Sep 2, 2015

How-To: reduce energy consumption in mining

3 min
Without a doubt, mining projects consume a lot of energy. Trucks and excavators utilize diesel fuel during operations, electricity is used to grind o...

Without a doubt, mining projects consume a lot of energy. Trucks and excavators utilize diesel fuel during operations, electricity is used to grind ore and refine it, and coal is required for the smelting process. According to Mining Global, fossil fuels represent the largest portion of a mine’s total energy use at 35 percent, followed by electricity at 32 percent.

• Related content: The importance of solar and wind energy in Mining

While energy consumption represents a significant problem for mining companies, it also offers a significant opportunity if achieved correctly. The following tips can help mining companies reduce energy consumption, resulting in major savings, as well as reveal new strategies and technologies that can further reduce electrical usage.

The framework

The first step in reducing energy consumption is to develop a plan. According to Mining Global, a thorough plan should outline the company’s objectives while revealing short and long-term goals to achieve it. It should also establish a starting base in order to consistently evaluate and fine-tune actions.

The next step should be choosing a management system to streamline processes. These systematic tools have the ability to provide the following: real-time energy consumption; energy consumption forecasting based on specific parameters; establishing optimal energy consumption targets for each mine area; identifying and quantifying consumption above targets; identifying and analyzing root causes of over-consumption; reporting of over-consumption and changes in daily consumption; understanding energy drivers such as process variables linked to energy consumption; real-time calculation of sustainability Key Performance Indicators, such as kWh/t; providing validated data to justify future capital investments and/or process changes; creating energy models to forecast energy consumption and to determine energy targets.

• Related content: How Hexocover is bringing renewable energy to mining and solving the water shortage

Once up and running, the next step is to invest. Acquiring energy efficient products such as smart meters can help offset high levels of energy consumption during peak hours. Smart mining breakers are another potential product.

According to Mining Global, the real trick to reducing energy consumption is through continuous improvements. “By continually monitoring, tweaking and reporting new updates, companies can steadily improve system stability and unplanned downtime.”

In order to reduce energy consumption in mining projects, it’s vital that companies engage in ongoing, strategic actions and new technology.

Getting it done

The mining industry is littered with companies innovating new ideas to reduce energy usage. One example includes Alcoa’s RopeCon transport system at its Jamalco Operations in Jamaica. The company generates electricity while transporting bauxite ore downhill from the mine to the rail station. The system itself generates approximately 1,200 kW of braking (green) energy per hour, which is then used to power the mine. From 2007 to 2011, Alcoa saved $1.5 million in energy costs.

• Related content: How Off-Grid Energy is Helping Reduce Costs in the Mining Sector

South African gold producer Harmony Gold is an example of a mining company moving forward with renewable energy. The company has started building seven megawatt solar parks in Free State province with the goal of alleviating pressure on peak energy usage.

Glencore is another example of cutting the use of diesel and moving towards solar power. The commodity trader has installed wind turbine and energy storage facilities at its Raglan mine in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec in Canada. 

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Jun 25, 2021

UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC

Dominic Ellis
5 min
The UK must put an end to a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices warns the Climate Change Committee

The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.

While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.

"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."

The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.

  • Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
  • Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
  • Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
  • Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.

In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies. 

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society. 

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."

Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).

Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

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