Vivo Energy, which sells and distributes Shell- and Engen-branded fuels and lubricants in Africa, believes it will be able to transform how energy is supplied to mines across the continent.
It announced last month that it had reached an agreement to supply Canadian mining company Robex Resources' Nampala gold mine, in Mali, with a hybrid fuel and solar energy solution for a period of five to fifteen years.
The project will involve the construction of a 3.9 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant, with a battery storage capacity of 2.6 MWh which, owing to the energy management system, will be fully integrated into the mine’s existing thermal power plant.
Vivo CEO Christian Chammas tells Engineering News & Mining Weekly that this project is the company’s first contract with one of its commercial customers to provide fuel joined with a hybrid solar energy solution.
Vivo will use this pioneer project to spur further uptake of such projects in Africa to help mining operations reduce their costs and carbon dioxide emissions.
SR Energy partner Alistair Jessop, who is contracted to Vivo, says construction on the solar PV plant will start in early 2021, with an estimated eight-month turnaround time.
The contract is designed so that there is a minimum period of five years for the power purchase agreement, which will most likely extend to 15 years for the solar plant, he notes.
The mine is currently running solely on diesel generators and bringing through the hybrid solar solution will provide economic and environmental benefits, and also security of supply.
During the day, the solar plant will provide power, and at night, the mine will switch to diesel generators.
Chammas says the economics are not yet there for a fully renewable solution, owing to the price of batteries.
Moreover, Jessop explains that a fully renewable source is not reliable enough, as backup will be needed to ensure the mine operations are not regularly forced to stop and restart.
This solution is expected to result in Robex reducing its carbon impact by about 60 000 t over ten years, the equivalent of 140 000 barrels of oil.
It will provide Robex with a complementary source of energy to stabilise its electricity production and reduce its production costs.
Moreover, it is expected to reduce the cost of energy currently consumed by the mine operations.
This solution therefore enables Robex to further improve its profitability, reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and significantly improve its impact on the environment.
Chammas emphasises that the project underlines Vivo’s commitment to developing innovative products and services that reduce its impact on the environment, and that it represents a new type of partnership that it will now look to bolster across the continent.
Jessop says the solution will allow for the production of power at rate cheaper than diesel generation.
Moreover, he highlights substantial benefits in terms of environmental benefits, as alluded to earlier, which is important with mines looking at the green dividend. This is not limited to mining and also has potential across another industries.
Vivo will offer the solution to its existing clients. The company has a footprint in 23 countries on the continent, and has many mining clients, which it can look to leverage in these efforts.