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Green ammonia to reduce mines’ Scope 3 emissions

21st October 2022

By: Leah Shelene Asaram

Features Reporter

     

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As explosives and blasting services contribute largely to carbon emissions, the mining sector needs to implement alternative explosives production processes to reduce its carbon footprint, and one way of doing this is to create green ammonia through water-electrolysis, says explosives and blasting services provider Enaex Sociedad Anomina (S.A.) subsidiary, Enaex Africa CEO Francisco Baudrand.


Baudrand deems ammonia the principle raw material in blasting, as it is used to produce ammonium nitrate solution, the main building block for explosives manufacturing.

The ammonia that Enaex S.A. imports represents about 90% of the total carbon footprint in the production process and, consequently, to effect emissions reduction, ammonia has to be “greened”.

This will decarbonise the explosives production process, and will help the mining industry to minimise its Scope 3 emissions, Baudrand comments.

HyEx Project

To implement this change, Enaex S.A., which is based in Chile, has developed the HyEx project, which will use green hydrogen, generated through water electrolysis powered by renewable energy, to create green ammonia.

This transition away from coal gasification and steam methane processes to one powered by green hydrogen is expected to significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

“The green ammonia process is not new at all, but requires a lot of energy, so is critical to continue improving the technology to produce hydrogen, to make these kind of projects financially feasible” he adds.

Fortunately, northern Chile is recognised as one of the best places in the world to produce green ammonia in the future, owing to the “excellent” solar radiation in the Atacama Desert, Baudrand adds.

Consequently, the company can leverage the region’s superior solar irradiance to power the electrolysis process.

“But our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint started back in 2008, with the first project of Enaex in Chile of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) reduction, which was certified by the intergovernmental organisation United Nations”.


Meanwhile, Phase 1 of the project should begin in 2025 and will include the production of 18 000 t of green ammonia using green hydrogen produced by Enaex’s partner and global energy company Engie’s 26 MW electrolysis plant.

Phase 2, planned for 2030, will aim to produce about 700 000 t of green ammonia using a

2 800 MW electrolysis plant to produce feedstock and export of green ammonia.

Baudrand says that, according to international experts, this project should be feasible by the end of the decade, but Enaex has opted for a two-phase project to achieve results sooner.

“We will stop in some moment importing gas, today it comes from the US, and will generate a new industry for Chile – one based on renewable energy – and generate a positive impact on the environment and society.”

Baudrand notes that Enaex has sought to reduce its carbon footprint from the onset: “Small efforts have helped the company to place in the top 10% of chemicals companies on the 2022 Dow Jones Sustainability Index.”

Corporate Social Responsibility

Enaex S.A. and Enaex Africa also prioritise creating positive impacts on affected communities to create better outcomes and a better future.

Baudrand stresses that a key pillar to any successful outcome is education, adding that “education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”.

Consequently, Enaex Africa has invested in a local early childhood development programme, targeting a preprimary school, in the Steelport area, in Limpopo province.

“From ten months to five years old, are the most critical years in a child’s life. This is where the building blocks need to not only come into place but also be placed with purpose.”

These years are intrinsically transformational, as they lay the foundation for the child’s learning and knowledge development, with Baudrand adding that this is instrumental to determining developmental outcomes to adulthood.

It is crucial to enable children to have the correct tools to transform and develop to their full capacity. With the correct tools and stimuli, they will have the opportunity to progress and succeed to not only their advantage but also that of the community, he adds.

Through the programme, Enaex Africa plans to upgrade infrastructure, upskill educators and improve technology to create a proper learning environment in which all the necessary facilities are at the children’s disposal.

By doing this, Enaex Africa hopes to not only see the child progress and eventually attend a tertiary institution, but also, potentially, become a member of the Enaex Africa group.

“It is personally important to me to improve these lives because as a leader, the smallest changes can impact a lot on the community,” he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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