Case Study: Powering a Remote Remediation Camp with Diesel, Renewables and Energy Storage
By Ryan Jansen and Damian Rohraff
There are several off-grid communities and industrial sites in Saskatchewan that use diesel generators to meet their electrical power needs. Generally these systems are able to perform their basic function and provide reliable power. However, they present some challenges as well. Fuel costs make up the bulk of operational expenditures for these systems. There are also financial and environmental risks associated with the transport and storage of this fuel. These costs and risks increase with the size of the site, as well as the level of difficulty involved with accessing the site. A generator, by principle, follows the electrical load, which leads to inefficiencies as the engine operates outside of its optimal range. This results in excessive fuel consumption, increased pollution and more frequent maintenance.
The need to improve overall efficiency of power generation has become a priority, especially as fuel prices increase and as mine development expands into more remote locations. Such a need was identified at one of the mine sites that the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) is remediating, the former Gunnar uranium mine and mill site, as part of Project CLEANS (Cleanup of Abandoned Northern Sites).
Project CLEANS involves remediating 37 abandoned uranium mine and mill sites in northern Saskatchewan. An operating camp has been established at Gunnar, which is located on the north shore of Lake Athabasca.
The site of the former Gunnar uranium mine and mill
The camp operates during the summer months and accommodates up to 100 people. All the power needs for the camp were met by two legacy 500-kW generators, which were sized to meet the requirements of the initial demolition phase of the remediation effort, but were oversized for current operation at the camp. Diesel represented a major operating expense for the camp, as approximately 460 L/day of diesel was consumed to support the small camp. The fuel cost is approximately $2.30/L, including delivery to the site from the nearest bulk fuel station.
To reduce the diesel consumption for the Gunnar camp, SRC developed the Hybrid Microgrid Power System. SRC conducted extensive site monitoring of the camp to characterize the site’s load and then designed the customized hybrid system to maximize the fuel savings over the life of the remediation effort. All aspects, including battery chemistry, inverter technology, generator type and hybrid construction, were considered. It was constructed in the spring of 2015, received certification and was then transported from Saskatoon to the Gunnar camp via truck and barge.
The customized hybrid system has been integrated into a single modular container, which accommodates a generator, a battery, a photovoltaic array and an inverter system equipped with remote control and monitoring systems. This design makes the hybrid system portable and rugged, while allowing multiple systems to be stacked to achieve higher generation and storage capacities, as well as to increase reliability through redundancy.
Hybrid Microgrid Power System Features:
- Peak output capacity: 69 kW
- 60 kW diesel generator with 42 kW/259 kWh energy storage system
- 20-foot modular container, climate controlled, remotely operated
- Easily integrated into existing site infrastructure
Throughout the first summer of operation, the Hybrid Microgrid Power System met all SRC’s goals by reducing diesel fuel costs, providing reliable power and reducing overall maintenance. The system is fully automated and can be monitored and controlled remotely.
During operation at Gunnar, the hybrid system reduced generator runtime by over 70%, and is expected to save 86% of the site’s fuel consumption, providing approximately CAD$93,000 in savings during its first four months of operation and a payback period of less than 12 months of operation.
Camp Load Characteristics over a 10-Day Period
The graph indicates the operational load of the camp typically varying between 10 kW and 25 kW, with a peak of 65 kW. Although the 60 kW generator was sized specifically to meet the requirements of this camp, the average camp load was only 15 kW which would have only loaded the generator to 25% of its capacity resulting in low generator efficiency. By integrating the customized energy storage system, the generator now consistently operates at 80% – 100% of its capacity as indicated in the figure and is turned off when the energy storage system is capable of meeting the site’s load. The results in a substantial increase in generator efficiency as well as reduced generator runtime and maintenance.
The Hybrid Microgrid Power System has proven that it can provide reliable energy to remote off-grid industrial sites and communities, while reducing fuel consumption and maintenance requirements. The system can also be customized and scaled to accommodate much larger loads at other potential sites. SRC is continuing to provide services and customized hybrid power systems to sites that benefit from the implementation of this technology.
For more information about SRC’s Hybrid Microgrid Power System, contact Ryan Jansen (Research Engineer, SRC Mining and Minerals) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-933-5400.
Ryan Jansen is an Associate Research Engineer and has been working in the area of Alternative Energy at the Saskatchewan Research Council since 2009. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering Physics from the University of Saskatchewan in 2007, and has a Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering specializing in the area of reliability. He is a P.Eng. and has technical expertise in areas including renewable energy systems, remote monitoring systems, programming, microgrids, and district heating systems.
Damian Rohraff is the Sales Lead for the Mining and Minerals Division at the Saskatchewan Research Council. He is responsible for business development for domestic and international markets. Prior to becoming a business development professional, he worked as an engineer in SRC’s Development Engineering and Manufacturing Business Unit. He holds two MSc degrees from the Gdansk University of Technology (2005) and the University of Saskatchewan (2009) and an MBA degree from Edwards School and Business (2015). Damian is a registered P.Eng. with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) is one of Canada’s leading providers of applied research, development and demonstration (RD&D) and technology commercialization. Our primary business is that of an innovation enabler – providing internationally recognized expertise and facilities to solve our clients’ real-world challenges. SRC works with a diverse range of clients, including leading mining, minerals and oil and gas companies, and a large portion of our work is aimed at addressing issues of environmental safety and sustainability in these two sectors.