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Web Story 28-10-2022

4 min read

Partnering with LKAB for sustainable mining of the future

Sweden-based high-tech mining group Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) has a venerable past based on careful planning for the future. In recent years, the 130-year-old iron ore and specialty products producer has prioritized the development of a new generation of sustainable, carbon-neutral mines, and Hitachi Energy's energy consulting experts have helped them.

Challenge

LKAB's goal is for mine processes and products to be carbon-free by 2045. At the same time, ore production is expected to increase by 40-50% during the transition, which also includes targets to reduce energy consumption.

An underground mine starts at the surface and descends to the depth. The deeper you go, the more intensive and expensive the operation becomes, and the greater the need for safety, high efficiency and productivity. Major electrical loads include: ventilation systems to maintain good air quality in the mine and remove existing vehicle exhaust and detonations, conveyor systems to bring ore to the surface, pumping systems to drain water from the mine, etc.

After mining ore in the far north of Sweden for more than 100 years, LKAB is now heading for the 2,000-meter depth. To sustain a new world standard of safe, profitable and sustainable mining, the company must apply digitization, automation, electrification and new working methods with the help of strategically selected partners to significantly rethink mining and extraction technologies.

Solution

Hitachi Energy's consulting experts helped LKAB realize its vision with strategic analysis and advice that will help transform the company's mining operations by making power and energy systems more affordable, efficient, and flexible, in one of the largest industrial investments in Swedish history.

An important part of Power Consulting's support is the drafting of sustainable scenarios carried out in collaborative working groups with LKAB. The use of electric vehicles in mining requires safer and more reliable charging stations and power supply. Hundreds of digital models of combined power systems to outline different scenarios have been developed and tested to build the designs and configurations needed to meet LKAB's future power system needs.

LKAB is thus provided with the optimum solutions early in the decision-making process, based on results obtained from the analysis. For example, the impact of deploying a future fleet of electric vehicles and chargers on the mine’s power distribution network can be assessed, as well as the need for power support sources like battery storage or microgrids, and how they should be designed, so that LKAB has a comprehensive portfolio of possibilities to choose from to fulfill its vision.  

LKAB’s transformation comprises two parts – the creation of sustainable underground mining operations with increased productivity and lower environmental impacts, and the large-scale production of carbon-free sponge iron from the magnetite ore it mines, instead of traditional iron pellets. 

LKAB plans to eliminate carbon from the energy-intensive iron ore refining process by using hydrogen made with carbon-free electricity to facilitate industrial-scale production of carbon-free sponge iron, instead of the traditional refining process that uses energy from fossil fuel to make iron pellets. This gives steel customers, who are the main customers for iron ore, direct access to an energy saving carbon-free product for their steelmaking process. LKAB is also developing new technological processes to extract critical minerals from its own mine waste.

Impact

Sustainable mines play an essential part in the carbon-neutral society. Globally, the iron and steel industry accounts for as much as a quarter of total carbon emissions from industry. 

 

“At LKAB, we are committed to future sustainability. The support from Hitachi Energy provides necessary new insights on the way to CO2-free production, paving the way towards a new world standard of safe, profitable and sustainable mining,” says Per Tomas Uusitalo, Head of Development, Automation and Power, LKAB.

Challenge

  • Targeting expanded production capacity and reduced CO2 footprint, without proportionally increasing energy consumption
  • Focus on reduced CO2-emissions from mining operation, leading to increased electrification (e.g. battery-powered mining machinery)
  • Need for energy optimization in the power system
  • More complex power system drives the need for new analysis methods
  • Need for fact-based decision-making to optimize operations

Solution

  • Contributions to strategy development and implementation plan
  • Development of a complete model of the current power system 
  • Energy losses analysis and reduction, implementation of electrification, energy storage and microgrids, resiliency of power supply, etc
  • Model-based input to support the decision-making process
  • Support in developing internal competency at LKAB in using deployed model 
  • A new analysis and planning framework for future power systems development

Impact
 

  • Future electrical infrastructure excelenting in safety and OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness)

  • New insights on the way to CO2-free mining