Smart coal mining offers huge boost to local energy industry

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2023-03-17


A new solar farm built in the county of Wuxiang, which is designed to generate 13.68 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. [Photo by Sun Rongxiang for China Daily]

When talking about the changes brought by smart coal mining, Zhang Xing, an executive of the Tashan Coal Mine, said he feels a revolution is occurring.

He made the remarks at the operational center of the coal mine, which is a subsidiary of Shanxi's energy giant Jinneng Holding Group.

Zhang faced a huge display screen, showing all the operational conditions, including miners' locations, safety conditions and the machines' operations, with real-time images, vector graphics and data analyses.

"We have realized intelligent coal cutting in seven shafts, ensuring a coal recovery rate of up to 90 percent," he said. "This is also increasing safety and improving the in-shaft environment along with a rising efficiency."

Shanxi is vigorously promoting coal mining upgrades by using 5G-connected and digital technologies.

Local statistics show that Shanxi turned 20 coal mines and 665 mining shafts into smart facilities in 2022. The province is now home to 37 smart coal mines and 993 smart coal mining shafts in total. The facilities feature greater efficiency, better safety and lower pollutant emissions.

In addition, the application of simultaneous extraction of coal and coal-bed methane has further contributed to safer and more efficient energy production.

Coal-bed methane is a form of natural gas and a type of clean fuel. However, the gas presents a danger inside coal mines. It can explode if the concentration of the gas reaches a certain level.

Safe extraction of the gas can help to prevent coal mine accidents by reducing its concentration. The extracted coal-bed methane can then be used as a clean energy resource.

The simultaneous extraction of coal and coal-bed methane technology developed by Shanxi's companies is currently one of most advanced in the industry worldwide.

The technology has made Shanxi one of the country's leaders in coal-bed methane development. Statistics show that, in 2022, local coal mines extracted 6.3 billion cubic meters of coal-bed methane from mining shafts, transporting the gas to consumers as a clean fuel.

The smart coal mines and safe extraction of coal-bed methane are part of Shanxi's current energy revolution campaign, which aims to upgrade the coal mining industry toward safer, cleaner and more efficient operations, while also strengthening the development of clean energy resources. Furthermore, the energy revolution campaign aims to facilitate Shanxi's low-carbon development and help China fulfill its carbon neutrality goals.

The capacity of power generated from clean energy resources including wind and solar energy reached 49 million kilowatts, taking up 41.2 percent of Shanxi's total.

Shanxi is also promoting low-carbon energy development on the demand side, which is demonstrated in the increase of new energy resources in consumption and the decrease in total energy consumption in industrial production.

Statistics show that the energy used for producing the same amount of GDP in the province has decreased 33.2 percent over the past decade. The per-unit GDP energy consumption for 2022 is estimated to drop 3 percent year-on-year, making Shanxi a national leader in this regard.

Shanxi has also stepped up the production and use of hydrogen. The western Shanxi city of Xiaoyi is now a national hub for the hydrogen industry.

Zhang Yi contributed to this story.