December 2011 | Mining University
Energy Consumption
Via: Travel Insurance
As we experience the shortest day of the year I want to give a big shout out to the natural resources miners and drillers who work hard to keep the lights on.  These industries are indespensible to our current way of life on this dark day (electric lights), our work schedule (power for computers and other technology) and even our social life (facebook, twitter and social dating sites, none of which would exist if we were dependent on solar/wind power).  Traditional power suppliers are the only source with the supply to meet the demand of society.  Global consumption totals: Natural Gas (23%), Coal (25%) and Oil (37%).  The fossil fuels industry provides us with clean, reliable power at a competitive price.

I would also like to ask 'why the low production?' to the so called 'renewable resources.'  These energy production methods are still struggling to provide useful amounts of electricity: natural energy (solar, wind, wave, and tidal power and geothermal energy account for a total of 1% of global consumption), hydroelectricity (3%), biomass (4%).  I think that these struggling power producers should stop asking for government handouts and focus on being competitive in the marketplace.  I would love to power everything by solar or wind power but they are clearly not prepared for the demand.

Sustainable Development

One of the popular catch phrases of our politically correct society is 'Sustainable Development.'  People in the natural resources field have long considered this phrase a misnomer.  Almost all of the elements we depend on for our materialistic society could not be considered 'sustainable' in a strict sense of the word.  The term 'Sustainable Development' is a hippie invention used to raise funds for unproven technologies.  The target for potential donors is people with too much money and too little sense and people who feel guilty about being rich, like actors. 
I will begin disproving the idea of 'Sustainable Development' with the energy industry.  The first step is in determining that most energy sources derive from solar power.  Solar panels directly convert the sun's rays into electricity.  Other methods convert byproducts of solar energy.  Wind energy is really just solar energy that has heated near the earth, risen in the atmosphere and caused the motion of the earth's atmosphere.  Coal and other fossil fuels are plant material that has been concentrated into a usable form.  The original plants converted the sun's energy into fuel via photosynthesis. 
The second step in proving that no energy source is 'Sustainable' is to state that the sun is really just a big nuclear reaction.  We all want to think that the sun is going to be around forever but that is only true in a relative sense.  Other methods of producing eneryg with nuclear elements fall into the same category as solar energy.  I don't think that anyone fond of the term 'Sustainable Development' would argue that mining uranium is a non renewable resource.
Finally, we must look at wave energy.  I have heard of a town in Europe where they use the crashing waves to turn a turban which powers the whole town.  Wave power, like wind power, is a result of the heat provided by the sun along with the gravitational pull of the moon.  In addition, if there were no energy from the sun the ocean would be a frozen lump of ice.  Good luck getting waves out of an ice cubes.
Next time someone starts preaching about 'Sustainable Development' remind them that it is all non-renewable, and should be used responsibly.  Thus, the term 'Sustainable Development' should really be replaced with the term 'Responsible Development.'


Reserves and the Selection file - Maptek Vulcan BUG

The selection file is a great way in Vulcan to reference multiple triangulations.  You can load triangulations by the selection file and you can also reference them in the Advanced Reserves Editor.  Recently I ran into a couple issues while running reserves in version 8.1.2.

1)      The selection file won’t work with Block > Advanced Reserves > Advanced Reserves Editor if it is in UNIX format.  This restriction doesn’t seem to be a problem when loading the triangulations into Envisage using: Model > Triangle Utility > List.  I think I changed my default format to UNIX because another option in Vulcan didn’t like plain ASCII but I can’t remember what that option was at the moment.

2)      The selection file won’t work with Block > Advanced Reserves > Advanced Reserves Editor if it uses the entire file path to the triangulations, only relative path will work.  Again, this works fine when loading triangulations into Envisage.  I think that the Advanced Reserves Editor should be more robust.

I have made Maptek aware of the issues and will post the JIRA number once I receive it.  I hope that this post will save someone else the hassle of troubleshooting something that should be more robust in your $50,000 software.

Maptek Vulcan - White lines when clicking on the screen

When Microsoft came out with Windows Vista a strange bug sprang up in Vulcan.  Any time the user clicked a point in Envisage, multiple white lines or an entire white box appeared between the selected point and the current mouse location.  This situation would persist until another point was clicked and then started again with the selected point and the new pointer location.  Because this screen issue affects where the mouse pointer is located, it is almost impossible to click on the desired objects.  This bug also affects Windows 7.

The problem is in the way Vulcan handles the buffer and screen refreshing.  I thought that this issue had been corrected with version 8.0 but I recently helped a co-worker who was still having this problem in version 8.0.3.  If you are having trouble with Vulcan and the OpenGL graphics, here is a work around.

  1. Go to the Windows start button and right click on 'Computer'
  2. Select 'Properties'
  3. In the 'System' panel select 'Advanced system settings'
  4. In the 'System Properties' panel select the 'Settings' button under the 'Performance' section
  5. In the 'Performance Options' panel de-select the 'Enable desktop composition' checkbox

These steps will fix the rubber band problem with selecting points in Vulcan but it will also limit the performance of Windows.  The dynamic backgrounds and the glass effect on windows will not be functional with desktop composition disabled.  If you still want to have these effects available, you can chose to disable desktop composition only while Vulcan is active.  To do this follow these steps.

  1. Go to the Windows start button and right click on the Vulcan icon
  2. Select 'Properties'
  3. In the 'Compatibility' tab, check the box: 'Disable desktop composition'
  4. Click 'OK'

With these settings, Windows will turn off desktop composition every time you start Vulcan and turn it back on when Vulcan is closed.  A pop up message will remind you of this fact every time this happens.  Most people I know who use Vulcan, have a tendency to open the program and leave it on all day because they come back to it so often.  If Vulcan is always on, then desktop composition is always off and there is no reason to have it dynamically turning on and off inversely with Vulcan.

Sodium Bentonite

While I was in Utah over the Thanksgiving break my father-in-law was telling stories of the slick mud they got where he worked when it would rain.  He claimed that it was so bad that even 4 wheel drive vehicles couldn't move when it had rained just a little bit.  I wasn't surprised when I learned that he worked at Western Clay processing bentonite.

Bentonite clay or, more correctly, sodium bentonite, is an absorbent clay that swells when it gets wet.  It also gets slick and stringy.  My first experience with bentonite was as a summer student working at a coal mine.  We drilled several exploration core holes to define a new lease.  The holes were sealed with bentonite chips which would expand enough to seal the hole when they got wet.  The chip seal was so important that the BLM sent two representatives to observe the process and the director of technical services filled the hole personally.  Apparently, they were all afraid that summer students would feed the chips too fast and jam the hole too near the collar and not allow the remainder of the chips to form the seal.

Bentonite is also used in drilling fluids.  It is added to the water being pumped through the steel and helps to lift the cuttings to the surface as well as seal the sides of the hole to maintain the sides to be water tight.  When I was in Africa on a coalbed methane exploration project the drillers were experimenting with some additives in the drill water.  After about a day of drilling they were surprised to start getting water back.  I realize that Africa is dry but the drillers shouldn't be that surprised to be getting fluid back.

The medical industry uses bentonite for its ability to absorb water and other toxins.  Bentonite is used to treat things such as constipation, bloating and gas, iritable bowel syndrome and poison ivy.

One of the biggest uses of bentonite in the mining industry is as a liner.  The clay swells so much when wet that when the top few inches become saturated they form a water tight seal.  Bentonite clay liners are used for leach pads, tailings impoundments and water ponds because they are so much cheaper than plastic liners. 

I also saw an interesting application of bentonite on the Discovery Chanel.  On their show 'Dirty Jobs' Mike Row and the crew were harvesting walleye fish eggs and delivering them to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish hatcheries.  After the eggs had been inseminated they coated them with a solution of bentonite and water.  I have been unable to find an explanation for this but I can only assume that it is to protect the eggs from being squashed during the rest of their handling.

I was pleased to get some rock samples from my father in law and was impressed by the variety in color.  I was familiar with the dark brown color, but had no idea that it came in shades of green.