Focus on dramatic cost cutting over energy efficiency

Tough times are failing to win over mining companies to the benefits of energy efficient crushing and grinding circuits as they set their sights on more dramatic cost-cutting measures. That is according to Energetics’ Executive Director and General Manager, Consulting Mary Stewart, who is a board member for the Coalition for Eco- Efficient Comminution (CEEC).

“In their eyes the savings aren't necessarily big enough – it’s the biggest challenge to energy efficiency uptake in the sector,” Dr Stewart said. “However, typically energy efficiency is NPV (net present value) positive and the payback periods are short.”

Energy costs represents between 10–20% of operating costs on most mine sites, and the process of crushing and grinding ore – comminution- usually consumes the most amount of energy. CEEC – sponsored by the minerals industry - promotes a range of resources to help mines and quarries assess available technology and improve their operation’s energy efficiency. These include the CEEC Roadmap - designed to help develop a strategy for mine-to-mill energy efficiency on any site.

Dr Stewart also stresses that in addition to cost savings, mining companies need to understand that investments in energy efficient equipment and processes can increase ore throughput, and deliver capital and labour productivity benefits. The Australian Alliance to Save Energy (A2SE) in its research paper on the energy productivity potential for the mining sector also points out that such improvements also provide a hedge against future energy price rises with 100% of diesel, the dominant energy source in mining, expected to be imported in the near future.

Understanding and quantifying the broad business productivity gains that come from energy efficiency measures is the focus of the Australia’s new national energy productivity drive.

“The missing link in reconciling deep emission cuts with strong economic growth is energy productivity – squeezing more economic output from each unit of energy used,” said Chris Dunstan, Research Director for the Institute of Sustainable Futures of the University of Technology Sydney.

Mr Dunstan is also co-chair of the Australian Summer Study on Energy Productivity which is being held in Sydney this week. Dr Stewart is among a panel of comminution experts, including CEEC International Executive Officer Sarah Boucaut, participating in the Summer Study. Dr Stewart said that the aim of the Summer Study’s mining session was to try to shake up industry and gain the mining sector’s input for the new National Energy Productivity Plan which aims to encourage greater take-up of energy productive options.

“Currently Australia lags other developed nations, many of whom are our trading partners, in energy productivity. The Federal Government has set a target to improve national energy productivity by 40% by 2030, to help make our industries more competitive.”

Dr Stewart said the CEEC was working to elevate energy efficiency in comminution as an issue for company CEOs and CFOs to help them understand the magnitude of the opportunity that was falling by the wayside at the moment.

Reproduced with the generous permission of Industry Queensland