Mine site camps could lower carbon footprints
Researchers from Murdoch University have found that the carbon footprint of mine site villages can be significantly improved without affecting the bottom line. The study was funded by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage program.
Lead researcher David Goodfield conducted a detailed examination of a mining camp in WA’s mid-west. He found that the overall carbon footprint varied according to the potential life of the camp; for a camp with a life span of five years, it amounts to approximately 2600 tonnes CO2-e.
“That includes the carbon emissions from constructing the camp and buildings; the electricity to run the camp, deliver goods, pump water, deal with waste and so on,” Goodfield said.
“It equates to at least 16 tonnes per camp resident, which is on top of the carbon they are responsible for while at home.
“If you extrapolate that across the nation, the carbon saving is worth thinking about considering the number of fly-in fly-out workers there are to remote camps such as this one.”
Goodfield found that applying energy efficiency and behaviour change measures was only likely to reduce the carbon footprint by 6%. A much greater reduction could be made by switching the village’s energy supply to renewable sources.
“The camp I examined is powered by the generator at the mine itself, with an 8 km spur line running the electricity between the two points,” he said.
“That spur line cost approximately $2 million to construct. For the same cost, they could have installed a renewable energy system which could have paid for itself in as little as three and a half years.”
Goodfield said any excess power could be redirected to the town’s power supply, possibly offsetting costs further and contributing to the community.
“At the end of the village’s life, solar panels and wind turbines can simply be packed up for use at the next location,” he said. “Or a company could choose to leave a lasting legacy in the town by leaving the infrastructure there.”
Goodfield noted that the initiatives would need to be implemented at the design level - the most cost-effective time in which to reduce carbon footprint, but one where this is often overlooked.
“However, the continually falling price of solar and rise of gas and diesel costs means that further investigation is warranted,” he said.
“What company could argue with attractive payback periods and return on investment whilst reducing their impact on the environment?”
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