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Mining giant Glencore receives Li-ion storage system to replace diesel at Quebec mine

Mining giant Glencore has taken delivery of a lithium-ion energy storage system at a nickel mining complex in Canada, to be used to lower diesel costs and integrate power from wind turbines.

Electrovaya, which supplied Glencore with the battery-based system, claims the new system could lower diesel consumption at the mine by 35% to 50%. Work on the project, at Raglan mine in northern Quebec, was announced last year. On Thursday, Ontario-based Electrovaya, which specialises in lithium-ion batteries for various sectors, said it has now delivered its Lithium-Ion 2.0 energy storage system to the site.

According to Electrovaya, the battery system delivered for Glencore is worth US$700,000. The company, which has worked with local engineering partners Tugliq and Hatch Limited, claims Lithium-Ion 2.0 can “accept and store energy from all sources including diesel generators, solar and wind”.

Mining industry publication Mining Weekly reported last August that Glencore began installing a 3MW wind turbine at Raglan mine in summer, capable of offsetting 5% of current diesel consumption at the plant. Ramping up the wind farm’s capacity by adding more turbines would allow it to get that figure closer to 40%, Mining Weekly said. Raglan currently uses around 50 million litres of diesel fuel each year.

The project is the latest in the growing number of diesel genset replacements at industrial operations around the world. While the social benefits of bringing electricity to remote and off-grid communities using storage are readily apparent, it is still a relatively expensive process. On the other hand, in some territories the use of renewables-plus-storage at commercial and industrial operations where fossil fuels are burned in large quantities is already beginning to make economic sense.

The remote operation in northern Canada currently uses around 50 million litres of diesel annually. Image: Glencore.
Currently, sun-rich territories that have large amounts of mining taking place at remote and off-grid locations are seeing the installations of more and more renewable energy facilities complete with energy storage. Australia, Africa and Latin America have all seen prominent examples of such technology. The Raglan mine in Quebec will be part of a five-year test for Glencore to assess the suitability of such a system running on wind power, Mining Weekly said in the August report.

Australia Energy Storage Council chief John Grimes, who is also head of the Australian Solar Council, has talked up the economic potential of energy storage for use in off-grid locations, as well as for environmental reasons in his own country.

“For the last ten years diesel prices have been increasing approximately 5% per annum in Australia, with many remote areas paying more than AU$2.50 a litre for delivered diesel fuel,” Grimes said.

“Add to this the cost of maintaining the generators, as well as the non-economic impact of noise and pollution on local communities, and the business case quickly stacks up for renewable energy coupled with energy storage in off-grid Australia.”

Meanwhile Electrovaya chief executive officer Dr Sankar Das Gupta was quick to point out the scale of potential available for replacing diesel with lithium-ion and localised generation.

“The reduction of diesel consumption in a diesel generator by pairing to a lithium battery is a generic solution to many industrial sectors including mining, micro-
grids and powering remote locations and it is estimated that there are about 200 million diesel generators in the world.”

PV inverter maker SMA has also been developing diesel replacement or hybrid plants paired with storage at remote and off-grid locations. Image: SMA.

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