ARENA provided $300,000 to lay the groundwork for a renewable biogas project in the Pilbara. The Investigating a Bioenergy Alternative for Mines project found that it is technically feasible to supply remote mine sites with electricity and/or natural gas produced from purpose grown biomass using mine dewatering using Anaerobic Digestion.
The project found that it is technically feasible to supply remote mine sites with electricity and/or natural gas produced from purpose grown biomass using mine dewatering.
The project carried out a detailed literature review which concluded that sweet sorghum could be grown in sufficient quantities in the Pilbara region using mine dewatering, and could be harvested annually to serve as a short rotation biomass feedstock.
The project also explored biomass to energy technology pathways and found that there are anaerobic digestion technology providers who could potentially develop localised solutions for converting locally sourced biomass into electricity or into renewable natural gas at remote locations in Australia.
Remote mine sites in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are heavily reliant on diesel generation for their energy needs. Such mining operations are exposed to volatile fluctuations in the commodity prices which place significant pressure on mining industry operators to reduce risks and costs to remain competitive.
Renewable energy solutions can assist mining operations to reduce costs, but the industry will remain skeptical until the economics and reliability of RE solutions are proven.
Bioenergy developer C2k was established by AgGrow Energy Resources, a developer of sustainable renewable energy and bioenergy solutions.
With ARENA’s support, C2k undertook feasibility work into supplying mine sites with renewable electricity from biomass energy. Water pumped out during mine excavations also known as mine dewatering is often high in minerals and ideal for crop growing. The project investigated using excess water from Consolidated Minerals’ Woodie Woodie mine in the Pilbara to grow sweet sorghum as a biomass feedstock for.
Growing 60,000 tonnes of sorghum would produce around 9 million cubic meters of biogas annually over 10 years. The gas power station would have an installed capacity of 2.5MW and would retain some backup diesel generating capacity.
C2k also investigated the feasibility of converting of excess biomass into an alternative transport fuel for mine vehicles and long-haul trucks.
The WA Government has earmarked $3.07 million for the project through its Royalties for Regions Program.
The Investigating a Bioenergy Alternative for Mines project could potentially replace four million litres of diesel each year and its success would demonstrate another renewable energy option for off-grid, diesel-dependent mining operations.