Teck’s ‘teenagers’ taking time to mature

Richard Roberts

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Teck's Peter Wan addresses The Electric Mine 2024 in Perth, Western Australia
‘Technologies we’re evaluating cover full TRL spectrum’

Canadian miner Teck Resources’ renewable diesel and diesel-hybrid heavy vehicle fuel programs are going to advance the company’s decarbonisation agenda while bolder mobile fleet options maybe take longer than expected to emerge from the “sandbox”, mobile fleet decarbonisation manager Peter Wan said at The Electric Mine 2024.

Wan said at the event being held in Perth, Western Australia, for the first time that battery-electric vehicles and infrastructure, new-generation dynamic charging and other concepts were moving erratically, at times, along recently initiated development curves.

He used an analogy of teenagers moving along the path to adulthood, saying fleet decarbonisation generally was “but a twinkle in our collective eyes a few years ago”.

Now the progeny were “developing in ways we sometimes least expect”.

“The projects that we’ve got, and the technologies that we’re evaluating, cover the full spectrum of TRL [technology readiness levels],” Wan said.

“We’ve got these teenagers, and we kind of understand as we bring them into the portfolio [and] do our evaluation … [that] things are changing. They’re changing for sure.

“We started off with trolley [assist] thinking that it was it was going to be fantastic as part of the transition. And we’re learning that, actually, it’s not easy in some of our operations.

“We’ve got to think about how we manage new risks.

“And of course, the commercials have got to all stack up.

“It’s one thing to say that we want to implement a battery electric truck; we’ve got available juice [and] we’ve got all of the ecosystem in place.

“But it’s got to be cost competitive because at the end of the day we’re not going to put ourselves out of business for a new electric truck.

“So we’ve got to make sure that we understand all of the relevant metrics, and how we measure and validate them through the development process.”

Wan said change had been a constant in the 12 months since the last Electric Mine forum at Tucson, Arizona, in the US.

Glencore’s US$6.9 billion pending acquisition of Teck’s metallurgical coal business – where the company was directing its battery-electric ultra-class truck focus – produced a change of thinking on that front.

“This is the revolution,” is how Wan described the various BE behemoths moving through pilot testing into the field and, ultimately, into production scenarios.

“But it’s going to take a lot of moving parts to make this happen.

“You’ve got to be in it for the long haul. You’re not going to put this into a mine site that’s got five years of life or 10 years of life. This is something that you’re doing more likely at your tier one assets.

“The sites that we have available for field testing have changed.

“Times change; we have to adjust.”

Wan agreed accelerating the maturation rate of BEVs was linked to market scaling of supporting infrastructure and ecosystem development, and “there’s some chicken and the egg” in that.

“We don’t have the trucks running so how can you test the infrastructure and the ecosystem without the trucks running?” he said.

“And once the trucks are available how can you run them without that ecosystem being developed?

“There’s going to be some leapfrogging, [first] with the trucks that come in … and then the ecosystem. Then we’ll be able to start [operating the trucks] in a more realistic environment.

“But that’s going to take time.”

Wan warned established and emergent electric trolley-assist systems for haul trucks demanded forensic examination of mine plans and conditions to establish their real potential to prosper in different production scenarios.

“He’s high maintenance,” Wan said of the eldest “teenager” being nurtured by Teck.

“That infrastructure is not going to be as easy as you might hope.”

Renewable diesel was “pretty easy”.

“It’s laid back,” Wan said.

“You can just order it and you’ll get your fuel delivery to site.

“It’s a short-term transitionary approach for most of us; really supported by government incentives if they’re available in your jurisdiction.

“Renewable diesel has been a star for us [in British Columbia where] where we’ve got a good understanding of the incentives. They’re attractive for us.

“We’re not running the renewable down in Chile yet because we don’t have that same cost benefit.”

Also part of Teck’s “bridging strategy” was hybrid diesel, “sort of a late bloomer in our portfolio”.

“We are working towards trials for hybrid,” Wan said.

“You’re looking at potentially similar sorts of emission reductions as trolley, minus all of the infrastructure.”

Wan said the industry was on a collective journey of discovery with its shift away from deeply embedded diesel-equipment dependence and culture.

“Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate with your suppliers, with your consultants, with your partners, and with other miners as well, because we learn a lot from each other,” he said.

“[Introduction of] these decarbonisation technologies is not what we’re used to doing with steady-state commercial solutions.

“We really have to nurture them.”


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