Caterpillar’s microgrid controller and 7.5MW battery storage installed at gold mine in DRC

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Caterpillar’s grid stabilising equipment, including battery storage modules at Kibali gold mine. Image: Caterpillar.

Global equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has supplied hybrid energy solutions technology including 7.5MW of battery storage to the microgrid powering a gold mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

Caterpillar’s Master Microgrid Controller, the company’s bi-directional power inverters and remote asset monitoring technologies have been integrated along with Caterpillar lithium-ion battery Energy Storage System (ESS) modules, to 36 Caterpillar diesel gensets and three hydroelectric power stations to the energy system at Kibali gold mine in DRC’s Haut-Uele province.  

The project has been carried out by regional Caterpillar distributor Tractafric for customer Barrick Gold Corporation. Kibali was opened in 2013 and produced 808,000 ounces of gold last year. Caterpillar also supplies other equipment including haul trucks and water delivery systems to the mine. 

The new grid stabilising equipment reduces the need for spinning reserve at the site, decreasing diesel consumption annually by around 3 million litres, as well as reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. 

“The result is continuous, reliable power for the Kibali mine generated at the lowest unit cost rate through maximum renewable energy penetration. We are investigating options to improve on this blend,” Barrick Gold’s chief engineer for Africa and the Middle East Rousseau Jooste said.

Jooste added that the project required “an exceptional collaborative effort” between the equipment supplier, Tractafric and the on-site technical team at the mine, not least of all because the COVID-19 pandemic meant that “innovative remote technologies” had to be used to get the system commissioned.

One of many smart battery-backed solutions at mines worldwide

It’s the latest in a series of global projects to use battery storage and related advanced energy equipment to reduce fuel costs, fuel import logistics, grid electricity costs and carbon footprints at gold mines and other mining sites. 

Most recently covered by have been the award of a contract to power station operator company EDL for a solar-plus-storage solution at a Rio Tinto bauxite mine in Queensland, Australia. Also in Australia, the energy storage arm of energy technology company Wärtsilä recently said its first battery project in the country will help reduce runtime and increase efficiency of dual fuel engines at a gold mine in the north. 

Elsewhere, PV inverter company Sungrow’s energy storage division will supply inverters and battery storage to a gold mine in Egypt in a solar-plus-storage project by developer juwi. Further projects have been recently announced at two nickel mines in Australia and an ilmenite mine in Madagascar.

Those are some projects that are underway, while in April a large-scale solar-plus-storage project was successfully commissioned at Fekola gold mine in Mali

Mines are often found in remote locations with limited or non-existent grid connection, but often have high power quality requirements, making them excellent candidates for batteries and renewable energy. 

“Renewable energy sources are assuming a growing role at mines and other remote, off-grid applications,” Caterpillar Large Electric Power Solutions general manager Bart Myers said, adding that the Kibali project features “the latest field-proven technologies” in the power system configuration with grid stabilisation capabilities.

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