Approaches to Simulation of an Underground Longwall Mine and Implications for Ventilation System Analysis
Carefully engineered mine ventilation is critical to the safe operation of underground longwall mines. Currently, there are several options for simulation of mine ventilation. This research was conducted to rapidly simulate an underground longwall mine, especially for the use of tracer gas in an emergency situation. In an emergency situation, limited information about the state of mine ventilation system is known, and it is difficult to make informed decisions about safety of the mine for rescue personnel. With careful planning, tracer gases can be used to remotely ascertain changes in the ventilation system. In the meantime, simulation of the tracer gas can be conducted to understand the airflow behavior for improvements during normal operation.
Better informed decisions can be made with the help of both tracer gas technique and different modeling approaches. This research was made up of two main parts. One was a field study conducted in an underground longwall mine in the western U.S. The other one was a simulation of the underground longwall mine with different approaches, such as network modeling and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models. Networking modeling is the most prevalent modeling technique in the mining industry. However, a gob area, which is a void zone filled with broken rocks after the longwall mining, cannot be simulated in an accurate way with networking modeling. CFD is a powerful tool for modeling different kinds of flows under various situations. However, it requires a significant time investment for the expert user as well as considerable computing power. To take advantage of both network modeling and CFD, the hybrid approach, which is a combination of network modeling and CFD was established. Since tracer gas was released and collected in the field study, the tracer gas concentration profile was separately simulated in network modeling, CFD model, and hybrid model in this study. The simulated results of airflow and tracer gas flow were analyzed and compared with the experimental results from the field study.
Two commercial network modeling software packages were analyzed in this study. One of the network modeling software also has the capability to couple with CFD. A two-dimensional (2D) CFD model without gob was built to first analyze the accuracy of CFD. More 2D CFD models with gob were generated to determine how much detail was necessary for the gob model. Several three-dimensional (3D) CFD models with gob were then created. A mesh independence study and a sensitivity study for the porosity and permeability values were created to determine the optimal mesh size, porosity and permeability values for the 3D CFD model, and steady-state simulation and transient simulations were conducted in the 3D CFD models. In the steady-state simulation, a comparison was made between the 3D CFD models with and without taking the diffusivity of SF6 in air into account.
Finally, the different simulation techniques were compared to measured field data, and assessed to determine if the hybrid approach was considerably simpler, while also providing results superior to a simple network model.