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Editorial comment

Mining’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions – greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that a company makes directly and indirectly – are currently responsible for 4 – 7% of global GHG emissions.1,2 However, decarbonisation solutions are emerging to help mining operators contribute to a more sustainable future, improving efficiency and productivity while not impacting the profitability of their operations.

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On average, 40 – 50% of site emissions come from diesel used for mobile assets, so fuel switching and electrification are attractive decarbonisation solutions.3 Liquid sustainable fuels, like biofuel, are an immediate, drop-in solution, offering the potential to decrease carbon emissions by more than 70%, whereas it is estimated that, by 2030, total cost of ownership for a battery-electric haulage truck will be approximately 20% lower than existing diesel trucks.2 Better yet, the availability and accessibility of both are improving, helping to offset longstanding barriers to progress, such as asset and infrastructure replacement.

Recognising that 50% of the fuel used by industrial companies for energy could be replaced with electricity, many mining leaders are embracing electrification’s potential.4 For example, BHP, Rio Tinto, and Vale launched the ‘Charge On Innovation Challenge’ to accelerate the commercialisation of effective solutions for charging large, electric mining haul trucks, with a Shell-led consortium developing a winning solution. Meanwhile, biofuel production is increasing, leading to an average annual growth of 5% in consumption between 2010 and 2019.5

Industrial processing is another key driver of onsite emissions. Removing carbon from processes can be trickier than from fleets, due to emerging technologies that can potentially lead to significant process re-design. For example, this is the case with direct reduced iron, which can produce nearly emission-free steel by replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen, but requires substantial process redesign at the plant level.6

Fortunately, mining operators can unlock improvements by: better tracking output with digital energy management tools; redesigning processes to be more efficient; switching reagents and fuels to more sustainable options like natural gas, hydrogen, or biomass; and integrating carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) into surface plant exhaust streams.

CCUS is perhaps the most exciting of these when it comes to scale and impact, particularly for mining, where 32% of carbon capture storage (CCS) is expected to exist by 2050.7 And for good reason too, since more than 90% of emissions from industrial facilities can be captured by CCUS technologies,8 while mineral carbonation – a carbon capture utilisation (CCU) option – can reduce global warming potential by up to 48%.9 CCUS facilities around the world have the capacity to capture more than 40 million tpy of CO2, which is why Shell is progressing with facilities like Quest CSS in Alberta, which has captured, transported, and secured more than 6 million t of CO2 to date.10

Mining’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions might contribute to 4 – 7% of global GHG emissions, but this becomes 28% if Scope 3 is included (emissions out of direct control of the mining company; for example, produced by suppliers),11 due to the complex and wide-reaching supply chain that mining is involved in, which touches everything from marine to manufacturing.12 By working with cross-sector partners – like those in the shipping sector – operators can reduce their site’s Scope 3 output and work towards meeting environmental targets. After all, the shipping industry transports approximately 80% of the world’s traded goods.13

While there is no single fuel, technology, or solution to address the challenge of decarbonising shipping on its own, LNG is the cleanest fuel currently available to shipping at scale today. LNG reduces GHG emissions from extraction through to combustion by up to 21%, meaning a mining operation that partners with compatible shipping companies can better track and reduce its own Scope 3 output.14


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