Power plant designer and manufacturer USP&E Global says the West Africa region currently contributes about 20% to 30% of its yearly revenue.
“This figure should continue to grow, owing to an increase in modern solutions being delivered to the region,” USP&E Europe, Middle East and Africa MD Johan Helberg tells Mining Weekly.
The company has several contracts with notable mining houses in Mali, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.
USP&E provides power station solutions and services for some of the world’s largest mineral producers and some of the fastest-growing and innovative junior miners, he adds.
“Our power stations are either thermal or hybrid renewable, and we design, build, engineer, procure and manage, as well as operate and maintain, power plants of up to 500 MW.
“We also supply operational and maintenance teams for long-term services at sites globally.”
These contract engagements can span from about three months to as long as 15 years and can generate millions of dollars in revenue over their duration.
Helberg says the company has noticed an increased interest in compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquified natural gas (LNG), not only in Africa but worldwide.
However, he stresses that the challenge lies in ensuring a stable and secure supply of these gases to reap the desired benefits, hence, USP&E’s facilitating the supply of CNG and LNG, through local distributors by means of virtual pipelines, for clients using CNG and/or LNG at their industrial mine sites and facilities.
He explains that a virtual pipeline is not a physical pipeline, but that it rather consists of logistics partners that supply the CNG or LNG by means of trucks, ships or planes that are adequately equipped to transport cryogenics.
“As a rule, the distance between bulk supply point and the consumer has a major impact on operational expenditure (opex),” he explains.
Additionally, should the cryogenic approach be taken, more resources need to be made available to gasify the bulk supplies for effective use.
This would add to the overall capital expenditure and opex elements over the life of the operation. Consequently, the company
now also owns and deploys a large fleet of gas turbines that are modular and containerised and can be installed in under two weeks.
“These turbines can produce up to 31 MW each under full load,” states Helberg.
The company introduced two new products to its African portfolio this year to maximise its interoperability across the mining sector.
“Our SmartPower software and SmartCrypto systems are now available to clients,” he enthuses.
SmartPower is an artificial-intelligence-driven, machine-learning-based software that aims to ensure that clients’ power objectives are met.
The company supplies reliable, efficient and thermo-renewable energy technologies, which are supported by proprietary software that uses predictive analytics, and machine-learning and statistical algorithms.
The technology enables clients to have a much better understanding of how clients’ assets are operating, no matter where they are located.
The data is captured and made readily available to impact on outcomes-based models and, ultimately, the performance of the power plants.
“The goal is to progress beyond knowing what has happened, to provide a best assessment of what will happen in the future,” says Helberg.
Further, SmartCrypto uses performance analytics and predictive analytics to optimise power output and reduce fuel consumption.
USP&E has been working with some of the world’s leading cryptocurrency mining houses to drive down carbon emissions, increase efficiencies, and manage power availability and reliability through its proprietary software systems, including SmartCrypto.
“When it comes to sustainable energy for crypto mining, USP&E offers a full range of thermal and renewable-hybrid power station options, including diesel, natural gas engines and natural gas turbines, wind energy, solar power and energy storage.”
Bitcoin mining runs off high-powered servers and computer processors and equipment to solve advanced mathematical equations and, as such, is extremely energy intensive, adds Helberg.
Reliability and energy affordability are essential for bitcoin operations’ economic and environmental sustainability.
Helberg says USP&E faces three major challenges, the first of which is contracting qualified local suppliers – recruiting and fairly contracting with experienced artisans, engineers and technicians – in the areas in which it operates.
Further, travelling directly in and out of various countries is time-consuming; clients could be served better if its suppliers were available locally to mitigate the waste of valuable collaboration time.
Dealing with the national compliance and governmental regulations of governments, as well as socio- and geopolitical issues, is also challenging.
“At USP&E we focus on uplifting skills levels and help create hope for a better future for all Africans through bringing reliable power to counter energy poverty.
“Through this, we participate in various training schemes as an enabler to help individuals and societies to make better and informed decisions for a brighter tomorrow.
“USP&E faces many challenges and solves problems through collaborating with clients on a daily basis, to align our core values with each client, and to collectively address issues and make a meaningful impact on site,” he concludes.