Tag Archives: hydrogen

Rio Tinto backs accelerated Scope 1 and 2 carbon emission cuts with $7.5 billion of investments

Rio Tinto has outlined a new target to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, more than tripling its previous target. To achieve this, it is setting aside around $7.5 billion of direct investments between 2022 and 2030.

Unveiled during an investor seminar this week, Rio said a 15% reduction in emissions is now targeted for 2025, five years earlier than previously stated, relative to its 2018 baseline of 32.6 Mt (CO2 equivalent – equity basis).

In recognition of the broader carbon footprint of the commodities it produces, Rio says it will accelerate its investment in R&D and development of technologies that enable its customers to decarbonise. Working in partnership with governments, suppliers, customers, academia and others, Rio intends to continue to develop technologies like ELYSIS™ for carbon-free aluminium and multiple pathways to produce green steel.

To meet additional demand created by the global drive to net zero emissions, Rio Tinto will prioritise growth capital in commodities vital for this transition with an ambition to double growth capital expenditure to about $3 billion a year from 2023, it said.

Rio Tinto can decarbonise, pursue growth and continue to deliver attractive returns to shareholders due to its strong balance sheet, world-class assets and focus on capital discipline, it explained.

Some key points from the presentation include:

  • Decarbonisation of the Pilbara will be accelerated by targeting the rapid deployment of 1 GW of wind and solar power. This would abate around 1 Mt of CO2, replace natural gas power for plant and infrastructure and support early electrification of mining equipment;
  • Full electrification of the Pilbara system, including all trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, will require further gigawatt-scale renewable deployment and advances in fleet technologies
  • Options to provide a greener steelmaking pathway for Pilbara iron ore are being investigated, including with biomass and hydrogen;
  • Options are progressing to switch the Boyne Island and Tomago smelters in Australia to renewable energy, which will require an estimated circa-5 GW (equity basis) of solar and wind power, along with a robust “firming solution”;
  • Development of ELYSIS to eliminate carbon emissions from the smelting process is progressing, with commercial scale technology on track for 2024.

Rolls-Royce to step up hydrogen content in mtu power generators

Rolls-Royce says it is further developing its mtu gas engine portfolio for power generation and cogeneration to run on hydrogen as a fuel and, thus, enable a climate-neutral energy supply.

Generation sets powered by mtu Series 500 and Series 4000 gas engines can, today, be operated with a gas blending of 10% hydrogen, but, beginning in 2022, operation with a hydrogen content of 25% will be possible, the company said.

Perry Kuiper, President Sustainable Power Solutions at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said intensive tests on test benches and pilot installations at customer sites in 2022 will lead to Rolls-Royce continuously marketing new mtu Series 500 and Series 4000 gas engines beginning in 2023 for use with up to 100% hydrogen, and, on a design to order basis, conversion kits to allow already installed gas engines in the field to run on 100% hydrogen.

Last month, Rolls-Royce and FLANDERS signed an MoU to develop hybrid mining truck retrofit kits for hybridising mining trucks with mtu engines, batteries and hybrid control systems.

Andreas Görtz, Vice President Power Generation at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said: “The decarbonisation of power generation requires reliable, flexible, but also climate-neutral, power plants to supplement the fluctuating generation from wind and sun. We assume that natural gas will initially be the primary fuel in the development of the hydrogen ecosystem, but we see hydrogen as technically and economically possible. That is why we continue to develop our gas engines for use with green hydrogen – whether as a 10 or 25% admixture or for 100%.”

Rolls-Royce says fuel cells powered by 100% green hydrogen can also play an important role in future energy supply in combination with renewable energies.

At its Friedrichshafen headquarters, Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems division has installed a 250 kW fuel cell demonstrator, which will be used to test and present future CO2-free energy systems to customers. The entire hydrogen ecosystem, including the infrastructure for supply, conversion, test benches and future production, is also being mapped in the company’s own plants, thus building up expertise, it said.

Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems division, through its climate protection program, “Net Zero at Power Systems”, has set itself the target of saving 35% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with a 2019 baseline using new technologies.

This near-term target plays an important role in the Rolls-Royce Group’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest, it said.

In addition to new technologies, a key element in achieving these targets is the certification of key mtu engine products to run on sustainable EN 15940 fuels such as e-diesel and second-generation biofuels as early as 2023, the company added.

BHP and POSCO to collaborate on low-carbon steelmaking technologies

BHP and South Korea’s POSCO have announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly explore greenhouse gas emissions reduction technologies in integrated steelmaking.

As part of the MoU, the parties intend to undertake pilot and plant trials to lower carbon in the steelmaking process, including optimising coke quality and assessing carbon capture storage and utilisation (CCUS) options to lower carbon intensity in the blast furnace.

POSCO and BHP also intend to share research on hydrogen-based direct reduction technology, the use of biomass in steelmaking, as well as the potential to leverage BHP’s carbon offsetting capabilities in the development of carbon neutral steel products.

BHP intends to invest up to $10 million over the next five years under the MoU, with the opportunity to increase investment in technologies under the trial. BHP’s investment will be drawn from its $400 million Climate Investment Program, announced in 2019 to support projects, partnerships, research and development to help reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

BHP and POSCO also intend to collaborate on the reporting of carbon emissions through the steel value chain to further progress consistent, transparent and robust global standards.

BHP Chief Commercial Officer, Vandita Pant, said: “The pathway to net zero for steelmaking is not yet clear but we believe that, by working with industry leaders like POSCO, together we will find solutions more quickly to help reduce carbon emissions in steelmaking and along the value chain. BHP recently announced a goal to pursue net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2050 and we are committed to working with industry leaders in steelmaking to address this hard-to-abate sector.

“Steel is a critical product for the world to grow and decarbonise, and we must work hard together to enable greener steel, reducing carbon intensity in the blast furnace and testing new technologies for steel production.”

POSCO’s Head of Steel Business Unit, Hag-Dong Kim, said: “Though achieving carbon neutrality is a difficult path ahead, with POSCO working together with BHP’s outstanding mining expertise and the will to achieve a low-carbon future, I have every reason to believe that we can create a significant turning point in carbon emission reduction across our value chain.”

The MoU with POSCO follows BHP’s earlier partnerships established with major steelmakers China Baowu, JFE Steel and HBIS Group to explore emissions reduction from steelmaking. The combined output of the four steel companies equates to around 12% of reported global steel production.

South Africa’s hydrogen potential validated in Anglo American-led feasibility study

Anglo American, in collaboration with South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the South African National Development Institute (SANEDI), Engie and Bambili Energy, has announced the results of a feasibility study to explore the potential for a hydrogen valley anchored in the Bushveld complex of South Africa, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast at Durban.

The feasibility study, which was launched in March of this year, identifies three hubs – Johannesburg, extending to Rustenburg and Pretoria; Durban, encompassing the city itself and Richards Bay; and Limpopo province centred around Anglo American’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals (PGMs) mine (pictured) – with a fundamental role to play in integrating hydrogen into South Africa’s economy, and in establishing South Africa and its renewable energy resources as a strategically important centre for green hydrogen production, Anglo says.

Nine key pilot projects have also been identified across these hubs and are recommended to be prioritised by developers. They span the transport, industrial and construction sectors.

Following the publication of the feasibility study results, Anglo says it will work with South Africa’s DSI and the other partners on the implementation of relevant projects, as well as continue to progress its own company-led initiatives towards development of the hydrogen economy.

Anglo is already investing in renewable hydrogen production technology at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine and in the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell mine haul trucks (FCEVs) – the world’s largest to run on hydrogen.

Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American’s PGMs business, said: “The opportunity to create new engines of economic activity through hydrogen has been validated through this feasibility study with our partners. As a leading producer of PGMs, we have for some years been working towards establishing the right ecosystem to successfully develop, scale-up and deploy hydrogen-fuelled solutions. These include investing in innovative ventures and enabling technologies, as well as forging wide-ranging collaborations across industry, to fully harness the transformative potential of green hydrogen for our economy in South Africa.”

Liebherr advances Zero Emission Program with help of ABB, ENGIE

Liebherr, on the back of an increased industry focus on GHG emissions reduction, has announced at MINExpo 2021 that it is accelerating the implementation of its existing low carbon solutions and triggered future projects to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment options.

While much of this development will occur in house, the company has confirmed it is partnering with ABB on trolley assist infrastructure and ENGIE on integrating different renewable energy solutions into loading, hauling and dozing processes.

Liebherr Mining’s strategy to reduce GHG emissions will mainly focus on the operational phase of its machinery, as studies showed that more than 90% of GHG emissions over the complete lifecycle of the equipment occurred during this phase.

Liebherr Mining’s Zero Emission Program, which was established to develop these future solutions, is well aligned with the values of the Liebherr Group as an independent and responsible, family-owned company, it says.

The Liebherr Group has existing in-house core competencies, across all 13 product segments, in electrification, batteries, internal combustion engines, injection systems and alternative renewable fuels. Building from this experience, the Zero Emission Program has clear targets and a roadmap to achieve low carbon solutions for the full range of off-highway trucks and excavators in 2022, and fossil fuel free solutions for the majority of applications by 2030.

The Zero Emission Program strives to deliver long-term sustainable products and services, providing different options centred on environmental sustainability, safety, cost, flexibility and maintainability. Modularisation, along with an energy-type agnostic approach to drivetrains, are key elements in Liebherr Mining’s strategy, easing the transition for customers with the possibility to retrofit modules.

2022 target: Liebherr’s low carbon emission technology

Liebherr Mining has developed and offered electrification solutions for many years and is now about to finalise all initiatives to achieve its first 2022 target to offer low carbon emission solutions for its complete digging and hauling range.

The technologies, including the haul truck Trolley Assist System and electric excavator range, are consistently achieving proven results in the field to lower carbon emissions, according to the company. The newly introduced in-built Liebherr Power Efficiency control system has also shown excellent results since field operation began in 2019, the company says.

Trolley Assist System for Liebherr haul trucks

With the T 264 trolley components production-ready in 2022, all Liebherr trucks will be available with Trolley Assist System, providing a low emission solution for customers.

The Liebherr Trolley Assist System is, the company says, an effective first step on the road to zero emission mine sites of the future. Using an overhead pantograph or trolley bars to connect the electric-drive system to the electrical network, the Trolley Assist System offers increased truck fleet productivity, or reduction in fleet size, while maintaining yearly production when compared with standard trucks. A significant reduction of diesel fuel consumption is also made possible with the Trolley Assist System along with a reduction of the truck fleet CO2 emissions. However, this of course depends on the percentage of renewable energy content in the grid supplied power.

Oliver Weiss, Executive Vice President R&D, Engineering and Manufacturing, Liebherr-Mining Equipment SAS, outlined some of the company’s trolley assist operations at MINExpo 2021 today

Liebherr delivers proven field experience with 39 T 284 units fitted with the Trolley Assist System currently in operation on two different sites, with more to be commissioned in 2022. Liebherr is also the first company to run a 100 t truck under trolley, with a fleet of T 236 trucks running on a 5 km trolley line in Austria at the Erzberg mine – the longest trolley line in the world, according to Liebherr.

‘The largest range of electric excavators’

The Liebherr Group has over 30 years of experience in electric driven machines for earthmoving, material handling and mining applications. Today, Liebherr Mining says it is the OEM offering the largest range of electric driven excavators on the market. Ranging from 130 t to 800 t, the R 9150, R 9200, R 9250, R 9350, R 9400, and R 9800 are all available as electric drive versions. The electric drive R 9600 will soon be available.

Liebherr electric excavators are existing and already proven solutions helping customers to build future sustainable mine sites, it says. Focusing on reliability, maintainability and maximum safety, Liebherr’s engineering teams strive for solutions requiring minimum change to existing energy infrastructure and operational behaviour on customer sites. Thanks to 70% of parts commonality with diesel versions, Liebherr also offers complete retrofit options for existing machines.

To offer better machine mobility and safety for the workforce on site, Liebherr has developed a cable reel option for all electric drive excavators either in backhoe or face shovel. The cable reel is completely autonomous and has a capacity of up to 300 m depending on the excavator type. Furthermore, Liebherr proposes an operational concept for excavators with cable reel in backhoe application, particularly in double benching operations.

Liebherr Power Efficiency

Liebherr says it is continuously improving and upgrading its standard machines to enable the transition to emission reductions. Liebherr Power Efficiency (LPE) is the most recent built-in technology upgrade making this productivity and sustainability contribution.

Starting with Generation 7, all Liebherr mining excavators will be equipped with LPE as standard. This specific engine and hydraulic management system drastically reduces fuel consumption by up to 20%.

The system:

  • Adapts piloting processes according to operator requirements;
  • Electronically controls pressure and oil flow;
  • Has increased efficiency of the control valves and the new Liebherr pumps;
  • Has a fully integrated engine control system;
  • Reduces hydraulic losses and load profile of the engine for increased component lifetime; and
  • Reduces energy consumption without impact on the machine performance.

Based on research and development, Liebherr is able to provide size-equivalent machinery with higher production rates and less fuel consumption.

“In fact, the combination of LPE together with the improved productivity of the R 9600, has shown 29% less fuel consumption per tonne of produced material over a one-year production study, compared to its predecessor, the R 996B,” Liebherr says. “Expressed in fuel efficiency, tonnes per litre, this corresponds to a 40% better utilisation of the fuel.”

These efficiencies allow Liebherr excavators to set new benchmarks in its respective classes and are a very important enablers for any kind of future drive train, as they significantly reduce the effort for cable handling or refuelling and storage of alternative fuels, the company says.

Pathway to zero emission solutions

As second step, Liebherr is now targeting to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment for hauling, digging and dozing by 2030. This development will take into consideration the GHG emissions over equipment’s full lifecycle, as well as the overall well-to-wheel energy ecosystem. The company is also taking into account the operational mining process conditions that influence the right energy type choice.

Liebherr will develop three drivetrain options to achieve near zero emissions for its off-highway trucks: battery power module, internal combustion engines powered by renewable fuels, and H2 fuel cell-battery power module.

Drivetrain electrification through battery combined with trolley assist is already underway, according to the company.

Despite some challenges, Liebherr sees also an opportunity that the propulsion energy can be provided by using hydrogen fuel cell-battery hybrids.

Research and development for internal combustion engines operating with renewable-based alternative fuels is progressing very well within the Liebherr Group, with Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as an approved fuel for machines powered by Liebherr engines as a first step.

Hydrogen combustion engines are also currently being tested in Liebherr’s factory in Switzerland. The methanol combustion process has been developed for large displacement engines and is ready to move towards serial engine industrialisation based on market demand, according to the company. Additionally, the ammonia combustion process is under investigation, with Liebherr seeing high potential in the usage of ammonia for heavy mobile, high energy demanding machines and gensets.

Liebherr mining excavators and dozers will also both have the option to be powered by internal combustion engines running on alternative fuels, along with the already existing electric drive version for excavators.

To achieve near zero emissions for the mining dozer and excavator, it is also crucial to use the most efficient drive system to reduce fuel consumption. The Liebherr hydrostatic drive system already achieves up to 20% improved fuel efficiency compared with mechanical competitor products, it says.

Despite this, Liebherr is currently in the process of comparing efficiency of an electric drive on a dozer prototype with hydrostatic drive efficiency. Given Liebherr’s expertise in both hydrostatic and electric AC drive systems, the company says it is in the best position to choose the most appropriate option for the best drive system for the near zero emission solution.

To accelerate the process and ensure the best solutions will be offered, Liebherr is partnering with industry experts for its Zero Emission Program.

ABB, a leader in power and automation technologies, develops state-of-the-art technology and equipment for overall electrification of mine sites and supports Liebherr’s customers and the company with a particular focus on trolley assist infrastructure deployment.

ENGIE, a renewable hydrogen, low-carbon energy and services company, will jointly with Liebherr evaluate the different renewable energy solutions, in particular renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels, for loading, hauling and dozing processes. This cooperation ensures that an integrated well-to-wheel approach is basis to define the best solutions for the mining industry, Liebherr says.

With concept studies nearly finalised for trolley-battery hybrid, and ammonia and methanol for internal combustion engines, Liebherr expects to undertake field validation from 2024-2026, followed by the integration of proven fossil fuel free solutions from 2026-2030 into the entire range of mining machines.

Caterpillar to add hydrogen to generator, power generation solution mix

Caterpillar Inc says it will begin offering Cat® generator sets capable of operating on 100% hydrogen, including fully renewable green hydrogen, on a designed-to-order basis in late 2021.

More immediately, the company will launch commercially available power generation solutions that can be configured to operate on natural gas blended with up to 25% hydrogen, it said.

“These market-focused innovations build upon Caterpillar’s hydrogen solutions portfolio, including Solar® Turbines’ gas turbine generator sets, which have run on high hydrogen blends for decades and are capable of operating on 100% hydrogen today,” the company said. “The ability to work with hydrogen fuel helps address customers’ carbon-reduction goals with high-performing, cost-effective technologies.”

Joe Creed, Caterpillar Group President of Energy & Transportation, said: “At Caterpillar, we are working alongside our customers to understand their needs, and they are looking for reliable power sources that support their climate-related goals. Our continued investment in new products, technologies and services is one way we’re supporting them with the quality solutions they’ve come to count on from Caterpillar.”

With the reciprocating engine capabilities of up to 100% hydrogen, Caterpillar says it is expanding on its legacy in gas engines and Solar gas turbines with more than 35 years of experience with high-hydrogen fuel.

It added: “Caterpillar continues to make investments aimed at improving the capability of hydrogen-powered solutions and replicating them across engine platforms as this fuel will likely play a role in customers’ plans for a reduced-carbon future.”

Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corp look at hydrogen pilot for Yarwun refinery

Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation have announced a partnership to study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Australia, and explore the potential use of hydrogen at the refinery.

The two global companies have signed a letter of intent that focuses on Yarwun as the location for a Gladstone hydrogen plant that Sumitomo has been studying. If the project proceeds, the pilot plant would produce hydrogen for the recently announced Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem, Rio said.

The study supports the efforts of Australian, Queensland and local governments to establish Gladstone as a clean hydrogen hub of the future, according to the company.

Rio Tinto Australia Chief Executive, Kellie Parker, said: “Rio Tinto has a long relationship with Sumitomo and we are delighted to partner with them to explore the possibilities of hydrogen, not only for our own refinery, but for Sumitomo to supply industry more broadly in Gladstone.

“Reducing the carbon intensity of our alumina production will be key to meeting our 2030 and 2050 climate targets. There is clearly more work to be done, but partnerships and projects like this are an important part of helping us get there.”

Sumitomo Corporation’s Energy Innovation Initiative Director, Hajime Mori, said: “We are excited about working together with Rio Tinto as our long-term partner to develop this hydrogen project in Gladstone and working toward our company’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We believe the pilot plant will play a significant role in establishing the Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem.

“Sumitomo has commenced the Design Study and Preliminary Master Planning to build the Gladstone hydrogen ecosystem and we will continue to work towards future hydrogen exports from Gladstone.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Steven Miles, said Gladstone is an industrial powerhouse and this partnership presents a great opportunity for the region and for Queensland.

“This is only the beginning of a wave of international collaborations that will lead to new industries and new jobs underpinned by the supply of renewable energy,” Miles said.

“With the Palaszczuk Government’s strong commitment to creating more jobs in emerging industries, we will work to keep Queensland at the forefront of renewable hydrogen and the opportunities that come with it.”

The Sumitomo partnership complements a recently announced feasibility study into using hydrogen to replace natural gas in the alumina refining process at Yarwun and provides the potential for larger-scale implementation if the studies are successful, Rio added.

Anglo American and Salzgitter to explore iron ore’s role in low-carbon steelmaking

Anglo American has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Salzgitter Flachstahl to collaborate on the decarbonisation of the steelmaking industry by exploring ways to reduce carbon emissions.

Salzgitter Flachstahl manufactures a range of steel products optimised for their particular application and is the largest steel subsidiary in the Salzgitter Group, Anglo explained.

The two companies intend to conduct research into feed materials, including iron ore pellets and lump iron ores, suitable for use in direct reduction (DR) steelmaking based on natural gas and hydrogen, a significantly less carbon intensive production method than the conventionally used blast furnace process. The collaboration may also explore developing broader hydrogen technologies.

Peter Whitcutt, CEO of Anglo American’s Marketing business, said: “We have set ambitious targets to help address climate change by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, including achieving carbon neutrality across Anglo American’s operations by 2040.

“While steel is a critical building block of our modern lives, and itself a critically needed material for the energy transition, the steel industry is a significant producer of carbon dioxide. That’s why we are committed to collaborating with industry-leading players like Salzgitter Flachstahl to develop strategies that capitalise on the premium quality properties of our products to help drive emissions reduction across the entire steelmaking sector.”

The MoU reinforces Anglo American’s existing commitments to the steelmaking industry, ensuring it continues to provide high-quality iron ore products that help drive efficiency and minimise emissions while new technologies are developed to achieve lower carbon steelmaking, the company said.

It also builds on the long-standing relationship between the two companies and provides a platform to explore opportunities for emissions abatement in the context of the sustainable energy transition.

Salzgitter, as part of the European steel industry, has been developing new steelmaking technologies to reduce its carbon footprint under its SALCOS® (Salzgitter Low CO2 Steelmaking) project. The project is targeting a switch from the use of blast furnace production based on coal to wholly DR steelmaking.

Ulrich Grethe, Chairman of the Management Board of Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH and member of the Group Management Board of Salzgitter AG, said: “With this project we continue to progress important milestones on the way to low CO2 steel production. In driving our SALCOS technology concept forward, we aim to decarbonise steel production as efficiently and quickly as possible. We are delighted to be partnering with Anglo American, our long-standing major supplier of high-grade ores, for joint reflection and potential projects.”

DR steelmaking depends on high-quality iron ore feedstock, or further beneficiated feedstock from the same locations.

New Kalgoorlie metals research lab to pave the way for mining’s greener future

Curtin University is to open a new research lab geared towards carbon-neutral metal production paths at its Kalgoorlie campus in Western Australia.

Curtin’s WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering Head of School, Professor Michael Hitch, said the Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory would explore cleaner alternatives through teaching and research that would pave the way for a greener future for the industry.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will provide undergraduate students with practical education in carbon-neutral metal production paths, which is particularly important given they are the generation that will help decarbonise the mining industry in the most challenging area of pyrometallurgy,” Professor Hitch said.

Iron ore processing expert, Dr John Clout, has been appointed the Professor of Practice in Pyrometallurgy at the lab with Curtin’s WA School of Mines Kalgoorlie Director, Sabina Shugg, saying he would oversee a high-tech laboratory, fitted with experimental high temperature furnace equipment, capable of simulating the complete industrial process to test renewable energy and green hydrogen sources in the metal extraction process of pyrometallurgy, which currently require fossil fuels.

“Highly respected in the field of pyrometallurgy, Professor Clout will bring real-world experience to the laboratory’s teaching and research, ensuring we contribute to a sustainable future for the Western Australia resources industry,” Shugg said.

Professor Clout said he was thrilled to support the new research hub’s development as an internationally-recognised laboratory and pilot-scale pyrometallurgical research facility for undergraduate teaching and applied research.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will aim to develop end-to-end production paths that set new standards for efficiency, value and carbon neutral management, which will ultimately support a cleaner future,” he said.

“After working in the gold, iron ore and nickel industries for more than four decades, I am especially excited to be working with the future leaders of the resources sector to find the most efficient renewable energy sources and processes for pyrometallurgy.

“There is significant potential for industry to be extracting and producing critical metals right here in Western Australia, especially in the Goldfields where there is significant scope for renewal energy production, untapped critical mineral resources, an existing infrastructure network and workforce.”

The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory has been established as the result of a A$600,000 ($443,697) grant from Curtin University.

The new research facility is also seeking support from industry and private donors for the purchase of additional equipment and ongoing industry-funded projects.

State of Play mine electrification report sheds light on benefits, hurdles and risks

More than half of mining industry executives say they would electrify their mine sites for cost reasons, according to the latest State of Play report on electrification.

With the mining industry rapidly adopting new technologies to decarbonise their operations, the Australia-based State of Play platform has, again, sought to gather industry perspectives on the reasons companies are pursuing their shift away from fossil fuels.

The latest report follows the inaugural State of Play: Electrification report, released in 2020. This report, in part, led to the formation of the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaboration between mining and service companies aiming to accelerate progress towards the fully electrified zero CO2 and zero particulates mine.

The findings from the latest report – which took into account 450-plus individual surveys, five industry webinars and workshops and five interviews with “thought leaders” – have reinforced that mine electrification is a foundation enabler for the clean energy transformation of mine sites.

“The mining industry sees it as one of the most pressing transformation imperatives for the industry, facilitating precision automation and the digitisation of mine operations, whilst improving environmental and health outcomes,” it said.

At the same time, the report acknowledges that mine electrification technology is currently undergoing a “maturation process” with 49% of mining CEOs referenced in the report believing it will take existing mines on average five-to-10 years to electrify.

“Much of the technology for full electrification of mine sites is available today, however a significant knowledge gap exists across industry relating to the capability of electrified mines and the strategy for implementation,” it said.

Of the industry executives surveyed for the report, 57% expect the energy transition to be ‘the’ global trend that will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 15 years.

Close to 90% (89%) expect mine sites will electrify within the next 20 years and 61% expect the “next generation” of mines will be all-electric.

In keeping with this, 83% expect renewable energy technologies will significantly change mining operations over the next 15 years; and 98% view mine automation as ‘the’ technology to benefit the most from electrification.

The responses related to benefits expected from this transition brought up some of the most interesting insights into the mine electrification evolution, indicating there are environmental, cost and reputation risk advantages associated with electrifying operations.

For instance, of the survey respondents, just over 90% (91%) expected the shift to an electrified system to create opportunities for new business models, while just over half (53%) say they would electrify their mine sites for cost reasons. The latter indicates that the cost of operating, establishing and maintaining new electrified equipment and infrastructure is now at a point where it could not only compete, but provide an economic advantage over fossil fuel-powered operations in the long term.

Close to four-fifths of respondents (79%) expect there to be a health-related industry class action in the next 15 years – indicating the reputational risk that could come with maintaining the operational status quo.

Some 71% view processing and 68% view extraction as having the greatest leverage in decarbonising the mining value chain, the report confirmed, while 46% expect innovation in carbon emissions and 42% expect innovation in diesel replacement will have the greatest environmental benefit in their business. Close to 90% (86%) expect transparency of the source of raw materials to become a significant driver of mining company value.

In key areas of the value chain, miners are faced with distinct choices of which technology to invest in (eg what type of battery storage technology, swap versus fast charging, etc). Of the survey respondents:

  • 60% believe miners should begin transitioning to an all-electric system with installing renewables. Electrical infrastructure was second with 37%, with heavy mobile equipment third with 32%;
  • 87% expect solar will become the most widely used energy source in the industry in the next 15 years, followed by gas, wind and diesel (58%, 44% and 39%, respectively);
  • 76% expect remote mine sites will use batteries to supplement renewables, followed by diesel with 53% and demand management at 42%;
  • There is no consensus as to which energy source will power heavy mobile equipment between lithium batteries, hybrids and diesel (28%, 21% and 18% respectively); and
  • 54% expect infrastructure to be the main challenge for transitioning mine sites to electric.

Of these stats above, the lack of consensus as to which energy source will power heavy mobile equipment is as enlightening as it is expected.

Battery-electric technology has matured to the point where one would expect it to dominate in the underground space, followed closely by fuel cell power, hybrids and some form of trolley, but it is a lot harder to predict the winner in the open-pit mining space, with major miners pursuing different developments related to hydrogen, batteries, trolley assist and alternative fuels.

“The mass adoption of electrification technology and storage systems to power mine sites has so far been slow,” the report stated. “It is clear that as an industry, this knowledge gap will need to be confronted largely through testing and piloting, which allows for the development of case studies for application, economic models and best practice guidelines.”

Of survey respondents:

  • 88% see cost as being the major risk of electrifying a mine site;
  • 63% report that risk aversion is holding back the implementation of electrification technologies;
  • 18% are willing to accept increased risk in asset design to increase financial returns; and
  • 41% are primarily focusing their innovation efforts on energy.

The report authors say the industry should focus on collaborating to overcome the barriers that are beyond the capacity of any one individual company to address, with such efforts requiring the mobilisation of policy makers, miners, service companies, investors and researchers in order to achieve the scale, capital and influence to drive success.

Of survey respondents:

  • The preferred partnering approach for achieving breakthrough innovations is collaborating with selected partners (65%);
  • The majority believe the best way the government can support innovation is through regulation and collaboration (#1 and #2, respectively);
  • 85% believe broad industry standards for battery types are required.
  • 52% see miners as the biggest group driving investment in electrification followed by suppliers and investors (39% and 38%, respectively); and
  • 60% believe the industry should focus its health risk innovation on airborne particulates.