The benefits of a lean & clean mining industry: A conversation with Adam Gangemi from Super Smart Energy
We sat down with Adam Gangemi, Managing Director of Super Smart Energy to discuss how emerging energy efficiency methods in the mining industry are reducing operational costs and carbon pollution, while creating economic opportunities for WA at the same time.
Conversation with Adam Gangemi
Hi Adam, tell us a bit about yourself and the work that you do?
I began my career in the oil and gas industry focusing on hydrocarbon exploration. Approximately five years ago I could see that the levelised cost of energy from new renewable energy generation was heading towards parity compared to fossil fuel generation.
A year later during my MBA studies, I learnt that the Norwegian Sovereign Fund (NSF) had made most of its wealth from oil and gas projects and had started to put pressure on the large corporates (BHP) to get out of coal. I thought to myself, if the NSF is pressuring BHP, it might be time to seriously consider a switch to the clean energy sector. This was the catalyst for me to start Super Smart Energy. We’re a consultancy that helps the mining sector to reduce their energy demand either via renewable energy or through demand-side management solutions. We look at ways to reduce costs and carbon emissions. Mining companies are driven by costs and when we crunch the numbers to show them a clean energy solution that is cost competitive and also helps to promote their corporate social responsibility, their ears prick up and they start to take interest.
How do you define ‘smart energy’ and ‘energy wastage’?
We’re experiencing the fourth industrial revolution through advancements in the internet of things, analytics, cognitive automation and user interface technology, and mine sites are benefiting from this connectivity. ‘Smart Energy’ systems are cost-effective and sustainable and help to integrate and coordinate through enabling technologies. For example, ventilation fans can be triggered by sensors/tags to reduce energy consumption whether or not there are workers or vehicles in a particular space. These technologies have moved us away from the old always on model.
Energy waste is about inefficiency. As equipment gets old, parts begin to slowly wear causing it to consume more energy to complete a similar task. The presence of energy waste is difficult to identify, however, one way that might highlight energy waste is via increased energy costs.
At Super Smart Energy we work with clients to understand how their energy consumption is monitored on-site and evaluate the data. This inevitably leads to discussions about efficiencies and cost-competitive demand management or renewable energy hybrid solutions. Ideally, we would try to promote a 100% renewable solution, however, as it stands, most clients still require gas/diesel generators to be attached, for now.
What are some WA examples of renewable energy being used in the mining sector?
There’s some great work being done in the mining sector here in Western Australia. I guess the introduction of renewables started with solar PV and the introduction of solar lighting towers was one of the first products to be accepted by the industry. Historically diesel powered lighting towers required regular attendance (fuel/maintenance) and the industry saw a need for a more sustainable solution that required less man hours, not to mention the environmental benefits with the reduced CO2 emissions. The first well known renewable energy project was the Sandfire Resources 10.6MW solar farm at the Degrussa Copper and Gold Mine. This was half funded by Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and commissioned in 2016. This project confirmed to the industry that Solar and fossil fuels could co exist and provide reliable power to support the operations of a mine site. In doing so this project offset approximately 5 million barrels of diesel per year. More recently Gold Fields and GMA Garnet Mining are leading the way in the renewable energy space. The Agnew project (Gold Fields) near Leinster is using solar, wind & a battery system supported by gas. Whilst the Port Gregory Project is using a similar design, however, using second hand wind turbines from Germany. There is definitely a lot of interest in the industry as it tries to add renewable energy into the energy mix.
Despite the challenges, I think Western Australia is at the forefront of renewable hydrogen exports to Asia due to our geographic proximity and key customer relationships. If the mining, energy and cleantech industries can combine our knowledge and resources we can fast track this work. Elon Musk and Tesla really pushed the electric vehicle revolution and WA has the opportunity to do the same in the clean energy space.
Will we get to a point where batteries are providing night time load?
The technology is just about there. The cost is greater than a diesel generator at the moment. However, with economies of scale, we'll see battery costs come down like we're currently seeing in the residential sector. The big question is if renewable hydrogen can become a viable energy source? I think we can make renewable hydrogen work domestically but there are still some challenges with exporting due to transportation costs in my opinion.
Oil and gas workers are facing the digitization and electrification of industries. Are there transferable skills for these workers to switch to the renewable energy sector?
In short yes. Many of the technical and managerial needs for a low carbon economy are similar to those in the traditional energy and power industries. However, at present the transfer or switch to RE is minimal. We need governments to make firm commitments and establish a long term vision that supports the energy transition. I believe we need the politicians to help create the policies and investment in frameworks needed for the energy transition to take place. In doing so we will ensure we are on track to meet our climate targets and ensure we transition to a zero carbon economy and avoid the pollute early, pay later model.
Where can folks find out more about your business and the projects you’ve been working on?
Our website Supersmart.energy is the best place to learn more about what we do or jump on our LinkedIn page. We also have a sister company Energy Smarts that’s focused on helping high schools, supermarkets and large industrial users to reduce their energy spend and with some solutions requiring no capital cost by the business owner.
Managing Director of Super Smart Energy | BSc (hons), MBA, GAICD.
Adam is a passionate energy professional who focuses on providing industry leading low carbon/energy solutions to his clients. Connect with him on LinkedIn.