Introduction

Cost-effective and reliable energy sources are essential to discover, extract, process and transport mineral resources from mine site to customer. However, despite the fundamental importance of energy, the day-to-day focus on meeting operational targets at a mine often means that energy is not used efficiently This creates a number of significant costs. Most obvious is the cost of the wasted energy. But inefficient energy use can also be a symptom of ineffective operational practices that, in turn, affect productivity maintenance, safety and environmental performance. Inefficiencies may also be locked in through mine planning and design. To maximise energy performance—that is, to use the minimum amount of energy necessary to meet business objectives—a structured approach to energy management is essential.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing focus on energy management in the mining industry. This has been a response to rising energy costs on mine sites, together with legislative and community pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use.

These business drivers have had an influence on the motivation, skills and knowledge of managers across the mining sector. Energy management practices have evolved in leading companies from a conventional focus on conducting occasional, outsourced energy audits towards a more integrated and continuous approach to energy management. Some of the key shifts in energy management practices are shown in Table 1. They include changes to the way the benefits of energy efficiency are promoted, increasing accountability for energy performance and the development of new approaches to identifying energy-efficiency improvement opportunities.

Table 1: Comparing standard and leading practice energy management

APPROACH TO ... STANDARD PRACTICE LEADING PRACTICE
Promoting the benefits of energy efficiency Primarily energy cost savings Energy cost savings + other business benefits such as productivity safety and risk management
Accountability Individual manager (environment, sustainability or other manager) Individual manager + responsibility for energy management written into role descriptions of site management and other relevant personnel
Identifying energy-efficiency improvement options Energy audits conducted once every few years by external consultants, without buy-in from internal staff
Use available data
Focus on efficiency of ancillary equipment
Operational phase
Continuous review of energy performance combined with periodic detailed examination of particular processes and related equipment
Apply the updated 2014 energy audit standards for industrial activities (AS/3598.2) or transport (AS/3598.3), which consider business needs and are compatible with international energy management standards
Combine internal and external expertise as required
Have a plan for improving energy data to progressively build and understand potential improvement opportunities and performance over time
Focus on core business operations first to identify opportunities to reduce demand before exploring opportunities to optimise operating systems and purchase more efficient equipment
Considered in mine design (new and expansion projects) as well as operational phases
Presenting business case proposals to management Written case with a focus on energy cost savings Strategic approach that involves informing, educating and influencing internal stakeholders of multiple business benefits prior to presentation of formal business case proposal to management
Measurement and verification (M&V) Typically not undertaken unless needed to obtain external funding Budget for M&V when seeking project funds
Evaluate project with regard to energy performance as well as other business benefits (e.g. productivity)

Source: Adapted from P Crittenden, ‘New perspectives on institutional change: the case of changing energy management practices in Australia’, PhD thesis, University of Technology, Sydney, 2014, http://www.climatechangestrategy.com/#!phd-thesis/c1odg.

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