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SPEROSENS COMMUNITY INITIATIVE - Donation to the Amersfoort Volunteer Fire Fighting Team

Sperosens strives to support the communities in which we operate.  As part of this drive, a range of new fire equipment was donated to the Amersfoort volunteer fire fighting team.

Amersfoort is a small farming community located in Mpumalanga Province, 261km from Pretoria. The closest large town is Volksrust which is 44km from Amersfoort.  The town does not have its own Fire Department and depends on assistance from the Volksrust Fire Fighting Department.  The Plxley Ka Iska Seme Local Municipality removed all firefighting equipment from Amersfoort in 2010, leaving Amersfoort without any means to fight fires. The Fire Department in Volksrust also do not have a fire truck, as this was written off.

Julius Du Toit, an Amersfoort resident, and local volunteers took the initiative and put together a volunteer fire fighting team, and purchased firefighting equipment from their personal funds.  Currently their ‘Fire Truck’ consists of a 4x4 vehicle with a water tank, pump and very old fire hoses mounted on an old trailer.  Most of the equipment is however damaged, patched and in a dilapidated state.

Despite this dire situation, nine building fires were contained by the volunteer fire fighting team in the past 3 years and an average of 15 veld fires per month were attended to during fire season.

The donation from Sperosens is intended to make the volunteer fire fighting team’s work easier while they risk their lives to protect their community.  The donation included:  Hydrant head standpipes, hose reels, adapters, jet spray nozzles, Unifit universal couplings, hose cabinets and red paint to give the trailer a ‘face lift’.

Sperosens wishes the community of Amersfoort all the best in their firefighting initiatives.

Volunteers:  Marius du Toit, Johannes Deacon, Julius du Toit, Mohammed Bhyat, Jaco Venter (Bheki Hlope absent in this picture)

Testing the new hose reels and nozzles

The old fire trailer with all donated equipment to be mounted soon.

Damage to a store room caused by a fire the volunteers contained.

MTN IoT Awards 2018 - Digital Twin Mine Management

Digital Twin Mine Management, a collaboration between Sperosens, FlowCentric and MineRP, was named as the Best Industry 4.0 Solution, as well as the Overall Winning Entry at the 2018 MTN Business IoT Conference and Awards, held at Kyalami Conference Centre during July 2018.

The collaboration was a perfect example of efficient integration of three diverse technologies to produce a meaningful IoT solution.

A fully mapped digital twin of a mine is provided to an operator using virtual reality (VR) technology. The operator can navigate through the virtual terrain while seeing the available sensor data and understanding the spatial relevance of the underground locations.

Changes to the mine environment are either automatically communicated to users, or the operator can interact with the VR environment to trigger a business process. Typical business processes include ALARM (process to ensure personnel safety due to an unsafe environment) and FAULT (process to service or repair a sensing device).

The built-in business process management (BPM) capability ensures timely completion of tasks, while maintaining an audit trail.

Mine specialists can access situations in the VR mine without being on site. The digital twin provides the specialist with all the spatial information required to make an informed decision.

Sperosens contributed its tried and tested SL2010 environmental monitoring system to the Twin Mine Management Solution. This product has been an industry leader in underground mining applications for more than 20 years. The SL2010 product range was recently enhanced by the addition of the Verify environmental/safety monitoring and management system, a surface based IoT solution built to enable the measurement and management of a wide array of sensors, devices or other variables in complex campus environments. The Verifi solution has found early traction in managing large, complex surface-based fire installations. 

As part of the award the Digital Twin Mine Management project was automatically entered into the IoT TECH Expo - North America, taking place in Silicon Valley, San Francisco from 28 to 29 November 2018.

Sperosens provides Environmental Monitoring and Fire Protection solutions to the African mining industry and has done so with an impeccable track record for 30 years.

The company’s products and services are categorised in three separate but linked groups:

·         Instrumentation Systems designed to remotely monitor safety parameters and equipment performance in underground mining environments.

·         Fire Protection Systems with a big focus on the specialised risk category to detect, alarm/warn, contain and extinguish fires in underground and industrial installations.

·         IoT based Measurement and Management Systems designed to remotely measure and monitor a wide variety of parameters (including safety), as well as equipment performance, in industrial installations and large campus environments.

Sperosens’ market leadership stems from its proven technical abilities; from system design through project implementations to term service level agreements.

The Sperosens product solutions are developed in-house by combining own intellectual property and integrating standard off-the-shelf products.


Sperosens (Pty) Ltd is a leading supplier of total fire solutions to the African mining and industrial industry.  Solutions include deep mine distributed telemetry systems, carefully chosen fire detection and fire suppression options, catering for each unique customer requirement.  The latest innovative AP Sensing Fiber Optic technology offers new solutions to many applications.
Fire in the mining environment can cause damages to valuable assets, down-time and loss of lives. A proper fire protection installation is made more complex when the area is affected by harsh environmental conditions. Industrial facilities frequently produce dirt, dust, humidity and corrosive atmospheres in the production, storage or transport of goods. Conventional sensor technology often fails and tends to produce false alarms. These technologies require periodic, time-consuming maintenance efforts.

The use of modern fibre-optic sensors based on DTS (distributed temperature sensing) technology has established itself as a proven method for fire detection and temperature measurement. A passive fibre optic cable provides accurate temperature measurements along the length of the conveyor belt, which enables an effective and cost-effective monitoring of even very long conveyor routes. Fires and overheating, which can occur during operation and lead to serious damage and long downtimes, are quickly detected and localized to within one-meter accuracy. The necessary countermeasures can be quickly activated. Heat detection for hot rollers requires a proper installation of the sensor cable and configuration of the alarm zones and analyses. This paper is based on conveyor belt tests and case studies, and describes the potential of fibre-optic based DTS technology with regard to fire and hot-roller detection along conveyor belts.

Thousands of FO-LHD (Fibre-Optic Linear Heat Detection) systems have been installed in the past with predominantly satisfying results and consequently this technology is now solidly established in fire protection. A new and fascinating distributed sensing technology has appeared on the horizon which may improve the protection of assets in conjunction with FO-LHD. This technology utilizes the optical fibre as a distributed microphone - means one measures not only the temperature but also the acoustics along the asset with the same fibre optic cable. Adding another level of information helps identify potential sources of danger and to achieve the overall goal of fire prevention. Particular on conveyors this new technology is gaining interest for detecting hot rollers – one of the major causes of conveyor fires.

RAMAN OTDR (Optical Time Domain Reflectometry)

Most commercially available FO-LHD (Fibre-Optic Linear Heat Detection) systems are based on Raman-DTS, which utilizes the OTDR (Optical Time Domain Reflectometry)- method. Light pulses are coupled into the fibre of the sensing cable. The backscattered light contains information about the temperature of the optical waveguide and thus the surroundings. The backscatter spectrum consists of the so called RAMAN Stokes and Anti- Stokes lines, which are shifted to the lower (Stokes) or higher wavelength (Anti-Stokes) due to an inelastic collision of photons with atoms that form a temperature- dependent electromagnetic oscillator. While the intensity of the Stokes line is nearly independent of the temperature, the Anti- Stokes line shows a temperature dependence. The quotient of both intensities constitutes an obvious measure of temperature in the optical waveguide. Measuring the backscattered signals as a function of time together with the information of the speed of the light, one can calculate the distance and thus a temperature profile along the optical fibre (radar principle).


Nearly all open fires in mines are caused by external supplied ignition. The most frequent sources of a fire are disturbances in active conveyor belt systems and thus most fires develop in the proximity of conveyors. A few examples of these faults include stuck or defective rollers, graters, grinding of the belt and slip of the belt or belt misalignment. Self-ignition of coal dust accumulated below the conveyor is another source of fire. The initial smoldering stage is difficult to detect with conventional technologies and requires very tuned alarm algorithms. Smoke/Gas detectors does not work properly because of high air currents.

Fire Detection

FO-LHD appears to be an ideal solution for detecting fires in an early stage in the proximity of conveyors. A fibre-optic based distributed temperature sensing system has several advantages during normal operation and in case of a hazardous situation:

•    Cable design is robust and resistant against dirt and dust.
•    Fully certified systems (FM, UL, VdS and ATEX/IECEX).
•    Long range up to 10km and up to 4 measurement channels let you monitor multiple conveyors with one system.
•    Virtually maintenance-free: no down time due to maintenance activities.
•    Mechanically robust cable design.
•    Precise localization of fires/hot rollers enables targeted intervention.
•    Reliable fire detection despite unfavorable environmental conditions.

Smoldering Fires

In spite of all the security technology currently used in conveyors, it is still not possible to prevent the ignition of all coal smoldering fire in close proximity to conveyors.
Thermal radiation from a smoldering fire spreads out independently of the ambient and therefore independent of the speed of the air current. For this reason, a monitoring system is required which is able to detect the thermal radiation of a smoldering fire and which can permanently monitor the area and allows hot spot detection at an early stage.

A good example of an advanced fibre optical temperature sensing system for early detection of smoldering fires at conveyors has been installed in the mine Prosper Haniel in Bottrop, Germany. This installation shows above all that it is possible to install fibre cable at a conveyer and permanent operation under practical conditions. A fibre optical sensing cable about 3500m long was mounted on the lower left side of the conveyor.
Installation of a sensor cable for detecting smoldering fires

The coal dust smoldering fire was inflamed by lab hot plates. During the test the smoldering fire had been controlled by a thermographic camera. The electric heat was turned off after the coal dust had reached a surface temperature of 270 °C and visible smoke with first zones of smoldering fire showed. Then the smoldering fire progressed until the whole area was completely covered. The temperature of the smoldering fire rose to about 450 to 500°C. The temperature in all five fibre cable positions with weather speeds of 1,2m/s, 3,0m/s and 4,5m/s was acquired.

Under these test conditions the FO -LHD system successfully monitored the detection of a coal dust smoldering fire with an area of 0,5 x 0,5m (=0,25m²) and a distance of 1,8m (distance between surface of smoldering fire and sensing cable) at a weather speed of up to 4,5m/s.
In the report of the DMT (Deutsche Montan Technologie) was finally stated:

”Due to the results it is assumed that the presented fibre optical linear heat detector, in view of its measurement parameters for early detection of fire, is applicable for conveyers in coal mines. It must be assumed that if the fibre cable is fixed right below the supporting structure of the conveyer system, the source of smoldering fire at all regular weather speeds is surely detected.”

Hot Roller detection

Rollers on conveyor belts can become overheated and a source of danger when bearings suffer enhanced friction due to usage over time. Conveyor systems that transport heavy loads and/or work at high speeds are more likely to overheat. These systems are often used in harsh environments where hazardous materials, dirt, dust, and vibration are present. Apart from the danger of personal injury and asset damage should a fire occur, the down-time of the line represents a significant financial risk. Extensive laboratory and field tests have been carried out for hot roller testing, in addition to experience gathered from a wide range of conveyor belt system installations.

When a DTS solution is used to detect hot rollers on the conveyor belt, the placement of the sensor cable becomes crucial. A solution has been developed to mount the sensor cables with a special clip that ensures a simple and secure installation but also improves heat detection of small hot spots. Once installed, rollers can still be accessed for maintenance or exchange without affecting the sensor cables (patent pending).
Sensor cable installation for detecting hot rollers

Field tests have been conducted to verify the suitability of the mounting concept. In this test a mock- up idler frame has been heated to simulate a hot roller. The thermal camera shows that when heat originates from the outside of the roller (left), the inside of the roller (where the sensor cable is located) becomes hot enough within minutes to detect the change, as shown in the DTS trace below:

Temperature and DTS response of hot rollers

Another method to detect hot rollers is to install the sensor cable as close as possible along the roller. In doing so, along the conveyor system, the sensor cable is installed close to the idler roller by a customized mounting frame. The frame keeps the fibre near to the surface of the idler to ensure that the sensor cables are securely mounted, the cables are mechanically protected and thermal radiation of a hot roller is concentrated at the sensor cable. With this an early detection of overheated rollers at temperatures of 100-150°C is possible.
Mounting frame on an idler station and cable setup

Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) seems to be a very promising solution for detecting defective roller in idler stations. Wear-out of bearings cause high friction and thus an intensified rolling noise which is detected and localized by the DAS system. Background noise caused by the operation of the conveyor as well as from the working environment is a challenge for a trouble-free utilization of acoustic sensing. Specialized algorithms and analysing acoustic patterns, frequencies and amplitudes are required to minimize nuisance alarm rate.

Distributed Sensing Technologies are widely and successfully used to protect transportation systems. The characteristics of FO-LHD are ideal to significantly improve the safe operation of any conveyor. One system can cover multiple long-distance conveyors, the sensor cable is robust, passive and easy to install – no additional wiring is required. Fires and overheating are detected quickly in early stages and are localized precisely with accuracy down to 1 meter. Furthermore, it has been shown that FO- LHD is capable to detect and localize hot rollers. Different methods have been developed and tested. For safe operation of FO-LHD it is recommended to use systems which are certified according to internationally recognized standards and are safe in explosive atmospheres even when the system is compromised.

Distributed Acoustic Sensing can contribute to the safety of a conveyor by detecting defective rollers before any overheating may cause a fire.

Technology is continually progressing to help address the dangers of underground mining and the complexity of the harsh environments in which the monitoring systems must operate.

Sperosens provides innovation through the design, manufacturing, installation, management and maintenance of safety solutions that enables our clients to focus on their core business.

Credit to Henrik Hoff, AP Sensing GmbH for much of the technical information.

For more information contact Marihette Hattingh at Sperosens, e-mail:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Tel: +27 12 665 0317