Changing climate, changing priorities: the transition to a low-carbon economy (Part 2)

By Dr. Trevor Bergfeldt | April 29, 2020

The mining and metals industry is well acquainted with severe climates and overcoming big challenges like decarbonization. In fact, many mining operations are located in harsh environments―environments that are rapidly changing. Global energy use is ten times greater now than it was a hundred years ago–and it’s growing. We’ve quenched our thirst for energy with fossil fuels, releasing billions of tonnes of anthropogenic CO2 into the atmosphere. In the last thirty years we’ve emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere than ever before. All this additional CO2, coupled with massive deforestation, has thrown the carbon cycle out of balance, resulting in the slow warming of the planet. Without a way to offset the emission of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels, the carbon cycle will continue to be out of balance and the earth’s temperature will continue to rise with catastrophic consequences.

A solutions checklist

As part of our commitment to building a better world through positive change, Hatch is dedicated to the mitigation of climate change.We accept the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific findings that climate change is unequivocal and caused by human activities. We believe immediate and sustained actions are imperative. To that end, we’re engaged in targeted and action-oriented multi-sector initiatives to address specific technical, environmental, social, and financial issues.

Hatch partners with many of the world’s leading miners and refiners to design and deliver their operational facilities. As such, we intimately understand these complex, integrated processes, energy requirements, and product lifecycles.

Employing the following decarbonization strategies is integral to our commitment: avoidance of carbon combustion, the reduction and efficient use of carbon, removal of carbonaceous gases from our atmosphere, and improving society’s resilience to our planet’s changing climate.

So, what does that mean in terms of actions that can be taken today by miners and metallurgical operators?

  • Converting coal, diesel, or heavy oil-fired boilers, driers, and kilns to natural gas or electricity
  • Converting light- and heavy-duty fleets to battery electric, hybrid, or fuel cell vehicles
  • Offsetting carbon-based fuels by adding renewable energy into a hybrid microgrid
  • Managing inventory and stockpiles to control moisture content in feed materials
  • Replacing trucks with electric conveyor systems for materials transport
  • Optimizing mine ventilation for seasonal temperatures
  • Substituting biomass in furnaces, kilns, and driers
  • Reusing high temperature off-gases for preheating
  • Stabilizing furnace power

There are many other near- and longer-term abatement opportunities to consider depending on the type of operation, its location, and the site-specific priorities. With many companies now exposed to carbon prices or emissions trading schemes and adopting internal carbon prices to evaluate capital projects, there are real financial incentives to implementing carbon reduction projects.

Building a roadmap

The first step on the journey to carbon neutrality begins with mapping emission sources, followed by identifying and validating opportunities, and then charting and implementing a GHG reduction roadmap. The roadmap starts with short-term wins and progresses to more transformative changes on the path to the holy grail of carbon neutrality. We must remember that the roadmap is not static―it's an iterative tool in which the priority of some opportunities will change based on the impact of others and the addition of new low-emission technologies as they become commercially available and cost-competitive.

Hatch’s multi-disciplinary cross-sectoral approach to decarbonization couples engineering excellence with technology identification and evaluation, investments and business planning opportunities, sustainable financing advisory, and environmental and social impact best practices.

This is Part 2 of a two-part blog. Read Part 1 of this blog here. 

To read Hatch's statement on climate change and sustainability, click here.