Rio Tinto has enlisted ABB to perform a $27 million upgrade of the diversified mining giant's power substation at Cape Lambert port in the Pilbara.

The purpose of the upgrade is to increase the power supply for the Cape Lambert port expansion project via the integration of electricity from a nearby power plant currently under construction into the transmission grid.

“This substation upgrade will enhance transmission capacity to increase power availability while ensuring reliability and quality of electricity supplies,” said Axel Kuhr, ABB’s country manager for Australia.

“ABB has successfully executed several substation projects for Rio Tinto and we will once again deploy our capabilities to support their expanding mining and port operations in the region.”

Under the turnkey contract, ABB will be entrusted with designing, constructing and commissioning the substation upgrade, which will require equipment and supplies including four 220-kilovolt substation bays, power transformers, protection and communication equipment and a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system which satisfies IEC 61850 standards.

The upgrade will enable Rio Tinto to monitor and control its new power assets in the Pilbara from its operations centre located in Perth, almost 1,500 kilometres away, via the substation automation and communications systems.

Rio Tinto’s Perth-based operations centre is responsible for a full suite of management functions in relation to the company’s iron ore operations in the Pilbara, including mining processes, rail transportation, ship loading, and control of key water and power infrastructure.

The Cape Lambert expansion project aims to increase the port’s capacity and ship loading facilities and will see the addition of a second 1,400-metre jetty and related equipment for the handling of bulk materials. The expansion project is expected to increase the port’s iron ore exports by 53 megatons per annum upon its completion in early 2014.

ABB has been extensively involved in the development of Rio Tinto’s power infrastructure in the Pilbara, obtaining orders worth around $100 million in early 2012 for 17 distribution substations to support expansions to iron ore production in the region.