depth. The mine has already determined these requirements for a diesel
operation based upon production rates. However, to determine a comparable demand for fuelcells several
assumptions have to be made. The diesel-based demands have been determined by means of climatic
modelling. This modelling showed that increasing volumes are required at depth to combat the increasing
component of heat from the strata although the input from machinery would tend to stay the same. To
obtain the needs of fuelcells, the relative machinery and non-machinery heat components at varying
depths was determined from the mine’s production rate flow requirements and knowledge of the thermal
parameters within the mine using an underground climatic simulator. Once the relative machinery and
non-machinery components were determined, a simplified analysis on replacing diesel machinery with
fuelcell units was performed as follows:

An underground climatic model has been developed using ClimsimTM simulator for a 206 kW Diesel
LHD operating in a typical dead-end development (4.9 m wide by 4.5 m high) at 2200 m depth. Climatic
simulations show that of the total heat load of 392 kW added to the air, 206 kW (52%) is generated by the
diesel LHD and 186 kW (48%) is generated by non-equipment heat sources. Upon replacing the diesel
powered LHD by a 206 kW fuelcell powered unit, the total heat load decreases to 275 kW, of which 89
kW (33%) is generated by the fuelcell LHD and 186 kW (77%) is still generated by non-equipment heat
sources. For both diesels and fuelcells the intake airflow requirements were determined such that ambient
wet bulb temperature were maintained below 280C. Then, by varying the VRT and the barometric
pressure, the required intake airflows during the mining cycle have been determined for both diesel and
fuelcell powered LHD’s as a function of the mining depth. Figure 3 shows the relative reduction that
might be possible from employing fuelcells at increasing depth as derived from the respective
diesel/fuelcell airflow requirements.

Although this analysis may not be precise, it does indicate that with increasing depth the heat from non-
machinery sources increases. A point is reached (~2,700 m) where for heat removal purposes whether a
mine is using a fuelcell or diesel based equipment, it makes little difference to the airflow requirements.

However, to provide an indication of the savings for this mine when all the production is from the lower
mine (between 2450-2500 m), Figure 3 has been used to adjust the production based flow requirements.
Consequently, ventilation simulations maintaining minimum flows elsewhere show that the mine would
require intake airflow of 592 m3/s with fuel cells, a 9% reduction. To deliver this airflow to the production
areas, the mine’s primary and booster fan system’s operating cost drop to Cdn$3.1M/year, a 26%
reduction. Again for the weekends and statutory holidays, the magnitude of reduced air volumes and
subsequent costs would not change. Therefore the overall annual operating power costs of these fans
would be Cdn$3.3M/year, a 23% reduction.

By downsizing the secondary production fans, the mine’s total auxiliary fan power may be reduced by
approximately 12%, with a similar reduction in operating cost to Cdn$1.6M/year. In combination the
primary and auxiliary ventilation system operating cost would be Cdn$4.8M/year. For an electricity
consumption of 879 MWh, both show a 19% reduction.

Potential Intake Airflow Reductions for Fuelcells vs. Diesels as a

Function Of The Mining Depth



Airflow Reduction (%)




2150 2200 2250 2300 2350 2400 2450 2500 2550 2600 2650 2700 2750
Depth (m)

Figure 3. Potential airflow reductions for fuelcells versus diesel.


The second mine analyzed was an underground gold mining operation in northern Ontario, Canada. The
mine produces 2,300-2,500 tpd, with an operation schedule of three 8-hr shifts per day, 5 days a week.
The orebody lies between 280-800 m below surface, is well defined and is now extracted through a
longitudinal retreat stoping method. Typical stope dimensions are 8 m wide, 15 m high and 25 m long.
Typical drift development is 4 m wide by 3.7 m high.

The mine is heavily dieselised, utilizing diesel-powered equipment in all three phases of mining: drilling,
mucking and haulage. Drilling is performed with 61 kW diesel-electric drill-jumbos. Mucking is
performed with 186 kW diesel 7 yd3 bucket LHDs. Material is hauled in combination by the LHDs and
138 kW 16-ton diesel trucks.

The basic layout of the mine is shown in the ventilation schematic, Figure 4. The mine has a single
primary intake raise down to the 400 m level. This raise then connects to an old internal raise system to
take the air down to the 525 m level at which point the air crosses the mine to another internal raise
system that takes the air down to bottom of the mine. Air to production areas, is drawn off of this intake

Primary Intake Fans

(2 in parallel)

Exhaust Shaft #1, 400m to

Intake Raise Surface
Surface to 400m

Exhaust Shaft #2, 780m to

P r im a r y I n t a k e F a n s
(2 in parallel)

D e v e lo p m e n t S h a f t , 4 0 0 m
In ta k e R a is e
S u r f a c e to 4 0 0 m Backfill Raises
to S u r f a c e ( E x h a u s t )

(Potential Exhaust)
P roduction Shaft 780m to
S u rface (Exhaust)

Current Mining Between E a s t/W e s t B a c k f ill

280 & 400m C u r r e n t M in in g B e t w e e n

R a is e s ( E x h a u s t )

295 & 400m

E x h a u s t R a is e / D r i f t
Exhaust Raise/Drift System 650m to 400m

System 650m to 400m

I n t a k e R a is e / D r i f t
System 400m to 650m C u r r e n t M in in g B e t w e e n
520 & 795m

A u x ilia r y F a n s
R a m p E x h a u s t S y s te m s , 6 5 0 m D r a w A ir F r o m R a is e
to 4 6 5 m & 5 2 0 m to 4 0 0 m F o r P r o d u c t io n
C ru s h e r

Intake Raise/Drift
System 400m to 650m
Current Mining Between
500 & 800m

Ramp Exhaust Systems, 650m

to 460m & 520m to 400m Auxiliary Fans
Crusher Draw Air From Raise
For Production
Figure 4. Ventilation schematic of a medium-sized precious metal mine.

system either naturally or under the assistance of auxiliary fans. Auxiliary ducting then takes this air to
the desired production locations. In the production areas, single-pass ventilation is employed. Air is
exhausted from the mine through an exhaust raise system, the internal ramp system or a shaft back to the
400 m level. From this point the air leaves the mine via either of the two shafts and the backfill raises
when available.

Compared to the previous deep mine, this mine only requires one primary fan installation to supply the
required volume, heating is a significant cost, and its production is less continuous.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Diesel Powered Equipment for a 24/7 Operation

In the current system, the controlling criterion for ventilation is diesel exhaust dilution. Secondary
considerations are blast fume clearance and dust control. Due to its location (northern Ontario), and the
relatively shallow depth of the workings <800 m, heat is not currently an issue. Due to the ore/strata of
the mine there are no other strata gas issues such as methane that must be considered in the design

As the base case, this mine was analysed assuming a continuous 24 hr/7day operation. For the applicable
legislation in Ontario of 0.063 m3/s/kW, the mine’s primary fans should supply a flow of 180 m3/s and
upon simulation modelling of the mine’s ventilation system it can be shown that their annual operating
cost would be Cdn$318 k.

For the secondary ventilation distribution, purely to the potential production areas, the mine employs 30
auxiliary systems with an installed power of 1,650 kW. However, these fans would only be operational
according to need. Consequently, only 33%, sufficient for 10 active locations, may be operating at any
one time. Assuming this proportion of the fans are running continuously at their rated power, their annual
operating cost can be determined as Cdn$322 k.

To heat the air with propane at this constant flow rate, the annual cost would be Cdn$725 k.

In combination to supply 180 m3/s year round, the combined ventilation energy operating costs would be
Cdn$1.365M/year, of which the primary fans and auxiliary fans account for 23.5% each and heating
accounts for 53%.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment for a 24/7 Operation

In the absence of diesel engines on the primary production equipment, the flow in the mine could be
based upon 90 cfm/tpd mined plus a 25% allowance for other needs. Assuming the maximum production
rate, this would dictate a flow of 132.5 m3/s, a 26% reduction compared to a full diesel fleet.

As a consequence of a 26% reduction in airflow, the heating costs would similarly be reduced by 26% to
Cdn$536k/year, and the primary ventilation system costs would reduce by 60% to Cdn$129k/year due to
the cubic relationship between power or cost and flow. Operating cost savings in the secondary
ventilation system are harder to estimate because unless the mine changes the auxiliary fans, reduced
flows could be obtained by throttling the current systems at their discharge. This is the mine’s current
practice for reduced flow requirement operations in a high flow system. This practice would not change
the operating costs of the secondary system. However, if the mine was to down-size their current

“production” operation fans to the next lowest size in their inventory, their total fan power would be
reduced by 12% and a similar reduction in operating costs to Cdn$283k/year, would follow. One
important point to consider, regarding the secondary system, is that a higher volume flush could be
required to remove blast fumes, so downsizing the fan may not be an option.

Upon combining the new costs of the three elements, the annual operating costs to supply 132.5 m3/s,
with the slightly smaller secondary system would be Cdn$948k/year, this represents a net reduction of
only 31% despite 60% reduction in primary costs.

This shows that in mines where the major portion of the ventilation operating costs are for heating and
secondary ventilation, the potential savings may not be as large as expected. One factor at this mine that
would have made a difference is that if the heating fuel was natural gas as opposed to the more expensive
propane used, then the relative decrease would be larger as the primary ventilation costs would be a larger

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Diesel Powered Equipment in a Variable Production Operation

The above cost analysis assumed a 24/7 operation. In reality this mine already employs ventilation cost
control through reducing their flow on the production only nightshift by 13%, and on weekends and
holidays by 54%. In association with this, the number of secondary fans operating was reduced on the
production only nightshift, and all secondary fans were turned off on the weekends and holidays. As a
consequence of this the mine’s ventilation operating cost costs are only Cdn$971k/year for an average
annual flow of 143 m3/s.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment in a Variable Production

Upon repeating the cost analysis with fuelcells, plus going into more detail with respect to distribution
within the mine to specific work locations it was found that the peak production flow might only be
reduced by 24% as opposed to 26% in the above analysis. This slightly higher flow was necessary to
maintain an air velocity of 0.5m/s, which was considered the lower limit for detection by the workforce.
This flow would be needed across the two production and development shifts plus the production only
shift. The introduction of fuelcells would not change the airflow during weekends and holidays which
account for 33% of the mine’s operating year. As a consequence of the flow management already in place
and the higher demand from the detailed analysis, the annual average flow could only be reduced by 22%
to 112 m3/s. In association with this the annual operating costs were only reduced by 25% or
Cdn$246k/year, despite a much higher relative decrease in primary fan costs of 48%.

Logistical and Other Environmental Considerations at this Underground Precious Metal

In the preceding analysis, one of the potential qualifiers to the introduction of fuelcells was considered,
namely drift velocities. In standard ventilation texts recommended air velocities range from 1 m/s in cool
environments through to 3 m/s in hot environments. This mine is cool throughout the year so low
velocities are acceptable. However, in the fuelcell analysis lower velocities have been considered, but
limited to >0.5 m/s, because below this velocity, air movement is barely perceptible and problematic to

Stope velocities are another concern at this mine for blast fume clearance, which under the current
ventilation regime can be up to 2 hrs for a long hole blast. To avoid prolonging this time to the detriment
of production, the mine would have to retain a high volume flush capacity within its secondary auxiliary
system. This limits the potential savings in this part of the mine’s ventilation operating costs.

Shaft velocities are potentially another issue. It is normally recommended that air velocities between 7
and12 m/s be avoided in exhaust shafts or raises. This is the critical velocity range in which water
droplets can become suspended and cause adverse affects on primary fan systems. At this mine the air
velocity in the exhaust shafts was already below the critical velocity range and a reduction in flow would
not be detrimental to fan performance.

The air velocity across a mine’s heating system is also a concern especially if the primary flow is supplied
by a single fan. At this mine, the surface fan installation comprised two fans in parallel, and the
ventilation simulation exercises with reduced flow indicated that a single fan could provide the flow.
Consequently the velocity across the burners of this fan would increase and no negative impact upon the
heating system would be expected.

The last issue at this mine was silica exposure. Currently with ventilation provided based upon diesel
exhaust this operation has a mine wide silica exposure of 0.06 mg/m3. Consequently, with ventilation
reduced by a maximum of 24% and if applied uniformly across the mine, the dust concentration could
increase to 0.08 mg/m3. This is still below the Ontario exposure limit for α-quartz of 0.10 mg/m3, but
there could be a higher incidence of individual values approaching or even exceeding this limit.


In addition to the ventilation benefit qualifiers already addressed in the base and precious metal mines,
there are other issues yet to be resolved.

In most environments, a fuelcell could be considered a zero emission power unit. In the mining
atmosphere the obvious elimination of diesel exhaust and its potentially carcinogenic constituents are
beneficial. However, fuelcells will generate heat and water in their exhaust. In terms of heat, the deep
metal mine analysis has shown that a fuelcell could require less air to remove heat than a comparable
diesel until heat from other sources becomes the over-riding issue. With respect to the addition of
moisture to the environment, this could be problematic in certain mines where the exhaust air cools as it
ascends access ramp systems as fogging may result. However, at this time it is not possible to state
whether the situation would improve or worsen under a reduced flow regime until the true moisture
contribution of fuelcells after in-exhaust condensation has been established.

Another issue is the amount of ventilation required to dilute a hydrogen leak from the fuelcell. This is
another potentially limiting factor that is being evaluated.

It should also be remembered that these two fuelcell benefit analyses were performed on mines that came
under Ontario’s Provincial jurisdiction where airflow requirements are based upon 0.063 m3/s/kW diesel
power. In other jurisdictions such as the province of Quebec, diesel airflow requirements acknowledge the
use of clean diesel fuel and “clean” diesel engine technology. In Quebec, a primary production diesel unit
could require up to 40% less air than in Ontario. Consequently, if all provinces accepted the use of
“clean” diesel engine technology and it was adopted throughout mine’s diesel fleets, their current airflow
requirements would be already reduced.


The preceding analyses of mines based in Ontario show potential for 26 - 48% reductions in the electrical
operating cost of the primary ventilation system for associated average flow reductions of 9% (with
workings located at 2,450 to 2,500 m depth) and 22% with workings located at relatively shallow depth
<800 m. Reduction in the electrical operating costs of the production auxiliary fans may only be of the
order of 12% to 15%, irrespective of the change in surface fan flow due to the need to maintain a high
volume flush for blast fumes. Heating cost reductions would be the same as the average intake flow
reductions i.e. 9 and 22%. After factoring in the relative magnitude of each cost, the combined savings in
electrical power and heating for the two analyzed mines become 19% for the deep mine and 25% for the
shallow mine. The comparative savings for each mine are given in Figures 5 and 6.

These combined savings are much less than those experienced in the operating costs of the surface fans,
because mines need to heat their intake airflow, and the auxiliary ventilation systems may not be trimmed

Mine Total Intake Airflow for Diesels vs. Fuelcells



Air Volume (m /s)





Large Base Metal Large Base Metal Precious Metal Mine Precious Metal Mine
Mine - Scenario 1 Mine - Scenario 2 - 24/7 Production - Variable Production

Diesels Fuelcells

Figure 5. Mine total intake airflow for diesels vs. fuelcells, Canadian mine cases.

Combined Ventilation System Operating Cost for Diesels vs. Fuelcells


Operating Cost ($/year)





Large Base Metal Large Base Metal Precious Metal m ine Precious Metal Mine
Mine - Scenario 1 Mine - Scenario 2 - 24/7 Production - Variable Production

Diesels Fuelcells

Figure 6. Combined operating costs for diesels vs. fuelcells, Canadian mine cases.

to the same degree as the primary ventilation system. Further to this, as shown in the second case-study
(the underground gold mining operation), some of the potential cost savings that could have materialized,
have already been achieved through this mine employing three levels of ventilation as a function of
production needs.


Five underground mines that use diesel powered equipment were studied to determine what ventilation
cost savings, if any, might result from using fuel cell powered vehicles in place of diesel powered
vehicles. Fuel cell vehicles don’t have the emissions problems and thus don’t need as much ventilation
dilution as diesel powered vehicles. However, there could be other factors such as heat or hazardous
gasses that might limit the potential ventilation reduction for mines that use fuel cell vehicles. Ventilation
modeling using VnetPC, and climatic modeling using Climsim, where used to determine the potential
ventilation reductions and cost savings.

In the following sections all dollar amounts are in US $.


This proposed underground gold mine in Nevada is still in the planning stage but one of the production
scenarios is to mine 3630 tonnes of ore per day. The ventilation requirements were based on 0.047 m³/sec
per brake horsepower for the primary diesel loading, haulage, and backfilling equipment, plus a “mining

allowance” of 0.042 m³/sec/tpd. An additional amount equal to 25% of the diesel and mining allowance
was also included. The total ventilation requirements were determined to be 519 m³/sec.

The mine plan calls for a production shaft and a service shaft to serve as intake airways, with a 6.09 m
diameter exhaust shaft in the mining area. There would be two 4.6 m x 4.6 m haulage drifts from the
production and service shafts to the mining areas. With a ventilation requirement of 519 m³/sec the air
velocities in these two drifts would be excessive so a third drift, also 4.6 m x 4.6 m in cross-section, is
planned as a dedicated fresh airway (Figure 7).

Production shaft
Exhaust shaft

Service shaft

Dedicated fresh
air drift.

Figure 7. Ventilation schematic of proposed underground gold mine, Nevada.

Ventilation System Operating Cost using Diesel-Powered Equipment

It is planned to equip the 6.09 m diameter exhaust shaft with two Joy Model M108-72-880 fans in parallel
at the shaft collar. These fans would have to be set at a 44° blade setting and draw 2148 kW air
horsepower to handle the ventilation requirements. At a 65% efficiency and an electricity cost of
US$0.07/kWh these fans would cost US$2,027,027 per year to operate.

This proposed mine has no heat or hazardous gas problems so the ventilation requirements using fuel cell
powered vehicles could be reduced. In the mining areas the production drifts will be 3.96 m x 3.96 m or
15.7 m² in cross-section and there will be approximately 20 production drifts needed to produce 3630 tpd.
An acceptable minimum velocity in this case would be 30 m per minute so each production drift would
need 7.98 m³/sec, or 159.5 m³/sec for all 20 production drifts.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell-Powered Equipment

A VnetPC simulation showed that the 6.09 m diameter exhaust shaft could be reduced to 4.27 m in
diameter and one of the Joy M108-72-880 exhaust fans could be eliminated. Also, the 4.6 m x 4.6 m drift
planned as a dedicated fresh airway from the production and service shafts to the mining areas could be
eliminated. The VnetPC simulation showed that this still results in a ventilation capacity of 239.2 m³/sec.
If 159.5 m³ goes to the production headings this leaves 79.7 m³/sec for other things such as underground
shops and magazines. The power cost for a single M108-72-880 exhaust fan handling 239.2 m³/sec
would be US$493,154 per year, resulting in a total power cost savings of US$1,533,873 per year.

Ventilation System Capital Cost Savings Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment

The capital cost savings in reducing the size of the exhaust shaft, eliminating one of the M108-72-880
fans, and eliminating the dedicated 4.7 m x 4.7 m fresh airway are substantial. The exhaust shaft is

planned to be sunk conventionally to a depth of 670.5 m. Reducing the shaft size from 6.09 m diameter
to 4.27 m diameter would save approximately US$1,968/m in shaft sinking costs, or a total of
US$1,320,000. The cost of driving a 4.7 m x 4.7 m drift at this mine would be US$3,280/m . The length
of the planned 4.7 m x 4.7 m fresh airway is 579 m and eliminating it would save US$1,900,000. In
addition, a M108-72-880 fan, motor, motor base, and evase costing US$225,000 so this could be saved
also. The total capital cost savings by reducing the exhaust shaft size, eliminating the dedicated fresh air
drift, and eliminating one of the two M108-72-880 fans is US$3,445,000.


The Deep Post mine is operated by the Newmont Mining Corporation. It is on the Carlin Trend in
Northern Nevada. Production is 1361 tonnes per day. The ventilation requirements are based on diesel
equipment needs of .047 m³/sec per horsepower but there is also a significant heat load from the rock and
groundwater. Each production heading requires 11.8 m³/sec for the diesel exhaust and the rock heat load,
and it is planned to eventually have 22 active headings. Thus, the ventilation requirements for the active
headings are 259.6 m³/sec. Added to this is the ventilation requirement for underground shops and
warehouses, the backfill mix chamber, and shotcrete plant of 49.6 m³/sec. Another 20% was added for
transient air losses, bringing the total planned mine ventilation to 371 m³/sec, although actual mine
ventilation is currently about 396.4 m³/sec.

An 5.5 m diameter concrete lined shaft 189 m deep intakes 343.1 m³/sec with two Alphair fans in parallel
at the bottom. A 4.57 m x 4.88 m vent drift takes the air from the intake shaft to various mining levels,
maintenance areas, and the backfill plant. The haulage decline also is a fresh air intake that brings about
53.3 m³/sec into the mine (Figure 8). All of the exhaust air from the mine travels to twin exhaust
declines, each contain an exhaust fan manufactured by Alphair.

5.5 m diameter Haulage decline

intake shaft. and air intake.

Twin exhaust declines.

Intake air
vent drift

Figure 8. Ventilation schematic of the Deep Post Mine.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment

Because heat is a concern in this mine a Climsim model was made of a typical stoping area. One of the
design criteria used at this mine is that the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) should not exceed
26.7°C. The current ventilation planning requirement of 11.8 m³/sec per heading satisfies both the diesel
requirement and the WBGT requirement. The Climsim model with simulated diesel equipment predicted
the temperatures accurately enough to be considered valid.

The heat loads for diesel equipment were taken out of the Climsim model and substituted with heat loads
for simulated fuel cell powered equipment. The Climsim modeling showed that reducing the air quantity
from 11.8 m³/sec down to 7.08 m³/sec would still maintain current air temperatures. This new air
quantity was used in the analysis of ventilation cost savings.

The cost of electricity at this mine is US$0.075/kwh and a VnetPC model of the current ventilation
system calculated an annual power cost of US$1,112,000 for the main intake and exhaust fans. Reducing
the ventilation requirement from 11.8 m³/sec to 7.08 m³/sec in each of the 22 production headings results
in a ventilation reduction of 103.8 m³/sec.

Reducing the mine ventilation capacity by 103.8 m³/sec would make it possible to remove the two
Alphair fans at the bottom of the intake shaft. The remaining Alphair fans in the twin exhaust declines
would also have less air to handle. The power cost in this scenario would be US$477,800 per year, a
savings of US$664,200 per year.


The Henderson mine is a large scale molybdenum mine about 31 km west of Denver, Colorado. It is
operated by Phelps Dodge Corporation. The current production rate is 20,870 tonnes per day using panel
caving although its capacity is 27,220 tonnes per day.

The ventilation system consists of two large shafts that are used for intake air, one ten mile long conveyor
tunnel that intakes a relatively minor amount of air, and two large exhausts (Figure 9). The mine’s total
intake is about 991 m³/sec. The Henderson mine is at a high altitude and heat underground is not usually
a problem. In fact, the intake air has to be heated for four to five months a year at a cost of approximately
US$30,000 per month.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment

The Henderson Mine uses a minimum air quantity of 0.035 m³/sec per horsepower to determine
ventilation requirements for development drifts, but tries to maintain at least .047 m³/sec per horsepower.
There is a radon gas presence at Henderson and the mine has to keep the caved area pressurized to limit
radon gas infiltration into the fresh air circuit.

The diesel equipment operates primarily on the 7755 undercut level, the 7700 production level, and the
7065 haulage level. Caved ore is taken from drawpoints by LHD’s and transported to ore passes. The ore
passes lead down to the 7065 haulage level where 72 tonne capacity Tamrock Supra trucks load and haul
the ore from chutes to an underground gyratory crusher. The crushed ore is conveyed over a distance of
approximately 9.3 km through an adit and on the surface to the mill.

Denver 31

Figure 9. Henderson Mine.

The 7755 undercut level uses approximately 118 m³/sec to ventilate nine active drifts. The average air
velocity in these drifts is 55.5 m/minute. Since blasting to initiate the cave occurs in these drifts and the
caved area has to be kept pressurized to limit radon gas infiltration, it is felt that the air velocity could be
reduced to no less than 30 m/minute if fuel cell powered vehicles replaced the diesel equipment. This
would still result in a ventilation reduction of 53.1 m³/sec for the 7755 level.

The 7700 production level has approximately eleven production drifts with drawpoints active at any one
time. The ventilation air flows through the production drifts and then into exhaust raises spaced about
every 122 m. The air quantities range from 11.7 m³/sec to 21.3 m³/sec at the entrances to the production
drifts, but decreases to a range of 5.4 m³/sec to 16.6 m³/sec at the ends of the drifts. Since these drifts
don’t have blasting fumes to remove, except for the occasional blasting of oversize in the drawpoints, it is
felt that a minimum air velocity of 0.30 m/s at the ends of the production drifts would be sufficient. By
adjusting the current airflows there so that they all have a velocity of 0.30 m/s at their ends, 97.3 m³/sec
could be eliminated from the ventilation circuit.

The 7065 haulage is where the Tamrock Supra trucks operate. The air velocity in the haulage drifts range
from 0.38 m/s to 1.73 m/s. Since an air velocity of 0.38 m/s is an acceptable minimum in these drifts
without resulting in an excessive heat build-up, it is felt that this air velocity could also be used for fuel
cell powered trucks. Four of the haulage drifts have air velocities ranging from 0.57 m/s to 1.24 m/s and
reducing the air velocities in these drifts to 0.38 m/s results in a ventilation savings of 38.3 m³/sec.

The total ventilation savings at the Henderson Mine, if it used fuel cell powered equipment to replace the
diesel haulage equipment, could be approximately 188.8 m³/sec.

This ventilation reduction could be achieved by eliminating several of the main exhaust fans. There are
four 224 kW exhaust fans that operate in two parallel exhaust drifts that connect to the No. 5 exhaust
shaft. There are also two 224 kW fans in drifts that transfer air from the No. 1 exhaust shaft to the No. 5

exhaust shaft. A VnetPC model of the mine shows that eliminating three of these exhaust fans would
reduce the ventilation capacity by 186.9 m³/sec and this was used to calculate cost savings. The
Henderson mine’s electricity cost is US$0.04/kwh and the potential power cost savings is US$401,350
per year. A ventilation reduction of 186.9 m³/sec is a 19% reduction in the current mine ventilation

The Henderson mine also heats its intake air for four to five months of the year at a cost of US$30,000 per
month. If the cost savings for intake air heating is proportional to the ventilation reduction then the mine
could also save about US$25,500 per year in heating costs.

The total mine savings would then be approximately US$426,850 per year.


The Avery Island Salt Mine is located near New Iberia, Louisiana. Salt mining has been active there for
100 years. The mine is operated by Cargill Deicing Technology, a division of Cargill Salt. Current
production comes from the 1300 foot level and the 1600 foot level, measured as depth below the shaft
collar. The room and pillar method is used to mine approximately 2,540,800 tonnes of rock salt per year.

On the 1600 level the rooms are first developed as a top heading 8.53 m high and 27.4 m wide. After a
top heading is developed a bench 16.76 m high is taken, leaving a room 25.3 m high and 27.4 m wide.
The pillars are the same dimension. After the rock salt is blasted it is loaded into Caterpillar 775 trucks
by Caterpillar 992 loaders. The trucks haul the salt to a feeder-breaker. A conveyor from the feeder-
breaker transports the salt to a 4.9 m diameter production shaft where it is hoisted to the surface.

Approximately 173.9 m³/sec intakes down the production shaft to the 1300 level. A 932.5 kW main
intake fan and two 149.2 kW secondary intake fans are on the 1300 level. The secondary fans are
operated only on the weekends when the main fan is shut down. There is approximately 59.5 m³/sec of
recirculation from the 1100 and 900 levels back into the intake shaft so that approximately 233.4 m³/sec is
handled by the main fan on the 1300 level. The air is taken from the 1300 level to the 1600 level by a 6.1
m diameter raise. The air exhausts air courses up through a series of slopes to the 500 level where two
other shafts, the Air Shaft and the Steam Shaft, exhaust the air to the surface (Figure 10).

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment

The air velocities in the large rooms are quite low, and they are generally below the measuring range of
the instruments unless near an auxiliary fan. The auxiliary ventilation is handled by movable jet fans of
74.6 to 93.3 kW that handle 18.9 m³/sec to 28.3 m³/sec each. The jet fans are usually positioned near the
edge of a pillar one crosscut back from the production face and blow enough air into the face to keep the
air quality under control. The mine has no methane or radon gas but does occasionally come across
pockets of CO2 and H2S. The virgin rock temperature measured in drill holes has ranged from 22.2°C to

Air temperatures on the 1600 level range from 32.2° dry bulb (DB), 26.9° wet bulb (WB) temperature at
the bottom of the intake raise to 35.6° DB, 27.8° WB temperature where the air exhausts up the conveyor
slope. A Climsim model of the 1600 level indicates that the large diesel powered trucks and loaders are
contributing as much as 4° to the dry bulb temperature. All of the trucks and loaders are equipped with
air conditioned cabs.

Exhaust Main Shaft

Figure 10. Avery Island salt mine.

The time allowance for clearing out fumes after a blast is 30 minutes. Because of the already low air
velocities, the time required to clear after a blast, and the possibility of hitting pockets of CO2 and H2S, it
is felt that the air quantities cannot be reduced even if fuel cell powered equipment were to replace the
diesel units. However, the air temperatures could be reduced by a few degrees. The mine has done some
testing and monitoring of the diesel exhaust and they plan to use diesel maintenance and ventilation to
control Diesel Particulate Matter. Fuel cell powered equipment would certainly make it unnecessary to
increase the ventilation.


The Meikle Mine and the Rodeo Mine are operated by Barrick Gold Corporation. They are on the Carlin
Trend in Northern Nevada. Mining methods used are longhole stoping and drift and fill. The two mines
are interconnected and between them have two intake shafts and two exhaust shafts (Figure 11). Total air
flow for both mines is approximately 831 m³/sec.

Meikle Production, Rodeo Intake Goldbug Exhaust
Intake shaft Shaft Shaft.

Meikle Exhaust

Figure 11. Meikle-Rodeo Mines.

Ventilation System Operating Cost Using Fuelcell Powered Equipment

At an electricity cost of US$0.07/kwh the cost to run the main fans and underground booster fans at the
Meikle-Rodeo mines is US$2,835,800 per year. The virgin rock temperatures are as high as 60° - 65°C
so the intake air is also cooled. The cost to run the cooling plant is approximately US$2,130,000 per year.

The production headings in the Meikle-Rodeo mines are mucked with 213 kW LHD’s. The ventilation is
provided by 1.07 m diameter auxiliary fans of 74.6 to 93.3 kW that deliver at least 23.6 m³/sec. A
Climsim model of a typical heading was created to simulate the heat loads from the rock and the diesel
equipment. The heat load from the diesel equipment was then replaced by a simulated heat load from a
fuel cell powered LHD. The air quantity in the Climsim model was then reduced until the predicted
temperatures were equal to the temperatures in the diesel equipment example. The results showed that
the ventilation in the production headings could be reduced by about 15%, or 3.54 m³/sec, and still
maintain the same temperatures as with diesel equipment.

The Meikle-Rodeo mines have quite a large number of production headings and they are not all worked at
the same rate each month. On the average, however, there are approximately 25 production headings
with ventilation quantities of at least 23.6 m³/sec each. If 3.54 m³/sec can be saved from each of those
headings then the total mine wide savings is 88.5 m³/sec, or 10.6% of the total mine ventilation.

If the ventilation fan system at the Meikle-Rodeo mines was redesigned to yield a 10.6% reduction in
ventilation quantity, the power savings would be 28.7%, or approximately US$813,000 per year. In
addition, assuming the cooling plant cost saving is a 1:1 relation to the ventilation reduction, the cooling
plant cost could be reduced from US$2,130,000 per year to US$1,904,220 per year, a savings of
US$225,780 per year. The total ventilation and cooling plant cost savings for the Meikle-Rodeo mines
would be approximately US$1,038,780 per year.


The following table summarizes the potential ventilation cost savings for these five mines. One of them,
the Avery Island Salt Mine, doesn’t appear able to reduce its current ventilation quantity if fuel cell
vehicles replaced the diesel vehicles, but it wouldn’t have to increase its ventilation quantity to meet new
DPM regulations if fuel cell vehicles were available.

Table 1. Potential ventilation cost savings of selected mines operated with fuel cell powered vehicles
versus diesel vehicles (US dollars).
Mine Electricity Heating Cooling Total Annual Capital Cost
Type, Savings Savings Savings Operating Savings
Production $ $ $ Cost Savings $
tpd $
Underground gold 1,533,873 NA NA 1,533,873 3,445,000
Mine, 3,630
Deep Post gold 664,200 NA NA 664,200 NA
Henderson molybdenum 401,350 25,500 NA 426,850 NA
Meikle- gold 813,000 NA 225,780 1,038,780 NA
Avery Island salt No ventilation
reduction, but
vehicles make
it unnecessary
to increase
ventilation for
new DPM


A case study of a gold mine located in Quebec, using actual operating data, provides an indication of the
total operating benefit for the application of fuelcell power in underground production loaders.

This analysis is based on the impact which fuelcell loaders could have on an average metal mine
producing 4,300 tpd during a work schedule involving 2 shifts of 10 hours each per day. The shallow
mine (960 meters deep) operates 624 shifts per year and its ventilation system runs an average of 144
hours per week at an airflow rate of 382 m3/s. This analysis covers the energy consumption required by
all vehicles, a rough estimate of the infrastructures prior to capital evaluation, and an overview of the
operating costs and benefits between diesel and fuelcell loaders.

Hydrogen Production System

This section takes into account the energy required to produce hydrogen with the Stuart electrolyser
model CF-450 HP which is being used for the fuelcell locomotive and underground loader projects. This
electrolyser unit, located on surface, produces 12,000 litres/hr and consumes 72.125 kWh/hr. The
advantages of this model consist of producing, compressing and storing hydrogen into cylinders at a
maximum pressure of 5,000 psi. The following table provides useful and specific data.

Table 2. Stuart Energy System electrolyser model CF-450 HP hydrogen production specifications.
Energy consumption 72.125 kWh
Production rate 12.000 Nm³/hour
Production rate (weight) 1.001 kg/hour
Energy/Volume 6.010 kWh/Nm³
Energy/Mass 72.050 kWh/kg
External dimensions 3.9 x 1.5 x 2.6 m

The cost to produce hydrogen is mainly affected by electricity rates. Figure 12 shows the relationship
between the electricity rates and the production costs. It is important to mention that water supply and
filters have a minor impact on the overall costs per cubic meter of produced hydrogen. The curve was
established from the data collected during the tests performed in Reno, Nevada [Desrivières et al, 2003].

Hydrogen cost based on electricity rates

as specified in SES data sheets (12 m /hr, $0.00022/L H 20 and 200 ppm)

Cost in $/m of H2































Electricity rates
Hydrogen from electrolyser

Figure 12. Cost to produce hydrogen based on electricity rates (Canadian dollars).

The transfer of hydrogen from the electrolyser storage unit to the hydride bed requires a heat exchange
system. The hydride bed has to be cooled down to facilitate the absorption of hydrogen by the hydride
material. The dimensioning of this system has not been totally optimized from a standard of operation
point of view. However, in accordance with the experimentation measurements with the Stuart
electrolysis unit and the 4.5-ton fuelcell-powered locomotive’s 3 kg (36 m3) hydrogen capacity hydride
vessels, 106,876 BTU were dissipated in order to transfer 96,196 litres of hydrogen during 4.12 hours.

To reduce the filling time to an operating standard, i.e. 30 minutes, the dissipation rate will be 26,400

Diesel Production System

The energy consumption of a diesel system is designed specifically for each mine. In general, a typical
system includes a surface storage unit from which a certain quantity is pumped or fed by gravity through
a piping system to a storage tank underground. From that location, it is possible to directly pump the
diesel fuel into the tank of the vehicle. At the same location, the mine usually installs a greasing system
to allow the vehicle operator to perform both operations in one location. Each mine determines the
number of filling stations in relation with the energy demand required by its fleet of vehicles and its
production level. The system can be hooked up to computers to control the quantity of diesel used per
vehicle or per filling station. The operational costs of refuelling a vehicle, not including manpower, are
consists primarily the cost of the fuel.

Fuel Consumption

A comparison is made in Table 3 between diesel and hydrogen fuels for this shallow metal mine. For a
production rate of 4,300 metric tonnes per day, this mine would need 41 active vehicles out of the 68

Table 3. Representative shallow Canadian metal mine vehicle and fuel consumption.
Active vehicles Diesel (litres/year) H2 (kg/year)
Scoops of 8 cubic yards 6 630,394 114,667
30-tonne trucks 1 59,885 13,312
Scissors 9 84,743 18,269
Jumbo 2 3,973 846
Bolters 2 5,121 1,094
Service 21 115,481 19,667
TOTAL 41 899,597 167,855

Detailed Hydrogen Consumption

The LHD (underground mine loader) fleet would use about 70% of the vehicle energy requirement of that
mine. This ratio will vary depending on the type of mining method and equipment selected. The
hydrogen consumption was calculated from the power produced and the hydrogen consumption during
the fuelcell locomotive performance tests.

The average power requirement for every 10-hour shift was monitored at 130 kW for a 242 kW LHD unit
at that particular mine. This power, converted into hydrogen consumption in accordance with the formula
provided by Nuvera, the fuelcell suppliers in the fuelcell locomotive and loader projects, (596 N litres of
hydrogen per hour to produce 1 kW), resulted in a requirement of 5.4 kg of hydrogen per hour. This
requirement takes into account the change in the power train configurations, i.e. generate the necessary
power for the two electric motors (1 for traction, 1 for hydraulics). However, this hydrogen consumption
does not take into account any purging (<3%) during the fuelcell process, as observed during the
locomotive performance tests. A total of 21,235 diesel hours for the entire LDH fleet (8 LHD) was used
to determine the amount of required hydrogen per year. This analysis, which is based on collected data at
a real mine site, confirms that 8 loaders are necessary to ensure that 6 operational loaders are available for

production. Therefore, the maintenance costs are based on the use of 8 diesel loaders, whereas the
fuelcell refueling is based on 6 operating loaders.


This section covers the operating costs for 8 LHD units with a capacity of 8 cubic yards and presents the
difference between operating with diesel engines and a fuelcell system. The factors which were
considered are: LHD maintenance (parts and labour), as well as fuel and ventilation, assuming that the
entire mine is converted to fuelcell and support manpower.

The operating costs of an LHD unit include maintenance (parts and labour), as well as the fuel required
for a 1-year operation for a typical mine producing 4,300 tpd.

From the data collected at the reference mine, the sum of the maintenance costs of the motor, torque
converter and transmission represents about 39% of the power train maintenance costs (Table 4), or 8% of
the total maintenance costs for a fleet of 8 LHD units. The power train consists of a motor, torque
converter, transmission, 2 axles, 2 differentials and 4 wheels. Tires are not included in the power train

Table 4. Maintenance costs for 8 LHD units (Canadian dollars).

Labour Parts Total
Motor, torque and transmission (only) $ 64,900 $ 80,500 $ 145,400
Power train (motor, torque and transmission
$107,100 $ 266,500 $ 373,600
Other maintenance (tires included) $401,900 $ 979,500 $1,381,400
TOTAL $509,000 $1,246,000 $1,755,000

The future fuelcell-operated LHD unit will have its diesel engine, torque converter and transmission
replaced by fuelcell stacks producing electricity as well as an electric drive controller and AC motor. A
hydride bed will replace the diesel tank. The fuelcell system has less mobile parts than the diesel engine;
therefore, the maintenance on mechanical parts should decrease. However, the electrical maintenance
costs will represent less than one third of the previous mechanical maintenance costs incurred (motor,
torque converter and transmission). In this case, this amount represents savings of Cdn$97,000 per year
out of the total Cdn$145,400. On the other hand, no changes in total manpower are anticipated for
mechanical and electrical maintenance.

It is assumed that a technician will handle the hydrogen refuelling of vehicles and to ensure that all safety
precautions are taken. In the long run, the loader operator will perform that task, as is presently the case
with diesel fuel. The technician’s tasks will be to take care of changing the water filters in the
electrolyser (about 10 filters a week are required), make sure that the cooling system is in good working
order, inspect vehicles for leaks before they leave the fuelling area and help in troubleshooting, more
particularly, on the new components in vehicles. In this analysis, it is estimated that a person with such
qualifications will be required for both fuelling areas during each work shift. In order to maintain the
workload to 40 hours per week, three technicians will have to be added to the payroll to guarantee that the
reference mine will be in a position to operate during 624 shifts a year. Therefore, 3 men have been
added in Table 5 to the operating costs.

From the data collected at the same mine, it was determined that a total of 630,394 litres of diesel fuel
was used in 2002 for 21,235 diesel hours. At an average cost of Cdn$0.50 per litre, Cdn$315,200 was
spent to operate 8 scoops. The hydrogen consumption for the same operational hours is evaluated at
114,667 kg. It should be noted that the cost to produce hydrogen is greatly affected by electricity rates.
In Canada, these rates vary from Cdn$0.04 to $0.065 per kWh. The actual electricity rate at this
particular mine is $0.04 per kWh; consequently, the cost to produce hydrogen was evaluated at Cdn$3.85
per kg with the CF-450 electrolyser from Stuart Energy System. Therefore, the cost to produce hydrogen
for a year was estimated at Cdn$441,468.

The required cooling energy to refuel the hydride beds was estimated to represent half of the dissipated
energy. Consequently, the total dissipated power was evaluated at 430,000 kWh, based on the
relationship of 27 kJ per mole of heat generated by the hydride bed while filling up. Therefore, the
electric power required was evaluated at 215,000 kWh or Cdn$10,300 per year.

The mine ventilation system is greatly affected by the type of engine in the vehicles. Regulations are in
place to ensure proper airflows, minimum air speed and air quality, as well as maximum particle contents
(dust, DPM, CO, CO2, etc.). However, the new fuelcell system will not reduce dust present underground,
and minimum air velocity must be applied for providing dust dilution and oxygen. Consequently, blast
fumes and dust will remain a major concern for mine ventilation. In accordance with the analysis carried
out in sections 4-6, additional savings of the order of about 38% could be realized in ventilation with the
fuelcell system in shallower mines, 26% for a deeper mine.

These case studies were for Ontario mines. Lower savings will be realized in the province of Quebec
where lower ventilation requirements are allowed with the adoption of lower sulfur fuels and the DEEP
emissions-based maintenance program [Diesel Emissions Evaluation Program, 2003]. The following
ventilation reduction analysis will use the Quebec scenario, a worse case situation.

The reduction in airflow would have a direct impact on the heating costs. Assuming that the actual
airflow is 382 m3/s, a reduction of approximately 20% could be realized, representing 305 m3/s; therefore,
the heating cost could be brought down to Cdn$640,000 per year. The primary fan efficiency must also
be taken into consideration. In general, the actual fans would have to be set at different speeds and blade
angles to maintain a good efficiency level and obtain the best power reduction. However, at this point,
this optimization has not yet been completed. Therefore, a conservative reduction in power has been
estimated at 50%. For the same reason, the auxiliary ventilation can only be reduced by 15%.
Consequently, the overall electric power reduction can be evaluated at 31%.

Table 5 summarizes the impact of changing a fleet of diesel LHD units to a fuelcell system. A yearly
gain of Cdn$167,027 related to the use of fuelcells can accordingly be observed. At this point, it is
important to mention that the operating costs are roughly estimated and are based only on one mine. The
gain observed, which is 4% lower than diesel loaders, shows that the study needs to be completed to
ensure a more accurate conclusion.

Table 5. Operating costs, loader fleet (Canadian dollars).
Diesel Fuelcell Difference between
diesel and fuelcell
Maintenance (LHD) $ 1,755,000 $ 1,658,000 $ 97,000
Fuel $ 315,200 $ 441,468 $ (126,268)
Cooling of hydride beds $ 10,300 $ (10,300)
3 extra workers $ 235,000 $ (235,000)
Sub-total $ 2,070,200 $ 2,344,768 $ (274,568)

Heating $ 800,000 $ 640,000 $ 160,000
Primary & secondary $ 898,700 $ 617,105 $ 281,595
Sub-total $ 1,698,700 $ 1,257,105 $ 441,595

TOTAL $ 3,768,900 $ 3,601,873 $ 167,027


The capital costs for each energy fuel type have to be compared on a same basis. The diesel system
consists of tanks connected by piping and vehicles refuelled underground (Table 6). (the excavation costs
of the underground refuelling station are not included).

Table 6. Diesel fuel infrastructure delivery costs (Canadian dollars).

Fuel tanks: $312,000
Surface 1-10,000 gal, 1-1,000 gal
U/G 2-2,000 gal, 2-1,000 gal
Fuel delivery system (surface to underground) $ 25,000
2 fuel pump systems $ 50,000
2 fire extinguishing systems $ 40,000
2 ventilation systems $ 5,000
Total $452,000

A few possible options are available for the fuelcell system with its own related costs. In this analysis,
only three options will be discussed. The contemplated options are:

a. Filling hydride beds on surface and transporting via the shaft hoist;
b. Filling hydride beds underground from a piping system to mine vehicles;
c. Filling hydride beds underground from an electrolyser to mine vehicles.

Filling Hydride Beds on Surface and Transport Via Shaft Hoist

The refueling option at the surface offers basic safety controls, a suitable environment for the electrolyser
and the possibility to have operators and maintenance access 24 hours a day. However, this option
requires a large amount of hydride beds. The process involved requires a few special areas underground
dedicated for the exchange of full vessels with empty ones (swapping). Bearing in mind the locomotive
project, that operation would require about 30 minutes per vehicle.

The number of hydride bed vessels to be refuelled during each shift will depend on the size of the vessels
and how much hydrogen was used during the previous shift. In general, it is assumed that each loader
would need one vessel to be filled at the surface, one in transit (full or empty) between the underground

and surface storage areas, and one in the vehicle. Therefore, each active loader would need 3 hydride bed
vessels (6 active loaders x 3 vessels = 18 vessels), plus one vessel each for the 2 non-active loaders (2
vessels) for a total inventory of 20 vessels for the 8 loaders. This inventory calculation can be used for
any type of vehicle needing to be refuelled during every work shift. Hydride storage manufacturers
anticipate that in the long-term, considering high volume hydride bed production, the price of complete
hydride beds will be of the order of Cdn$500 to Cdn$700 per kilogram of weight.

In Table 7, a comparison of equipment and manpower is made in relation to the selected option. The
manpower is estimated on the basis of a 10-hour shift schedule, where every man works 208 shifts a year.
Therefore, for every operator required, it would be necessary to have 3 men on the payroll to allow the
mine to operate during the 624 shifts in the year, assuming that no overtime is involved.

The 42-kg reservoir capacity of hydrogen is derived from an average power consumption of 130 kWh
over the maximum power rating of 240 kW for an 8-cubic yard loader converted to hydrogen in relation
to the efficiency rate calculated following the locomotive tests. This size of reservoir will provide enough
fuel for an 8 or 10-hour shift with an actual loader running time of 5.7-6.5 hrs. Hydride metal has a
hydrogen storage capacity of 1.5% of its weight; therefore, a 42-kg vessel contains 2,800 kg of hydride
material. The total weight of the vessel will be about twice the weight of the hydride material (5,600 kg),
taking into account the cooling liquid and the rugged construction required for handling purposes. It is
important to consider the weight of the hydride beds to ensure the availability of adequate equipment to
handle each one underground and at the surface.

Special safety features, such as adequate ventilation, hydrogen and flame detecting devices, as well as a
fire extinguishing system, will have to be in place at each underground station set up to handle hydrogen.
As for transporting the vessels back to the surface, the vessel transferring station will require a heavy-duty
system, such as an overhead crane, to safely handle units weighing 5.6 metric tonnes each and a large
enough space to store full and empty units in the same area.

Filling Hydride Beds Underground from a piping system to Mine Vehicles

The second option consists of filling hydride beds underground from a piping system to mine vehicles. In
this case, no heavy handling would be necessary and less space would be needed for the required
underground station; however, a cooling system would be mandatory. The capacity of the underground
station can be determined from a standard number of 1.1 BTU per litre of transferred hydrogen.
Assuming that the fuelling time is under 30 minutes, the cooling system at each fuelling station requires a
heat transfer capacity of 1,108,800 BTU per hour for a 42-kg bed.

Filling Hydride beds Underground from an Electrolyser to Mine Vehicles

The third option consists of filling hydride beds underground from an electrolyser to mine vehicles. In
this instance, the size of the electrolyser is estimated from the capacity to produce the hydrogen consumed
per year, i.e. 114,667 kg. As previously mentioned, the mine in question will be operating during 624
shifts a year of 10 hours each. Assuming that a hydrogen production unit can be operated without man
supervision, with an availability of 80%, 7,000 operating hours will be required per unit per year, which
represents 10.3 kg/hour. The base mine presently operates with 2 diesel stations underground. Therefore,
the ideal rate would be 12.0 kg/hour. For the purposes of this analysis, the production capacity of each
unit has been estimated at 12 kg/hour. Teledyne had an electrolyser with a production capacity of up to
12.5 kg/hour and its overall dimensions are 5.5 meters by 5.7 meters by approximately 5.0 meters high.
Smaller units are being considered for an underground refueling project would produce 0.25 kg/hr of
hydrogen. When not directly in use for vehicles, hydrogen production to a storage hydride bed would be
carried out. These dimensions will be used to determine the approximate size of the required building and
underground excavation.

Diesel LHD’s range significantly in cost, depending on the capacity and size of the vehicle, ranging from
about Cdn$450,000 to Cdn$850,000. The mine loaders studied for this case were is the high end of that
cost range. For their power, 242 kW, a larger cost would be currently required for fuelcell loaders, of the
order of Cdn$3,250,00. This cost would radically diminish when hydride beds, fuelcell stacks and power
plants begin to be manufactured in full production mode.

Table 7 provides a comparison between the required equipment and the annual manpower for the 3 filling
options, which are described as follows:
- A represents the exchange of hydride bed filled on the surface;
- B represents the piping system from the surface to 2 underground refueling stations; and
- C represents 2 underground refueling stations equipped with an electrolyser and a cooling

Table 7. Required equipment and manpower per refuelling option.


8 scooptrams (8 cubic yards) (6 operating units) x x x 18 18 18

8 hydride beds with a capacity of 42 kg (in vehicles) x x x
12 hydride beds with a capacity of 42 kg (in inventory) x
1 extra U/G loader x 3
2 U/G stations (for the transfer of hydride vessels) x
U/G filling station with 1 electrolyser, 1 chilling unit x 3 3
U/G filling station with 1 electrolyser, 1 chilling unit x 3 3
2 U/G hydrogen filling stations x 3
1 piping system from the surface to the 2 underground stations x

1 building (24 m by 12 m) x 3
2 electrolysers, 2 chilling units, 1 overhead crane (6 t)
1 building (20 m by10 m), 1 electrolyser, 1 chilling unit x 3
1 extra surface loader x 3

TOTAL: 33 24 24

In accordance with this table, option C requires less manpower and no surface installation. However, the
binding regulations related to the use of hydrogen underground have not yet been established. A more
detailed capital cost for each option has not been calculated at this time, but will be presented at the 2003
CIM Annual General Meeting.


The elaboration of operational costs for fuelcell mine vehicles has indicated that significant ventilation
savings can be achieved and that ventilation equipment and infrastructure can also be reviewed and scaled
down. Without including the cost of the latter, electrical and mine air heating cost reduction is sufficient

to significantly reduce operating costs. Consequently, they may also facilitate reductions in a mine’s
attributable GHG emissions, however this is dependant upon any energy savings from hydrogen
generation. With respect to relative economics, the area where fuelcells are most beneficial is in reducing
the operating cost of the primary ventilation system that provides the bulk flow through the mine. This is
due to a cubic relationship between flow and power. The next best area is in mine heating, which is
linearly related to airflow. The area least affected is in auxiliary fan power consumption. The reasons for
this are two fold: one, it would be very expensive for a mine to totally replace its auxiliary fan inventory
with smaller units, whereas primary fans are normally flexible in their delivery; and two, for blast fume
clearance a high capacity flow may need to be retained.

As to how these relative savings combine at any mine is dependant upon the proportion of the mine’s cost
spent for primary fan electricity, auxiliary fan electricity and heating fossil fuels. In the case of a shallow
mine, despite significant decreases in electrical power consumption by the primary fan system, propane
heating costs were the overriding element. In the deep mine, the primary system electrical costs were the
most significant but the overall benefit was reduced through near stable auxiliary costs.

Analysis of another case also showed a reduction in potential benefit if the mine already varied its flow
according to production needs. At this mine, as a result of the mine being inactive 33% of the time, the
relative savings across the remainder (although significant) were reduced in the overall analysis.

So far, this analysis has shown that fuelcells could be extremely beneficial in mines where production is
continuous and heat is not an issue. However, heat and existing ventilation management are qualifiers to
the potential benefit. Similarly the need to maintain minimum air velocities limits their impact. In
addition there may be other mine specific qualifiers, such as inherent dust conditions, shaft and heating
system velocity limits. Consequently, it is due to the relevance of such qualifiers in Canada that mines
have to be evaluated on an individual basis and the analyses presented in this paper may not truly reflect
the whole industry. Such a caveat is also evident when considering the US case studies which provide a
range of benefits, from substantial to none.

However, even in those mines where the ventilation economic advantage is relatively small, it must be
remembered that fuelcells will be beneficial to the health of the underground workforce through the
removal/reduction of diesel contaminants, especially diesel particulate matter (DPM), highly suspected as
a carcinogen. As DPM regulations are expected to become very strict in the near term, the current
operating procedures will have to be modified to incorporate higher ventilation and larger capital and
operating cost in control measures for diesels. Fuelcell power would be the clean solution of choice, also
beneficial in reducing equipment noise and heat production levels. However, some improvement in DPM
emissions would be possible if clean engine technology was adopted, e.g. Ontario, as is the case for
Quebec mines.

They will also decrease a mine’s attributable GHG emissions through reduced combustion of diesel fuel
and fuel to heat the mine air. Further work in this area will review the estimation of 1Mt of CO2
reduction (26% of the primary Canadian mining extraction sector emissions) given no diesel vehicle
operating underground.

Under the requirement to define the economic advantages of using hydrogen fuelcell vehicles, a broad-
scoped project was initiated to quantify the costs associated with operating fuelcell vehicles and diesel
vehicles. While ventilation savings are clearly an advantage for the former, capital costs are higher for
fuelcell vehicles at this time, considerable examination will be required on a case by case basis to see if
the operating savings will be sufficient to offset equipment capitalization costs. It is also important to
consider that cost reduction is anticipated for fuelcell manufacturing and power plant production.

Other capital costs include the purchase of a sufficient number of hydride beds for refuelling through the
bed swapping approach and the cost of surface electrolysis plants (for bed swapping) or underground
plants (direct refuelling). It may be that economically, the hydride bed vessels should therefore be
refueled underground directly on the vehicles.

This paper is only based on a rough estimate of a one-case scenario. Other mines will be evaluated in
further details in order to provide a more accurate overall perspective with respect to the introduction of
the fuelcell technology in the mining industry. A complete and detailed operational and capital costs
analysis will shortly be completed. This will provide the mining industry with factual economic
information in considering the changeover from one technology to another.


The authors are grateful to the numerous Canadian and American mine operations who have participated
in the surveys carried out to generate the data and the models used for this project.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Natural Resources Canada were general project funders. Vehicle
Projects LLC was prime contractor and manager of the project.


Bétournay, M.C., Bonnell, G., Edwardson, E. and Lidkea, W., 2003. Suitability of PEM Fuelcells for
Underground Mining Vehicles. Proceedings 105th Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and
Petroleum, Montreal, 24p.

Desrivières, G., Laliberté, P. and Bétournay, M.C., 2003. Demonstration of an electrolysis system for
fuelcell mining vehicles. Division Report MMSL 03-009(CR), CANMET, Natural Resources Canada,

Diesel Emissions Evaluation Program, 2003,