Economic Aspects to Fuel Cell Mine Applications

CIM Montreal 2007
Marc Bétournay, Marcel Laflamme, Arnold Miller, David Barnes,
Roger Lacroix, M.C. Bétournay, Marcel Laflamme, Arnold Miller, David Barnes

Underground mining diesel emissions and energy efficiency are critical mining industry issues that hydrogen fuel cells could help resolve at this time. Canadian mines are highly mechanized and predominantly use diesel equipment in primary ore handling. The recognition that diesel emission particulate matter (DPM) could be carcinogenic is of concern to all industry stakeholders. Fuel cell technology provides a clean solution, which will allow for significant reduction in underground ventilation dilution requirements (20% to 50% depending on the depth and ventilation system of the mine). Since underground ventilation represents about 40% of mine electrical consumption, significant savings and the elimination of DPM’s would be realized. Other issues, such as reduction of green house gas emissions and simplification of maintenance and tele-operation of production would also be registered.

This article will review the range of operational savings associated with the application of hydrogen fuel cells in underground mine vehicles. Trends in capital costs for fuel cells and entire fuel cell power plants (cell stacks, hydrogen storage, ancillary operating equipment) will be examined in order to arrive at current and projected capital plus operating costs for mine extraction equipment, diesel and fuel cell power versions. Included in the analysis will be mine operation modifications required for hydrogen use (e.g. storage and delivery systems, risk mitigation systems).

Cost-benefit differences between diesel and fuel cells are only one of the economic considerations in replacing mainstay technology for mine extraction (diesel). The article will present market issue considerations in order to establish a more comprehensive understanding of all financial requirements associated with the evolutionary shift towards fuel cell application is mines. This will include the availability of products (manufacturing capability) and support from technology and gas suppliers, stack and hydrogen storage technology trends, rate of technology advance (i.e. obsolescence of technology product during life of vehicle and economically viable replacement given fuel cell cost reduction trends), and the influence of the direction and evolution of power plants for the automobile market.

The article will also examine mining industry mindset to new technologies and the replacement/modification of existing equipment.
Keywords: Energy efficiency, Mine vehicle power plants, Fuel cell market issues, Underground air quality, hydrogen, Cost-benefit analyses, Fuel cells
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