Monthly Archives: November 2011

Renewable energy to steer mining

An increasingly economically viable option for the mining industry is the development of green mining initiatives and more environment-friendly projects.


Mining companies have not been able to work sparingly with energy as they grind ore, but the increasing cost of energy has miners turn to renewable energy to cut costs. The rise of electricity prices is impacting on existing and future operations and many mining houses are examining the long-term cost curve of energy and challenges to the sustainability of the mine going forward. Around 25 percent of production costs represent energy and companies like Barrick Gold Crop., Teck Resources Ltd. and Rio Tinto PLC has ambitious wind-farm projects in motion that will reduce energy costs and provide the much-needed social benefit of reducing their environmental footprint. Environmental compliance and future cost considerations will become a mainstream business requirement and will impact on the mining industry. In South Africa, at AngloGold Ashanti/Motjoli Resource Mining for Change workshop, Pan-African Capital CE Dr Iraj Abedian advocated the concept of mining and managing the environment as a joint production activity that could dovetail with other pursuits like the agriculture and light industry. Solar, Wind and other renewable energy projects are considered to clean up their operations and investments are being made to work towards a greener mining industry. Emerging coal company Ecca Group CEO Dale Packham says investment access is more readily available for environment-friendly projects. The concept of green finance and responsible investing has resulted in investors examining whether a company of mine is as suitable as they should be. The world’s largest gold miner, Barrick Gold Corp is moving ahead with alternative energy projects, and has inaugurated its $70-million Punta Colorada wind operation, the first wind farm built by a mining company in Chile. Barrick’s vice president of environment said, “It’s a good opportunity for our guys in south America to get first-hand experience with what it takes to operate wind farms long-term. Our position right now as a company is really one of looking at the future, trying to understand a bit about where the energy market is going, but also trying to understand where government is taking us regarding climate change.”


Sustainable energy source; Miscanthus

The word’s dwindling supply of oil and coal resources has intensified the search for alternative, sustainable energy.   A perennial grass, Miscanthus Giganteus could effectively reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, while lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide.


The word’s dwindling supply of oil and coal resources has intensified the search for alternative, sustainable energy.   A perennial grass, Miscanthus Giganteus could effectively reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, while lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Using a simulation tool that models the future global climate, researchers predicts energy crop, Miscanthus can repair the carbon that is released into the atmosphere from the loss of natural vegetation within 30 years.

According to scholars from the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan, the long perennial grass may become a sustainable and environmental-friendly energy source.  “As the world is faced with a serious resources shortage, the search for alternative energy should be a nation’s top priority. Miscanthus, known as elephant grass, has already been grown in Europe and based on an Irish study, if 10 percent of growing land in Europe is planted with Miscanthus, it can generate about 9 – 10 percent of total electricity needs in the European Union countries,” said Tzen-Yueh Chaing, professor of life sciences.

Miscanthus can be found in several areas in Taiwan; the rapid growing grass has a low mineral content and salt-proof characteristic.  The energy grass can save energy and reduce carbon emissions, it is also very profitable, once planted it can be harvested year after year for 20 years.  In comparison with heating oil it can reduce heating cost by as much as 50 percent.  One hectare of Miscanthus yields twelve to 20 tons per year and provides an energy yield of about 6,000 liters of heating oil.

“In Taiwan, one hectare of land can produce 38 tons of Miscanthus to replace the most commonly used oil,” said Wen-Teng Wu, director of the energy research centre.

According to Wu, burning one ton of coal will lead to 2.62 tons in carbon dioxide emission, whereas this wild grass can absorb carbon dioxide without polluting the air.

The high energy balance of Miscanthus Giganteus is associated with a high carbon balance for the crop. Calculations put the Miscanthus Giganteus carbon ratio at 53:1 (Renewable Energy World, 2011). This means that, of the carbon contained in the fuel, for every one part of man-made carbon input needed to grow and harvest it, 53 parts are absorbed by the crop from the environment.

Air China’s first aviation biofuel test

The successful collaboration by Air China, PetroChina, Boeing and Honeywell UOP confirmed China’s first demonstration flight powered by aviation biofuel.  The first airplane demonstration test was launched in Beijing Capital International Airport on October 28, 2011.


An hour long flight around Beijing by the 20-year old Air China 747-400 was powered in part by a biofuel produced from a shrub called Jatropha.  The trail used 13.1 tons of biofuel blend but for safety the jet’s other three engines was powered by conventional jet fuel.

The flight was deemed a success by Chinese aviation regulators, who represent an important global constituency that coordinates 15,000 commercial flights per day and one of the fastest-growing markets.

Air China has committed itself to green flight of what energy-saving and emission reduction is highly valued.  Through fleet optimization, second dispatch and a series of other actions, the operation efficiency is advanced, aviation kerosene is saved, and exhaust emission is dwarfed. Aiming at energy-saving and emission reduction, Air China created the Energy and Environment Test System in 2009 by itself, inaugurated its Green Flight in 2010, joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) and became the first carrier that launched the airplane demonstration test flight for biofuel in China in 2011.

Industry officials confirmed that the entire project was conducted in China.  “This is China making sure it is comfortable with it,” said Mark Allen, president of Boeing Co.’s China division.

The biofuel test flight was run in coordination with a number of companies, plus the General Aviation Administration of China.   The plane was operated by Air China and powered by United Technologies Corp. Pratt & Whitney engines – though only one of four was running the biofuel blend.

Honeywell International Inc. and PetroChina Co. cooperated on the fuel production.  Zhang Yufeng, vice-president of Honeywell’s specialty materials section said, “Raw material are a big problem, the materials cost means that the price is much higher than traditional fuel and the material cost for biofuel was about two or three times that of conventional fuel.”

Boeing’s Mr. Allen cheered the flight as an “A-Z biofuels test,” from “growth and harvest up through take-off and landing.” He quipped, “This is about biofuels with Chinese characteristics.”

Vice-president of Air China, He Li, said in order to make biofuel flights more commercially viable, large scale production is required.

Transformation in biofuels

Joule Unlimited Technologies Inc. is developing more than just promising technology, the Cambridge, Mass. –based company has won the Silver in this year’s Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award for its transformational approach to highly-efficient renewable fuel production.

Bill Sims, President and CEO of Joule said, “We are honoured to be the Wall Street Journal’s choice for the most innovative energy company, and to be recognized even beyond our industry as one of the world’s top innovators overall.”

He added “We started with a big idea – the direct conversion of sunlight to fuel without raw material feedstocks – and four years later we’ve proven the process, optimized the technology, built a strong patent portfolio and laid the groundwork for commercial production to begin in 2013. We will bring much-needed scalability and infrastructure-readiness to the renewable fuels space, with a platform that can yield multiple products, including valuable, fungible diesel fuel vs. a blendstock like biodiesel. We appreciate this recognition of our company’s efforts to successfully innovate outside of today’s common ‘biofuel’ definition.”

Joule’s Helioculture™ platform has created genetically engineered micro-organisms that secrete ethanol, diesel fuel and other hydrocarbons from water, sunlight and carbon dioxide.  The use of these patented organisms eliminates some of the costly processing steps needed to turn plants into motor fuel.

The company has developed a novel SolarConverter® system to enable the direct, continuous process with productivities that are up to 100x greater than biomass-dependent methods.  Joule can directly produce up to 15,000 gallons of diesel and 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre annually using sunlight, non-potable water and waste CO2 from industrial emitters or pipelines.

Kenny Tang, founder and chief executive of Oxbridge Weather Capital and an Innovation Awards judge said “the technology has the exciting potential to significantly transform the economics of the biofuel industry.”

Green investments outperform

With impending oil price increases, rising food cost and the aftershock of the recent economic crisis, investments in ethical funds have reached a record high.


According to EIRIS, the ethical investment research group, more than £11.3 billion is currently investing in ethical or sustainable funds, an overwhelming increase from just £4 billion in 2011.   It has become evident that companies who manage environmental risks and take advantage of associated opportunities outperform companies who don’t.

According to The Investment Management Association, sales into UK ethical funds rose by 25% in the second quarter of 2011 compared with the same last here.

NEWSWEEK’s Green Rankings showed that companies that ranked in the top 100 of the 2009 ranking, weighted equally, outperformed the S&P 500 by 4.8 percent over the last two years. These companies are collectively up 15.2 percent, compared to 10.4 percent for the S&P 500.

Mark Robertson from EIRIS said they have seen a huge increase in the amount of money being invested ethically.  He added, “Since the credit crunch, people are better informed about the impacts their spending and investments can have, and more are turning to ethical investment which takes a longer-term approach.”

Some of the best-performing ethical funds has been Ecclasiastical’s Amity UK, paying 2.11%, compared with the return on an average of UK company funds at minus 2.35%.    IBM’s stock is up more than 100 percent over the last 5 years, while the S&P 500 has been flat.  IBM has been a pioneer in energy and water efficiency, and is always on the look-out for environmentally focused revenue opportunities


Miscanthus Giganteus demand growing rapidly

The fast-growing energy crop, Miscanthus Giganteus, also known as elephant grass has a growing demand amongst farmers for the use as an industrial feedstock to use for co-firing in electricity production.


In Norfolk England, Steve Bacon, general manager of International Energy Crops addressed farmers at a Miscanthus Giganteus presentation and said, ““This is a green crop. It is good for biodiversity and will help to keep the lights on.”   Bacon said the demand for the energy-crop came from power stations including Ely and Drax in Yorkshire.

Several farmers in Eastern England and especially Norfolk have planted about 10, 000 acres of Miscanthus and were told a precision approach to planting the crop was essential to long-term profitability.

Andy Lee, head of agronomy for Shropshire-based IEC, said “the key to obtaining sustainable yields over at least 20 years was good establishment, protection from rabbits and hares and weed control.”  Miscanthus Giganteus can achieve yields of about 20 tonnes per hectare, which could deliver net returns of more than £1,000 ha.  At 10t yield, net returns would be around £465 ha and 15t around £735 ha.

A grant from Natural England of 50pc was available towards the investment to establish the crop that cost around £2,100 per hectare.  Once the crop is established it is harvested between January and April and once the crop is pelleted and delivered to a power station, it was typically included at a rate of between 10 and a maximum of 20pc of the total feedstock.

Bacon said the two proposed pelleting plants, one in Shropshire and another in Swaffham will boost the production and further reduce the carbon footprint of transport.  He pointed out that in Norfolk and Suffolk, a plant producing 20,000 tonnes of pellets, would require about 1,000 acres of miscanthus.  He said, “Miscanthus is the most exciting crop in the world and your yield almost irrespective of the weather will be 10pc either way.  Once you hit your 15, 18 20 tonnes per hectare, that’s what you’re going to get.  The future looks bright, we already have crops planted and we are looking to double the area next year.”

We have created another Blog!

The Insight Group PLC strives to enhance our readers knowledge about important topics such as; renewable energy , Socially Responsible Investing, Biofuel, Biomass, Green Investments and many other matters about what is going on in the industry.

Keeping that in mind we have created another blog, where we will be adding different, but just as informative postings!


Take a look