Aggreko considers pioneering mine power and cooling changes

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in mining, power generation company Aggreko reflects on operational achievements and technological changes

After operating for over 60 years, leading provider of mobile modular power, temperature control and energy solutions Aggreko is also reflecting on its entrance to mining more than 30 years ago.

Founded in the Netherlands in 1962, Aggreko entered the mining industry in 1991 and about a decade later pioneered modular cooling in underground mining.

Aggreko Australia Pacific Managing Director George Whyte said the Netherlands-born company – now active in about 80 countries globally – has played an evolutionary role in mine power and temperature control.

“In 1991, Aggreko secured its first ever mining project, which was at the Benambra zinc and copper mine in Victoria, Australia,” he said. “At the time we were the only company to put 1MW of power technology into a modular container. Later in 2001 we pioneered modular underground mine cooling in the rental market, also in Australia. Prior to that, mines would purchase fixed cooling and ventilation systems for their operations.

“Some other mines we supported early on included Mt Dimer, Youanmi, Century Zinc, Granites Gold Mine, and the Olympic Dam expansion – which is Australia’s largest open pit mine. Some of these mines are still around today.”

Whyte said energy services at mines had expanded since then, and where it once supported mines operationally with their short-term power and cooling needs, it organically developed into an engineering solutions provider, now active at more than 300 mines globally.

"Over time, our solutions have also become more complex from providing airflow modelling for underground cooling and ventilation to providing fully hybridised micro-grids," he said.

“Of the limited number of off-grid renewable power plants in the world, Aggreko owns and operates three of them, and this is something we are very proud of. Where it was once common for miners to own and operate their own power plants onsite and for us to supply bridging power, it is becoming more common for us to build, own, and operate the power plant for a mine’s life.”

Digitalisation powers mining industry transformation

Whyte said digitalisation has been one of the biggest transformers of the mining industry, as it also assisted with emissions reduction and safety improvements.

“Digital technology provides the data needed to reduce unpaid down-time on mine sites for instance or discover how solar and batteries behave under cloud cover,” he said.  

Global Head of Mining, Rod Saffy, said: "Aggreko is truly a global company – and consistency across our businesses practices, has earned us a reputation for having the highest ethical, environmental, equipment and safety standards wherever we go in the world,” he said, adding its team now stretches to 6,000 people across 80 countries, encompassing a diverse team of engineers, data scientists, technicians and power station operators - who demonstrates there aren't any conditions too cold or hot to operate in.

A recent project included staff enduring extreme environments of the Andes-mountain ranges in Salares Norte, Chile to establish a hybrid and solar power plant 4500m above sea level. Another project saw teams transport equipment via treacherous icy roads to provide 6.5MW of power and heating to a silver mine in British Columbia, Canada.

Within three months Aggreko installed and commissioned a virtual LNG fuel supplied power plant with a heat recovery system. The team also operates in hot climates like Africa and Australia where they establish power plants in the soaring heat or desert.  

Saffy and Whyte believe mining is at the forefront of technology and innovation, and the progress being made in the industry paves the way for other global industries such as manufacturing, construction, and major events.

“The mining industry has some of the most robust environmental and safety standards in the world and the innovations in the industry are truly exciting,” Saffy said. 

Aggreko’s latest technologies include its 1300 kW Ultra-Low Emissions Package – a world-first power generation system which effectively eliminates up to 99% of all controlled emissions from diesel generator exhaust streams. Emission levels are 90% lower than the next best available technology on the market.

Other technologies the company has either deployed or developing, include: 

  • Modular solar power 
  • Organic Rankine Cycle technology (heat from generator exhausts converts into useable energy) 
  • Renewable energy solutions (such as wind farms, solar and hydro power)
  • Mobile wind solutions and pumped, mechanical and flywheel energy storage 
  • Fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels (which will become more prevalent in the next decade and can be switched into Aggreko’s modular power generators).

Aggreko has set a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and 2030 target to reduce diesel use in its customer solutions by 50%. To read more on Aggreko's green power solutions, click here.

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