All posts by Daniel Gleeson

247Solar’s HeatStorE to help miners integrate more renewables into the power mix

A new thermal battery from 247Solar Inc, a business with origins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is set to help miners incorporate more renewable energy sources into the power mix at their remote operations.

The HeatStorE™ long duration thermal battery operates almost like an electrochemical battery but has significant advantages at longer durations, according to 247Solar.

“The basic principle of the thermal battery is rather simple,” the company explained. “Electric resistance coils heat an inexpensive thermal storage medium (silica sand) using low-cost excess electricity, eg from intermittent solar and wind power sources. Energy is stored as ultra-high temperature heat (up to 1,000°C) – at a fraction of the cost of batteries.”

Whenever needed, a specialised turbine reconverts the heat to electricity in this process, according to 247Solar. This turbine can generate electricity without combustion, as atmospheric-pressure air is passed through the ‘thermal storage’ and drives the ‘turbine’ to generate it.

By adding a combustor, the battery can also produce even more dispatchable back-up power, ideally using an emission-free fuel such as green hydrogen in the combustion process, 247Solar says.

“This is also how the battery can provide spinning reserves,” it said. “The innovative approach is designed to replace traditional diesel gensets at remote mines, as it provides 24/7 highly reliable operation with higher renewables penetration, significant fuel savings, and dramatically lower lifetime operating costs.”

Bruce Anderson, 247Solar’s CEO, said: “HeatStorE combines two inventions that are part of 247Solar’s Ultra-High Temperature Technology Platform, the 247Solar Heat2Power™ Turbine and the 247Solar Thermal Storage System. Combining these two proven technologies ensures that HeatStorE is also extremely reliable.

“We expect more than 20-year operations with little or no performance degradation.”

This new approach consists of a factory-made, shipping-size container filled with sand that is heated by resistance coils. It also comes with low operating and maintenance costs, according to the company.

“The combination of robustness and life-cycle cost advantages will enable mining companies to implement new power plant concepts with fewer diesel engines – ultimately without any at all,” 247Solar said.

The typical storage duration of HeatStorE is in the range of 4-20 hours, which also allows for substantial grid-support and load shifting. The cost per kWh drops rapidly with duration, it claims. Behind the meter in industrial applications, the battery can also convert otherwise-wasted hot process exhaust to electricity.

vSMRs could solve decarbonisation challenges at Canada’s remote northern mines: study

Very small modular reactors (vSMRs) could provide clean, economic and reliable power and heat to remote northern mines and surrounding communities in Canada, according to a recent study completed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), and Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation, and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO).

The feasibility study, looking into vSMRs ability to reduce or eliminate reliance on diesel, found that the most economical energy mix was for vSMRs to provide 90% of the baseload power required for mining operations and associated uses, with only peak demand periods managed through use of diesel generation, reducing emissions by 85%. Emissions could be lowered further by adding other renewables to the mix, decreasing the diesel component, at a slightly increased cost, it said.

SMRs are defined as producing up to 300 MW of power, while vSMRs produce up to 10 MW of power per module. These small modular reactors are more flexible than conventional reactors, better enabling them to work within a diverse energy grid alongside intermittent technologies such as solar or wind, according to the study partners. They can also be used for applications like process heat or hydrogen production, which help enable further industrial sector decarbonisation.

The technology is seen to have potential applications in Canada’s mining sector, where there are 10 off-grid operating mines. Most of these are served by diesel generators, which offer reliable, fast-acting, easy-to-vary output but are GHG-emitting.

Advantages of a vSMR, producing less than 10 MW, include:

  • Their small size, making them easier to transport and install in remote communities, and scalable to meet changing needs;
  • Their ability to safely, reliably produce power;
  • Long operating life without the need for an onsite inventory of fuel; and
  • Short installation period due to their modular construction and factory fabrication.

Global First Power, a joint venture between OPG and USNC-Power, is the most advanced vSMR project in Canada, according to the study. The project recently received Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission approval to begin a technical review. Subject to federal government financial support, the next step in the process is to construct a demonstration vSMR at CNL’s Chalk River campus.

This demonstration project will serve as a model for future SMR deployments, as called for in Canada’s SMR Roadmap and Action Plan, by producing competitively priced clean energy ideally sized for remote communities and heavy industry such as mining and resource projects.

Robin Manley, Vice President of New Nuclear Development at OPG, said: “Nuclear power and SMRs play an enormous and critical role in meeting Canada’s climate change goals. This study demonstrates that not only can a vSMR dramatically reduce emissions in an industry that currently relies heavily on diesel, but it can do it in a cost-effective way.”

François Caron, Director of the Energy Center and Bruce Power Chair for Sustainable Energy Solutions, MIRARCO, Mining Innovation, added: “This study paves the way for the future of mining: not only does it show that vSMRs could provide a cost-effective and reliable energy source, it demonstrates that vSMRs are a long-term solution that can help diversify and intensify a mining operation while also providing a surplus that will benefit communities in the area.”

(Pictured is a cross section of the USNC-Power Micro Modular Reactor™ (MMR™) unit (CNW Group/Ontario Power Generation Inc))

Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric partner on decarbonisation initiatives

Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a “first-of-its-kind” collaboration to develop a circular and sustainable market ecosystem for both companies and their customers.

This multi-product partnership will see Schneider Electric use responsibly-sourced materials produced by Rio Tinto. These include low-carbon aluminium and copper produced with renewable power, iron ore and borates. Rio Tinto will, in turn, use energy and industrial services from Schneider Electric, as the companies work together to develop digital platforms, technologies and solutions to be deployed across the metals and mining supply chain to drive further decarbonisation, they said.

Rio Tinto Chief Commercial Officer, Alf Barrios, said: “This unique partnership will help accelerate decarbonisation and renewable energy solutions by combining low-carbon materials with cutting-edge digital technology. Working together will allow Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric to pursue opportunities beyond what is possible for either company on its own.

“This collaboration also opens doors to consider strategic initiatives such as expanding the use of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to reduce downtime in our plants, digitisation of our supply chains, and a host of other transformative technologies.”

Schneider Electric Executive Vice-President Industrial Automation, Barbara Frei, said: “We are excited to work with Rio Tinto to develop clean and pioneering solutions to meet industrial decarbonisation challenges. As the world’s most sustainable corporation and a manufacturer with a global network of smart factories and smart distribution centres, Schneider Electric is on a mission to make industries of the future eco-efficient, agile, and resilient through open, software-centric industrial automation and sustainable energy solutions. This new partnership demonstrates that Rio Tinto is as passionate as we are about bridging progress and sustainability for all.”

The partnership will draw on Schneider Electric’s Energy as a Service expertise to evaluate the use of innovative solutions, including microgrids, to supply energy from low-carbon sources, and artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to help meet sustainability goals at Rio Tinto sites and throughout its supply chain.

Rio Tinto’s START traceability and transparency initiative, the first sustainability label for aluminium using blockchain technology, will be deployed with Schneider Electric to unlock value for customers, suppliers and partners, it said. The companies will work to expand this transparency, offering START in combination with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ platform, an IoT system architecture that connects everything in an enterprise to deliver enhanced safety, reliability, efficiency and sustainability.

The companies will also partner to evaluate emerging innovation opportunities, such as the efficient production of critical materials for renewable technologies and advances in low-carbon, green steel manufacturing, both of which will play a significant long-term role in industrial decarbonisation.

Xerotech boosts off-road integrated battery system offering with help of Meta System

Battery pack manufacturer Xerotech has formed a partnership with automotive electronic systems supplier Meta System to help expand its offering and provide integrated battery systems to the non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) market.

The NRMM is widely being recognised as the next frontier of electrification, Ireland-based Xerotech says, with industrial OEMs regularly announcing new, fully-electric equipment for heavy duty off-road applications.

“A major barrier to electrification for OEMs in these low-volume high-diversity markets is lack of access to high-quality, automotive-grade components which are normally only available in high volume orders,” Xerotech said. “Xerotech are already actively engaged in many of these first-of-a-kind NRMM electrification projects through the supply of its new Hibernium™ battery platform.”

This strategic partnership with Meta System – which counts BMW Group, Porsche and Daimler Truck as clients – to supply leading-edge automotive-grade on-board chargers (OBCs) and DC-DC converters further supports Xerotech’s strategy of eliminating NRMM electrification challenges, it said. The new offering will bring 400 V and 800 V OBCs in 11 kW and 22 kW with integrated off-board fast-charge control to the market in low volumes along with a selection of 12 V and 24 V bi-directional and uni-directional DC-DC converters, out-of-the-box integrated with Hibernium™ battery packs, Xerotech said.

Matteo Attolini, KAM E-Mobility Business Unit at Meta System, said: “We have identified the off-highway market as a very interesting growth opportunity outside of our core automotive business. Our partnership with Xerotech aligns well with our goals and their flexible battery architecture and systems-engineering approach eliminates many of the traditional concerns for engaging with low-volume customers. We are very excited for the future of this market.”

Barry Flannery, Founder and CEO at Xerotech, added: “Our strategic partnership with Meta System is a game changer. This is the first time that true automotive-grade power electronics are being made available to low-volume OEMs. There are no solutions in this market remotely close to the cost and quality of Meta System’s product portfolio.”

Bentley’s cloud-based tech aids AAEngineering in Altynalmas gold plant design

AAEngineering Group, utilising Bentley Systems’ cloud-based technology, has helped Altynalmas come up with a new vision for a gold processing plant in Kazakhstan.

When drilling and geological studies revealed the presence of gold ores in the surrounding Akmola region, gold producer Altynalmas invested in expanding resource extraction operations, announcing a tender to increase annual ore processing production up to 5 Mt.

The $230 million project included construction of a new gold processing plant, a dam, accommodation camp for 600 people, water pipelines, and a 220 kV electrical substation.

AAEngineering Group was tasked with overall design, procurement, and construction works that required upgrading existing energy and mining infrastructure, ensuring environmental protection and occupational safety, and determining an optimal construction site that mandated a 1,000 m sanitary protection zone from adjacent pits and uranium dams. The new plant also needed to be interoperable with the existing processing facilities in terms of equipment and materials, as well as seamlessly integrate with the operating systems.

Additionally, AAEngineering faced challenges meeting the technology demands to comply with the client’s “Digital Mine initiative” on a tight timeline, compounded by coordinating a remote team during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company wanted to offer several conceptual models to the client for Altynalmas to visualise the infrastructure design options and make the best decision for implementing the project.

“We needed to issue several versions of the project according to their technical inquiry,” Andrey Aksyonov, Director of the Information Modelling department at AAEngineering. This situation required updating the existing plant information model, creating a digital terrain model, and incorporating components from the database of equipment and materials to provide accurate visual options for the client.

Once the client decided on the optimal design concept and selected the location for the new plant, AAEngineering moved to the detailed design stage and proposed simultaneously executing design and construction works to reduce construction time and meet the short, 22-month deadline. It also sought provide seamless integration with existing facility assets and operations using digital twins.

To develop its conceptual solutions, concurrently perform design and construction, and achieve digital deliverables aligned with the client’s smart mining initiatives, AAEngineering required integrated BIM and digital twin technology. Furthermore, given the COVID-19 global pandemic quarantine, it needed to establish a connected data environment to remotely coordinate design and construction.

Beginning early in the conceptual modelling stage, AAEngineering established a collaborative design platform using Bentley Systems’ ProjectWise to provide a connected data exchange system for all contractors and the client. It used laser scanning and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey the existing facilities and the new construction site, processing the captured images with ContextCapture.

“From the survey data, they assessed earthworks and generated a digital terrain model in OpenRoads,” Bentley said. “Then, using OpenPlant, they digitised existing and new pipeline layouts and equipment connections to develop several conceptual 3D models for the client.”

Aksyonov explained: “Using the survey data in ContextCapture, we built a digital terrain model, and all this was transferred to the site layout plant to generate preliminary specifications with an assessment of earthworks.”

The client used the models to determine the optimal design concept and approve the plant location, equipment and piping scheme.

Based on the client’s specifications, AAEngineering used various software applications to assemble the pipeline and structural models, along with the accommodation camp. It then integrated these models with the general plant model in OpenBuildings Designer.

“Aligned with their proposal to perform design and construction simultaneously, AAEngineering used ContextCapture to process weekly UAV-captured images into reality meshes and synchronised the models with SYNCHRO 4D for construction simulation and scheduling,” Bentley said. “Incorporating LumenRT and iTwin Services facilitated visual clash detection and provided the cloud-based platform to establish a digital twin.”

Using Bentley’s digital twin technology, the company synced the model with iTwin for the best understanding, for visualisation of changes, and for making the right decisions on the project, Aksyonov said. These open applications helped maintain project control and stay on schedule throughout quarantine, the company said.

“Using Bentley technology during the conceptual phase resulted in a well-developed visual bid for the project, providing the client with a full understanding of the design right from the start and winning AAEngineering the contract,” Bentley said. “Throughout project execution, the integrated modelling applications and digital twin solution streamlined workflows and facilitated concurrent design and construction that reduced construction costs and allowed plant commissioning to be ahead of schedule.”

Working in a collaborative digital environment and updating the development model with UAV surveys saved 30% in design time and cut travel expenses by 75%, according to Bentley. This also optimised remote coordination and construction management during the COVID-19 quarantine. Accurate modelling and visualisation reduced material quantities by 15% and eliminated clashes during construction, it added.

“Lastly, using the digital twin, the client was able to train operations staff prior to plant commissioning,” Bentley said. “In addition, the digital twin enabled seamless integration with the client’s operating system in accordance with their digital mine initiative to support intelligent mining processes and management, promoting automation and digitalisation that are transforming the mining industry.”

For AAEngineering, implementing the use of digital twin technology on this project provided economic efficiencies and has instilled new corporate processes, making advanced digital practices a company standard, according to Bentley.

Aksyonov concluded: “To sum it all up, Bentley Systems enabled us to improve our own design, construction, and operations solutions.”

Condor Gold looks to GRES’ Hanlon for SAG mill advice at La India

Condor Gold says it has selected Hanlon Engineering & Associates to develop a feasibility study level design for a new processing plant built around its recently acquired SAG mill at the La India gold project in Nicaragua.

A wholly owned subsidiary company of GR Engineering Services Limited (GRES), Hanlon is based in Tucson, Arizona. As lead engineer for this study, Hanlon will be responsible for the engineering designs, the capital cost and operating costs of the processing plant to a FS level of design.

Condor, earlier this year, entered into an agreement to purchase a completely new Metso Outotec SAG mill package from First Majestic Silver to serve La India.

The feasibility study design will develop costs to a +/- 15% level of accuracy for the design, capital expenditure and operating expenditure of a fully engineered processing plant package, which is normally a mandatory requirement of debt financing. The processing plant will be designed to a nominal capacity of 2,300 t/d, but have the built-in capacity in several key areas to potentially upgrade throughput to 2,850 t/d. At the 2,300 t/d rate, initial production is expected to be 80,000-100,000 oz/y of gold.

Hanlon is due to deliver the FS level engineering designs for a new processing plant within 12 weeks, working in conjunction with its GRES and using their extensive global experience with the design, construction and expansion of gold processing plants.

Mark Child, Chairman and CEO, said Hanlon Engineering was previously engaged by First Majestic Silver, the vendor of the SAG mill, to help design the new SAG mill recently purchased by Condor.

“Their knowledge of the SAG mill and involvement with many similar process plant designs completed to date will help fast track the delivery of the feasibility study design,” he said.

OceanaGold and Beca come up with decarbonisation pathway for Macraes

OceanaGold has enlisted the help of independent advisory, design and engineering consultancy Beca to reduce emissions at its Macraes gold mine in Central Otago, New Zealand.

Beca developed an Energy Transition Acceleration (ETA) study to provides a pathway to a greener future at the mine, which produced over 172,000 oz/y of gold and employs more than 600 people. Macraes is New Zealand’s largest mine.

“As participants in the New Zealand government’s ETA program, OceanaGold are focused on reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at their Macraes site to not only improve the sustainability of their product, but also reduce their energy costs,” Beca said.

“That’s where Beca entered the picture. As program partners with the ETA, our industrial sustainability and engineering teams worked closely with OceanaGold management to develop an Energy Transition Accelerator study that identified a practical emissions reduction pathway for their business.”

The Macraes operation consists of a large-scale surface mine, an underground mine, and an adjacent process plant inclusive of an autoclave for pressure oxidation of the ore. Its annualised gold production is split approximately 75% to open-pit production and about 25% underground production.

Key opportunities for reducing the GHG emissions include harnessing waste heat recovery; fuel switching; solar lighting towers; electric elution hot water heating; battery-powered electric haulage trucks; and electrification of excavators.

“Taken together, these practical abatement measures can reduce emissions from the Macraes gold mine by a substantial 37%, whilst additional measures – such as the use of renewable energy sources on site – could increase this figure to 59%,” Beca said.

With the study now complete, Beca says it is ready to support OceanaGold in implementing the identified recommendations over coming years – with some of these options also applicable to its Waihi mine on the North Island of New Zealand.

Monadelphous Group banks engineering work with BHP, Rio and Codelco

Monadelphous Group Ltd has secured several new construction and maintenance contracts in the resources sector totalling around A$215 million ($163 million).

Included within this slate of new work is a contract for smelter campaign maintenance works at the BHP owned Olympic Dam copper mine in South Australia. Monadelphous said work will commence immediately and is expected to be completed in December 2021.

Monadelphous has also been awarded a two-year extension to its existing maintenance services contract at Olympic Dam. The contract scope includes civil, structural, mechanical, building maintenance and electrical services, as well as the addition of underground rail maintenance services.

In the iron ore sector in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Monadelphous has been awarded several contracts, including several sustaining capital contracts under its panel agreements with BHP and Rio Tinto; and a contract with Rio for the provision of construction and support services associated with the Gudai-Darri iron ore project, with work expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

In Chile, the company’s maintenance and construction services business, Buildtek, has secured a number of new contracts, including a three-year contract with Codelco for the operations and maintenance of water infrastructure at the Chuquicamata underground mine in Calama. Buildtek has been providing these services on this site since 2018.

In addition, the engineering company has secured two new contracts with Codelco for maintenance activities associated with the concentrator plant at El Teniente mine in Rancagua; and a contract with BHP Minera Escondida for the construction of modularised pump stations and associated infrastructure of the Escondida copper mine in Coloso.

Finally, Monadelphous, in collaboration with global heavy lifting services company Fagioli, has secured a contract with NMT International (Australia) to deliver specialist heavy lifting and haulage services at the Iron Bridge magnetite project, a joint venture between Fortescue Metals Group subsidiary FMG Magnetite Pty Ltd and Formosa Steel IB. The strategic collaboration with Fagioli enables Monadelphous’ specialist Heavy Lift business to increase capacity and broaden capability for the Australian resources and energy markets, it said.

Sandvik reinforces rock tools offering with Tricon Drilling Solutions acquisition

Sandvik has signed an agreement to acquire Tricon Drilling Solutions Pty Ltd, a privately-owned supplier of rock tools for the mining industry, based in Perth, Australia.

Tricon will operate as an independent, standalone business unit within the Rock Tools division of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.

Tricon’s product offering includes rotary bits, DTH (Down-The-Hole) hammers and bits, as well as full rotary and DTH drill strings. The company has 24 employees.

“I am pleased that we continue to deliver on our active acquisition agenda, and I look forward to welcoming Tricon to Sandvik,” Henrik Ager, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said.

Tricon has design capabilities for rotary bits in-house but outsources manufacturing, with Sandvik being one of its rotary bit suppliers. Drill string products are produced in Tricon’s own facility.

The acquisition is expected to close in the September quarter of 2021, subject to relevant regulatory approvals.

Hybrid Systems Australia and LAVO to trial hydrogen energy storage at Kewdale

Hybrid Systems Australia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to determine and trial applications of LAVO’s hydrogen energy technology at its Kewdale facilities in Western Australia.

Hybrid Systems Australia, a subsidiary of Pacific Energy, specialises in the design, construction and installation of integrated hybrid systems, incorporating the use of solar photovoltaic, battery storage and backup, reciprocating gas and diesel generation, suitable for remote off-grid applications such as mine sites.

LAVO claims to have the first and only commercial-ready hydrogen energy storage system in the world designed for everyday use by residential homes and businesses, called the LAVO system. This system is designed to be easily integrated with existing solar panel infrastructure, with the company exploring further applications for its patented metal hydride solution. One potential application is already being explored at Macarthur Minerals Ltd’s Lake Giles iron ore project in Western Australia.

Under the MoU, LAVO will work closely with HSA to trial and test the application of hydrogen as an energy source using LAVO’s product offering at the Kewdale facility. As the first of its kind trial in Western Australia, it will test the applicability of incorporating LAVO’s products into HSA’s suite of products in the longer term, the companies said.

The demonstration project is expected to commence in July, extending the reach of LAVO’s existing demonstration projects across Australia.

Alan Yu, CEO and Executive Director of LAVO, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Hybrid Systems Australia on the development of the Western Australia LAVO demonstration project. With its commitment to supporting the shift to a greener future through alternative energy technologies, HSA’s vision for a renewable energy future amplifies our own ambitious sustainability agenda.

“Our industry partnerships continue to demonstrate the applicability of, and market interest in, LAVO’s hydrogen energy storage solutions and we look forward to developing a longer-term strategy alongside HSA as it commits to developing Western Australia as a centre for renewable hydrogen.”

Mike Hall, a Director of Hybrid Systems Australia, added: “Our investment in the development of ground-breaking projects like Denham, and our recent investment in Standalone Power Systems (SPS), has been driven by a nationwide demand for getting reliable power to remote customers using renewable energy solutions. We are excited at the opportunity to merge our experience and capabilities in hybrid power generation in conjunction with the LAVO technology and see many and varied applications for how we would use it.”