Iluka Resources will convert the diesel power station at the Jacinth Ambrosia minerals sands mine in South Australia into a hybrid facility after signing a contract with Pacific Energy.
The 10 megawatt (MW) facility at the mine has been operated by Pacific Energy subsidiary KPS since 2009, the same year that production started at the site.
The conversion to hybrid electricity will involve electric turbo compounding (ETC) technology which works by recovering waste energy from the exhaust, improving efficiency.
The contract will give KPS seven more years at the mine as it installs 3.5MW of solar power, combining new power sources with diesel sources through ETC technology.
Pacific Energy chief executive Jamie Cullen said the move was like nothing seen before.
“This is an exciting development for both Pacific Energy and Iluka Resources in what we believe is a world first – integrating solar and ETC technology with an existing fossil fuel facility,” Cullen said.
The Jacinth Ambrosia mine produces an estimated 120 tonnes of heavy minerals concentrate per hour.
Such levels of production would usually mean greater levels of energy use, but Cullen said the conversion to hybrid energy would go a long way to offsetting such a throughput.
“The reduction in diesel consumption and improvement in fuel efficiency is expected to save over (two) million litres of diesel and over (5500) tonnes of CO2 per year, every year, for at least the next seven years,” Cullen said.
The Jacinth Ambrosia mine is the world’s largest zircon mine and produced 260,000 tonnes of zircon in 2019.
Iluka general manager for Australian operations Shane Tilka said the hybrid conversion is exactly what the company needed to do at this moment in time.
“The move from diesel to hybrid energy at Jacinth Ambrosia marks an important evolution in Iluka’s Australian operations. With the large solar resources available to us, the conversion is aligned with Iluka’s purpose to deliver sustainable value,” Tilka said.
“The mineral sands and rare earths produced by Iluka are used in a range of sustainable development and renewable energy applications, including solar panels and wind turbines. It is exciting to see our first site powered by the same technology for which the products we mine and process are essential to manufacture.”