The first steps to decarbonisation

Before embarking on any journey there should be a plan. ABB’s head of mining shares his insights into how Australian mining companies can begin mapping their path towards achieving net zero.

Step 1: Defining the scope

The broad nature of decarbonisation means that each mining organisation or network will take a unique approach, dependent on their current infrastructure and capacity for change. It’s advisable that companies begin by taking stock of their current carbon footprint, before investigating potential investments in new technologies.

This reach may be contained to immediate factors on site, or extend to capture impacts along the entire supply chain. Outlining this definition and gaining full visibility on operations can aid in carving the most efficient path forward.

Step 2: What can be changed now?

The following stage involves closely inspecting existing infrastructure and conducting detailed asset analysis where possible. This will help to identify where the cost of upgrading or replacing equipment might be worth the offset of carbon emissions in the long-term.

Factors such as fuel and power consumption rates will determine where immediate changes can be made. Additionally, it will give the company more visibility on asset life cycle, allowing them to understand the compatibility of new technologies within existing infrastructure. This will identify ‘low-hanging fruit’ where the benefits are clear with conversion – such as transitioning light commercial vehicles to electric.

Step 3: Investing in electrical infrastructure

The quality and strength of its electrical grid system will determine the scale at which a site can truly commit to decarbonisation. When mitigating reliance on fossil fuel resources, mines and processing plants will need a robust electricity framework to fall back on. Ideally this will be tailored to the specific requirements of the operation – which is why obtaining a firm understanding of current impact is a critical first step.

If the company decides to decarbonise a section of their energy pipeline, such as switching out to electric vehicles, infrastructure like charging stations need to be implemented first. If they are seeking to convert an entire site and eliminate reliance on fossil fuel altogether, they might investigate green energy or hydrogen as a partial solution.

The capacity for energy efficient mining sites is still evolving, and ABB is working around current battery technology limitations by supporting combined power systems. This transition can be made smoother by mapping obvious inefficiencies, upgrading outdated equipment, and identifying where changeovers could be made in the near future.

ABB’s whitepaper, “The road to decarbonisation in Australian mining – How do we get to net zero? goes into further detail about what the journey to decarbonisation looks like for the Australian mining and resources industries, and what practical steps companies within the sector can take now to prepare.

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Wendy McWilliam

I am a marketing manager, with more than 17 years of professional experience. I am best known for the implementation of engaging, data-driven and marketing automated strategies across many industries, while establishing high performing teams to meet organisational objectives. I am an innovative thinker and implore to learn more outside of any organisation. As such, I thrive in open and progressive cultures and teams which is imperative during the times during and post a pandemic.
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