Summary – BHP’s Operational Decarbonistation Plan
BHP published its Operational Decarbonisation Investor Briefing a few weeks ago, where it outlined the company’s plans to reach net-zero emissions throughout its global operations.
The immediate target is to reduce operational emissions by a minimum of 30% from 2020 levels before 2030, and then to reach net-zero by 2050. BHP has allocated $4 billion to achieve the initial goal.
Many climate activists were disappointed as they were expecting larger cuts from one of the world’s largest miners. Instead, company executives soberly projected that their emission would rise further in the short term as BHP electrified their operations. They also warned during their presentations that the path towards zero emissions would not be easy and therefore they had chosen a way forward that was “credible” and “cost-effective”.
Although some may be disappointed that the targets were not as aggressive as hoped, the plan put forward by BHP does demonstrate that the company is taking the challenge seriously which will require a significant investment by the miner over many years.
From a supplier’s perspective, the presentations provided insights into the technology that is expected to be used and the roadmap that BHP would be following to cut emissions. Generally, most companies across the industry will be looking at similar strategies. This information can be used by suppliers to better understand how their technologies and solutions can be incorporated into the decarbonatization push that the industry is undertaking.
What is clear from the presentation is that electrifying mining operations is a key goal for BHP and the industry.
BHP – Current Emissions
- BHP’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions are primarily generated by its operations – roughly broken down to 40 per cent from power use, 40 per cent from diesel fuel and 20 per cent from areas such as fugitive emissions from its coal operations.
- Of the Scope 1 emissions from diesel consumption at Escondida and Spence – 80 per cent is from haul trucks, 13 per cent from ancillary equipment, and 7 per cent from water boilers used in the electrowinning process in the cathode area.
- BHP executives believe that they have among the lowest absolute emissions of the diversified mining majors (as represented by the size of the bubble on the chart);
- Among the lowest emissions intensity on a revenue basis (as shown by the company’s position towards the left of the chart);
- BHP continues to make significant progress in reducing emissions against the FY20 baseline. The company has a 12 per cent annual emissions reduction, representing in a 24% reduction over the past two years.
- This drop in emissions was mainly driven by introducing renewable electricity across many of its sites, most notably at Escondida in Chile.
BHP Chile – What is the plan forward?
The Chilean operations of BHP have been the driving force to reducing overall emissions since 2020 for the company.
As mentioned previously, a large part of its 24% deduction since 2021 has been the change to renewables for Escondida and Pampra Norte. Both of which reported net-zero scope 2 GHG emissions starting from 2021 when their PPA ‘s started.
Equally impressive, this includes the desalinated plant that Escondida and Spence requires. Using desalinated water requires around 10 times more power than water drawn from an aquifer since BHP hase to pump it from sea to site. This accounts for around 25 per cent of Escondida’s total power requirements.
The electrification of the mines will increase power consumption over the next decade, but these will be offset by further growing its renewable portfolio. One option that BHP is looking to explore is the potential for Behind the Meter solar generation and storage.
The company has outlined in its presentation some of the projects that it will undertake.
Displace 100% of Diesel in Boilers at Cathode Operations Starting in 2025.
- This will require changing to zero-emission heat sources based on thermo-solar and electric boilers solution.
- This change will reduce diesel consumption by 30m liters and reduce scope1 emissions by 7%.
- The project involves using solar radiation to heat a glycol-water fluid, electric solution maintains the stored fluid at 90°C in steel tanks, and finally the heated water is connected to the existing boiler circuit in the Electrowinning plants.
- Escondida is expected to be operational by 2025 and Spence is programmed to be operational by 2026.
- Escondida would be one of the largest thermo-solar production facilities in the world when it is complete.
Trolley Assists to Advance Fleet Decarbonisation in Chile
- BHP plans to convert its trucks in stages. Stage one is converting trucks to diesel and then diesel with trolley assist by 2030. The second stage involves converting trucks to battery with trolley assist after 2030.
- Moving towards trolley assist requires the installation of electric trolley power lines to power the electric drives of diesel – electric trucks and dynamically charge the batteries of battery electric vehicle (BEV) trucks.
- BHP is aiming to start implementation of trolley assist at Escondida in 2028, and 2029 at Spence.
- BHP has already signed agreements with Caterpillar and Finning to replace Escondida fleet over next 10 years.
- The benefits of trolley assist are that for stage 1, it will reduce haul truck emissions by 30% and in stage 2, it will reduce by emissions to 100%. Other benefits include Increase speed of trucks and shorten haulage cycle.
- BHP believes that it will require 300GWh pa of renewable power for the electrification of its haul fleet. Haul truck emissions represent approximately 80% of Scope 1 emissions at Escondida and Spence.
Sustainable Future: Operations Powered by Renewables
- Electricity – BHP wants to have 100% renewable PPAs to power operations 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. They will look at “behind the meter” renewable electricity to reduce costs and transmission infrastructure.
- Desalination – Escondida and Spence concentrators supplied 100% by desalinated water. Conveyance systems are powered by renewable energy.
- Diesel displacement – Zero emissions material movement: trolley + batteries for haul trucks. Thermo-solar solution executed to displace diesel used for cathode production.
Other Interesting Topics from the Presentation
- Haul trucks are the largest user of diesel in Australia. BHP is betting on electrification of its fleet. Some of the technology is ready, some is under development, and some there is nothing in development.
- The company has now publicly stated that it believes batteries are the preferred technology and not hydrogen. This is due to the efficiency of direct electrification.
- There is going to be opportunity to look further at how best to approach static charging vs dynamic charging.
- BHP executives are excited about dynamic charging since they recognize the productivity loss of having to stop trucks to charge them, taking them out of circuit to replace batteries, and the overall decay of the batteries will be higher if they need to be charged more intensely. The key is installing dynamic charging points where they do not need to be moved frequently.
- BHP expects battery truck opex to be comparable to diesel. This is because electric trucks are expected to have ~2x engine efficiency versus diesel trucks and a reduction of maintenance as they have fewer moving parts.
- The unknowns of batteries are that the electric trucks may require charging more frequently, which could require more truck hours to produce the same volumes. Battery life will potentially be shorter than truck life, in which case batteries will need to be replaced. Operational trials will help us learn more about battery management and battery truck operation.
It is clear that electrifying mines and switching to renewables is top of mind for the industry. The other point that is now starting to hit home with the industry is that there is a clear preference for haul trucks to move towards batteries rather than hydrogen. The experts are aligning on the fact that direct electrification through batteries is more efficient than converting water into hydrogen and then transporting the final product to where it is needed.
While the overall plan may not be acceptable for those looking for more aggressive targets from the world’s largest miner, it does show a realistic path forward for the industry that can be achieved while at the same time growing production. I think it is safe to say that the presentation only provides partial insights into the overall plans of BHP. The company is and will be trialing new technology that can hopefully speed up its transition to net-zero.
From our perspective, suppliers should be looking at how to reduce the carbon emissions from their products or services. This will help mining companies to reduce scope 3 emissions which are considered to be one of the most difficult to tackle since it is not under the direct control of the mine. This can include everything used on-site such as consumables, blasting, transportation of product to customers, etc.
The second insight that we learned is that there are going to be opportunities to help the industry move operations to the point where they are completely electrified. BHP will be looking to electrify anything it can within the mines to reduce carbon emissions. Particularly at operations where it can tap into renewable energy to handle the increase to its electrical demand. It can generally be assumed that this will increase the demand for electrical equipment, mobile equipment, engineering services, construction, etc.
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