December 17, 2015 - When gold producer New Gold hired a BC Hydro-funded Industrial Energy Manager in 2011 and officially opened New Afton mine 15 km west of Kamloops, B.C. in 2012, it was a chance to work with BC Hydro to pursue the first ISO 50001 certification at a mine in North America.
December 17, 2015 By BC Hydro
BC Hydro’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) Program helps organizations staff and deliver on a strategic approach to managing energy. ISO 50001 takes energy management to the next level with an external validation process, a focus on operations and controls and the requirement to understand and document all energy management systems.
ISO 50001: a systemic approach to managing energy
While many organizations have made great strides in reducing energy consumption, they’re now asking themselves whether their project-based approach to energy savings will reach their goals.
Often, the answer is to introduce a systematic approach to managing energy, also known as an energy management system. Taking that approach, while establishing sound business processes, is key to achieving continual improvement in an organization.
In summer 2011, the International Standards Organization released the ISO 50001 energy management system standard, which formalizes energy management and provides a global benchmark. The Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation has adopted this standard, among other national organizations.
The business case: ‘A 1% reduction in energy costs is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year’
With gold prices dropping from $1900 per oz in 2011 to under $1200 in 2015, cost reductions in production and operations are critical in the mining business. To stay competitive, producers must find improvements that require minimal capital investment through innovation, creativity, and improved systems.
“Mining is energy intensive,” says Andrew Cooper, New Afton’s energy specialist. “At the New Afton Mine, a 1% reduction in energy costs is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. With low commodity prices and increasing offshore competition, energy-efficiency improvement is one of the few places where we find increases in profitability.”
ISO certification helps achieve consistent cost reductions. From a social responsibility perspective, ISO fits well with New Gold’s corporate social responsibility program as well as the company’s Towards Sustainability Mining initiatives.
ISO 50001 also provides a vehicle to achieve the company’s energy management vision: to have energy management practiced by all employees on a day-to-day basis.
A key element of the value ISO delivered to New Afton stemmed from the accountability that it created. Internally, having an outside organization verify the site’s energy management system meant the entire team had to sit down and work with an auditor to assess their organization.
Externally, it offered value through recognition and verification of the site’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainable mining.
Connecting ISO to other corporate priorities
Energy-efficiency projects often result in operational performance improvements. At New Afton, every energy efficiency project completed has had additional benefits for operations (production), safety and the environment.
“I’m always very conscientious of the fact that the primary objective of the mine is to produce copper and gold concentrate,” says Cooper. “If something’s just going to save energy and not help with production, people are going to lose interest.
“For example, we did a flotation blower improvement project, where we saved a lot of energy. At the same time, we improved the operation of the circuit that increased production, the airflow to the flotation process is smoother, and since the operators don’t have to run around and adjust valves, there’s a safety improvement. On top of that, we were able to reduce the noise of the equipment, another health and safety benefit.”
Getting to ISO 50001: the implementation phase
New Afton followed five steps, many of which were in place from their SEM Program participation, to achieve ISO 50001 certification:
1. Gain support from senior management for certification, a task made easier by New Afton’s previous energy management success,
2. Measure energy performance:
a. Energy Management Information System (EMIS): workshop, system design, vendor selection, set up;
b. Process Integration (PI): server installed and data stored in database;
c. EAC: Identified Energy Account Centres: Milling (5), Mining (5), Crushing and Conveying.
3. Develop an energy policy that calls for staff commitment to continually improve energy performance.
4. Develop and implement training and engagement plans: “When you have a 24/7 operation with different departments and different crews, the energy team has to spend a lot of time spreading the word, training people and promoting the program.”
5. Prepare documentation: prepared for the auditor; not just program components but proof of what is being done as well.
Challenges to implementation
The biggest challenge for New Afton lay in operational controls and maintenance, and getting people to remember what’s expected of them from an energy management perspective.
To tackle the challenge, Cooper says he has spent countless hours talking to crews. He has daily conversations with people who want to talk about energy; this aspect of the work is constant and ongoing, he says.
With more than 152 electrical sub-meters and five gas sub-meters, another challenge to implementing ISO was the time required to install sub-metering and ensure that each meter was communicating properly with the EMIS.
Building on ISO 14001
New Afton is certified to the environmental standard ISO 14001. However, as they entered the ISO 50001 certification process, Cooper and his Energy Team were surprised to find there isn’t as much overlap as they anticipated.
ISO 50001 addresses a key energy management section in the 14001 system, but the most similar aspect between the two standards is the document management and control system. That being said, Cooper points out that, “it made an easier case for 50001 because people were already using ISO, so it wasn’t a new thing we were trying to implement.”
Incremental value proposition for ISO certification (Beyond SEM)
The external accountability aspect of ISO 50001 helped build energy management into the New Afton’s systems and the culture of the company. Energy is a topic discussed during daily staff huddles and Cooper was given a platform at the mine’s quarterly meetings and in the site newsletter.
To maintain certification, the company also includes energy performance improvement objectives in the organization’s business planning process and uses a systematic approach to consider energy efficiency in new design or upgrades.
Results and benefits:
• ISO certification in March 2014.
• Energy performance improvement initiatives implemented in 2014 yielded savings equivalent to 7.3% of 2013’s total energy consumption.
• The New Afton operation was originally designed to process 11,000 tons per day (4 million tons per annum) of ore at full capacity. With the focus on energy efficiency and process improvements, the mine has increased production to more than 5 million tons per annum – 25% above design.
• Projects completed in 2014 include:
• Conveyor shut down during shift changes identified by staff.
• Mill flotation blower control upgrade.
• Underground compressed air compressor relocation.
• Increase in the port size of SAG mill discharge grate.
• Surface and mill lighting upgrades.
• As a result of its hard work, New Afton mine was awarded NRCan’s CIPEC Leadership Award for Energy Performance Management in May 2014.
“You’ve got to have a vision and it has to be inspiring, even if it’s only for the person managing the project”, says Cooper. “It’s got to say what you want to achieve, where you want to get to, what it’s going to do for you and what is the long term goal? As part of our SEM Program, we put ours together into a policy and in a lot of ways it’s become what we do now. The vision is still relevant today. I saw ISO 50001 as a vehicle to achieve our vision.”
Looking to the future
New Afton says it will continue to promote energy management as a core activity. They will use the EMIS to make energy management visible to all levels of the organization and to optimize energy use. A key area for improvement is to solidify the ISO 50001 systems, ensuring energy management is integrated into everyone’s work process, not dependent on a single person or department.
Finally, the success of the energy management program at New Afton will help to bring the experience to other New Gold facilities, the company says.
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