The Power and Benefit of Saving EnergyThu, 10/17/2019 - 12:57
Q: What added value does Técnica Salgar offer its customers in the mining industry?
A: The most important contribution when installing the equipment from our portfolio is the energy savings that are generated. Electricity costs for mines are high, accounting for 40 percent of the final cost of the product. For instance, Peñoles’ zinc mine in Torreon impacts the international price of this commodity. If the company could reduce the mine’s energy consumption by 10 percent, that would be reflected directly in the end price of zinc. Técnica Salgar allows operators to produce more using fewer kW.
We delivered a study with the National Institute of Electricity and Clean Energies (INEEL), the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) where it was determined that our equipment could reduce energy costs by 8 percent. In the electrical segment, our biggest competitors are companies like Schneider Electric, Eaton and ABB. Although Técnica Salgar is a relatively small company, we work with companies of the caliber of Grupo México and Peñoles. Our main added value is our flexibility because we offer tailored solutions to our clients.
Q: What has been the main impact of the Energy Reform on your business and clients?
A: The market has become highly potentialized as a result of the reform. This is a relevant topic for mines because investment levels for compliance with the grid code are high. The problem is that the regulatory framework is not quite clear regarding sanctions. CFE is introducing rigid controls and when a particular unit does not comply with them, it can be removed from the grid system. The list of criteria is very long and part of the regulation has not been published yet.
Regarding our operations, the reform has impacted control systems and we have modified and improved this area. Before the regulation was issued, CFE measured your consumption every 15 minutes but now this measurement is done every five minutes. A company can be subject to stringent legal action if consumption increases above the levels reported to CFE. All the equipment for control and energy savings must be precise. In the mining industry, harmonic current filters are in great demand and this is one of our areas of expertise.
Q: What is the preferred energy source for powering mine operations?
A: The mining industry is traditionally powered by conventional energy sources. Clean energy use, translated to electricity consumption, generates many problems in the grid. In fact, CFE has encountered several incidents where it had to remove wind generators because harmonic distortion was very high. These elements have burned transformers, with losses representing millions of dollars in investment. In the solar energy area, a similar situation takes place because DC is involved. This current has to be transformed into AC and rectifiers are needed. These electronic elements turn square waves into sinusoidal waves, provoking a huge distortion in the grid and hence, large losses.
We believe that close to 4 percent of GDP is lost due to electrical processes. At the moment, the mining industry depends on fossil fuels but other sources like hydropower do not have this impact on the grid and could be a viable option.
In terms of market incentives, there has been a major investment in CELs. The largest wind farms in the country are being acquired by Peñoles. For instance, the Torreon plant could be the biggest consumer in the country. From my perspective, clean energy is becoming a trend and its development implies a need for a specialized department in this area, as well as maintenance services. This investment should be foreseen when looking for cleaner options.