In Australia, BHP Nickel West has increased its offtake from 20 MW to 50 MW from the Risen Energy solar farm Merredin Solar Farm in a new 10-year renewable power purchase agreement (PPA). The additional 30 MW will be directed to BHP Nickel West’s Kalgoorlie Smelter and reduce the smelter’s Scope 2 emissions by 30%.
This follows the initial 20 MW which will be directed to BHP Nickel West’s Kwinana Refinery and will cover up to 50% of its electricity use with solar power generated by Risen Energy’s Merredin Solar farm.
Nickel West is a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business; all nickel operations (open-cut and underground mines, concentrators, a smelter and refinery) are located in Western Australia.
Low-grade disseminated sulfide ore is mined from Mt Keith, a large open-pit operation and high-grade nickel sulfide ore is mined at Cliffs and Leinster underground mines. The ore is processed through two large concentrators and dryers at Mt Keith and Leinster. Nickel West’s concentrator plant in Kambalda processes ore and concentrate purchased from third parties.
The three streams of nickel concentrate come together at the Nickel West Kalgoorlie Smelter. The smelter uses a flash furnace to smelt concentrate to produce nickel matte. Nickel West Kwinana then refines granulated nickel matte from the Kalgoorlie smelter into premium-grade nickel powder and briquettes containing 99.8% nickel. Nickel metal is exported to overseas markets via the Port of Fremantle.
85% of BHP’s nickel is now sold to global battery material suppliers. A nickel sulfate plant is nearing completion and in the final stages of commissioning at the Kwinana Nickel Refinery, which will produce nickel sulfate, a product used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles.
BHP and its power partner in the Goldfields TransAlta are to build two solar farms and a battery storage system to help power the Mt Keith and Leinster operations. This will help BHP reduce emissions from electricity use at Mt Keith and Leinster by 12%, based on FY2020 levels.
The Northern Goldfields Solar Project will include a 27.4 MW solar farm at Mt Keith and a 10.7 MW solar farm and 10.1 MW battery at Leinster, and will displace power currently supplied by diesel and gas turbine generation.
This will result in an estimated reduction of 540,000 tonnes of CO2e over the first 10 years of operation. This is the equivalent of removing up to 23,000 combustion engine cars from the road every year.