B2Gold commissions world's largest off-grid solar plant
Suntrace and BayWa r.e., together with B2Gold, have completed commissioning of the world’s largest off-grid solar-battery hybrid system for the mining industry, at the Fekola gold mine in Mali, West Africa.
The solar-battery hybrid plant was integrated and commissioned successfully with the existing power plant operation, and the solar plant is on course to be 100% complete by the end of June this year.
Hybrid projects such as this, which combine solar energy with conventional energy generation and battery storage, are an effective way to provide reliable power supply day and night in off-grid areas. Ideally suited to their needs, B2Gold approved the hybrid project for implementation in July 2019, following completion of preliminary studies by Suntrace and BayWa r.e..
The Fekola gold mine operates 24-hou rs a day. During the daytime, the new 30 MW solar plant allows three out of six heavy fuel oil generators to be shut down; the energy production of the residual three generators could also be significantly reduced. The 15.4 MWh battery storage compensates energy generation fluctuations and assures a reliable operation, which allows up to 75% of the electricity demand of the gold mine to be covered by renewable energy during the daytime.
Dennis Stansbury, Senior Vice President at B2Gold, commented: “Suntrace and BayWa r.e. have played a vital role in our work towards more sustainable production at Fekola. The implementation of a solar-battery hybrid system was an obvious choice to help achieve this, not only for its environmental credentials, but also its economic viability. This is a landmark project which we expect to pave the way for more sustainable power generation within the mining industry in West Africa.”
The integration of the solar power plant with the battery system will ensure safe and reliable power, saving 13.1 million litres of heavy fuel oil (HFO) a year. The close collaboration of all three parties as one team was vital to implementing this complex project, helping to realise the huge potential of solar battery hybrid systems.
Martin Schlecht, COO at Suntrace, said: “We are very proud that B2Gold has entrusted Suntrace, together with BayWa r.e. as Engineering and Procurement contractor, to support the development and implementation of this innovative project. Thanks to excellent team work with B2Gold and BayWa r.e., we were able to manage the completion despite the global challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on all of us. We are proud to jointly deliver a functioning project, well integrated with the mining operations, which reduces CO2 emissions from power generation for the Fekola mine by roughly 20%.”
The PV-battery system will help to reduce CO2 emissions by 39 000 tonnes per year.
Thorsten Althaus, Project Manager at BayWa r.e., added: “Integrating such a large amount of solar into a small, isolated grid safely and reliably has been a major technical challenge and required the use of battery storage as well as a tailor-made control system. This was conceptualised in the early stages of the project and we ensured that our vision was implemented accordingly by the suppliers. It is extremely rewarding to see how well this solution performs in reality and shows that the technology works and is just waiting to be applied on further projects.”
B2Gold expects to produce between 530,000 to 560,000 ounces of gold at Fekola, one of the world’s largest gold mines, this year.
BHP deliberates ditching fossil fuels for greener mining
The world’s biggest miner, Australian-based BHP, is supposedly considering withdrawing from a multi-billion dollar contract, which would see the company generate more than US$2bn due to mounting pressure over aligning its business with ongoing climate concerns and ESG-compliance measures.
Exiting the agreement would mean BHP escalate its distancing from oil and gas and subsequently cut down on the amount of fossil fuels used by the company when mining.
It’s estimated that the petroleum business being debated upon could actually be worth around US$15bn but is still under talks to be put up for sale.
Global Mining Giant Considers Greener Future
BHP has made itself clear that it wants to avoid becoming unable to sell its assets. As competition within the market increases following higher numbers of oil giants wrestling with investors to deal with climate pressure, so too are the number of mining rivals looking to make environmental changes for the future.
However, BHP currently has the upper hand as a stalwart mining company that established itself back in the 1960s, allowing it the time to grow and dominate over other fast-appearing mining competition.
Mike Henry, BHP Chief Executive, has an optimistic outlook for the future of oil and gas despite worries over rising demand to align his business with the Paris Climate Agreement. Henry argues that prices remain promising due to a lack of industry-wide investment.
BHP’s petroleum business won’t be easy to say goodbye to. Forecasted to generate around 6% of profits during the ongoing financial year (US$2bn), and around US$1.6bn revenue produced by BHP petroleum in the six months leading to December 2020, BHP is due to take a hit no matter what agreement they choose.
On the other hand, distancing itself from thermal coal and petroleum would arguably aid the company’s case to possible - and valuable - investors who may be required to fund BHP’s increased output to places such as Australia and Mexico in the near future.
BHP considers cutting billion-dollar contract to aid climate
An exit away from petroleum has the potential to be “a powerful corporate catalyst,” says Dominic Kane, Analyst at JP Morgan.
“We believe an exit would likely ring-fence BHP’s exceptional cash flows for non-fossil fuel organic growth, mergers and acquisitions and generous shareholder distributions since BHP could avoid a major new capital investment phase this decade in petroleum.”
BHP is also set to sanction a giant US$5.7bn Canadian potash mine in August of this year, already seeing potash as a long-term substitute for gas and oil going into the future. The company has also previously announced plans to abandon its 80% share in its joint endeavour with Mitsui, owner of two lower-quality mines in Queensland, Australia.
BHP is scheduled to report its annual results on August 17, after which it may become clearer on whether the company will choose to focus its shift to a low-carbon economy or whether it will stay with its current contract into the coming year.