Diesel emissions from mobile equipment, like haul trucks, are Teck’s largest source of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Because of this, reducing emissions from diesel use is a core part of our plan to become carbon neutral. In light of our access to low-carbon electricity at the majority of our operations, the shift to powering our equipment with electricity – or “electrification” – will serve as a key step towards reducing GHGs.
Understanding the Challenges of Electrification of Mining Equipment
The electrification of mining equipment presents opportunities for the mining industry to reduce mobile equipment emissions, but it is not without challenges. While electric alternatives for smaller, underground mining equipment and lighter surface vehicles are increasingly available, the high power requirements and extended operating times of large surface mining vehicles create major hurdles in feasibly moving to electric technology.
For example, unlike diesel haul trucks which can be quickly refueled to store enough fuel on board to operate nearly continuously for 24 hours, electric equipment of this size requires long recharge times that could impact mine productivity. This, combined with the lower power delivery of available battery systems, means that large electric battery haul trucks at the size used by Teck are not yet commercially available.
Despite these challenges we remain committed to overcoming these barriers through collaboration across our industry, piloting the latest technology, and ensuring we position ourselves to take advantage of low-carbon technologies as they become available.
Collaborating with Peers to Accelerate Decarbonization
To advance and accelerate the development of low-carbon vehicles, Teck is collaborating with mining peers, mobile equipment manufacturers, transportation suppliers and others. In 2020, we continued our work with the International Council on Mining and Metals’ Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles initiative. This initiative brings together 27 of the world’s leading mining companies and 19 original equipment manufacturers to develop a technology roadmap for scaling up commercially feasible, low GHG mining equipment. In addition to improving the safety of haul trucks, the initiative has a long-term goal to develop GHG-free surface mining vehicles by 2040.
Piloting Electric Equipment at our Operations
We are also advancing several projects to assess the viability of electric mobile equipment at our sites. In 2020 at our Highland Valley Copper Operations we trialed an electric boom truck designed for underground operation. The trial demonstrated that operation of battery-powered electric equipment can be viable with strategic use of charging strategies. In 2020, we also continued to implement the electric crew bus pilot project at our Elk Valley steelmaking coal operations, where the results have been positive.
“These pilot projects allow operations and employees to develop firsthand experience with the unique operating and maintenance aspects of electric vehicles, which will be critical as we scale up electrification in the coming years,” says Peter Wan, Lead, Technology and Innovation.
Automation and Electrification
As Teck increasingly integrates digital systems and advanced analytics into our operational processes, we also see a growing link between automation and reducing our environmental impacts. For example, automation could create opportunities for us to operate larger fleets of smaller zero-emission vehicles, which could allow for steady production at site while reducing emissions from mobile equipment.
Unlocking Opportunities for Clean Energy
Electrifying our vehicle fleet allows us to take greater advantage of clean, renewable electricity. Our operations in B.C, Canada have access to a 95% clean electricity grid and in Chile we made significant progress in 2020 by increasing the supply of renewable power at our Carmen de Andacollo Operations and our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project. Over the long-term, vehicle electrification could more than triple Teck’s total electricity requirements, so our early work in procuring clean energy will help ensure we have an adequate clean supply going forward.
As we work towards our goal to be a carbon-neutral operator by 2050, we continue to evaluate new technologies for low-carbon material movement as they become available. Our ongoing collaboration with our peers and mobile equipment suppliers supports bringing these technologies to the mining industry as viable options.
Learn more about our approach to reducing emissions in the Climate Change section of our website.