Tracking site energy use in mining through the Energy Mass and Balance Tool

01 Dec 2010Archived News Climate Change Matters

Smelting operations and refineries have long had a business need to understand site energy use as the electricity used to power these sites represents the majority of variable operational costs. More recently however, interest in understanding energy usage has broadened across the mining sector.

This has been driven by the need to comply with the Commonwealth Government's Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program which requires tracking and understanding the energy intensity of mine site sub-operations, and, with that, identifying opportunities for energy and cost savings.

The Energy and Mass Balance tool was specifically developed in response to a client need: initially to collate energy data, and then, following a visit to one of the client's mines, to ascertain the ways in which the energy efficiency of both the mine and the processing plant could be improved. It became apparent that the Energy and Mass Balance Tool could be used to aid in the identification of savings opportunities for the operation if used effectively.

How the tool works

Historically, water/mass balancing assessments have been used in Coal Handling and Preparation Plants in order to identify the volume of water required and to determine yield. Now, with more focus on strategy development and optimisation, there is greater industry interest in using this assessment methodology to understand the energy used and mass moved at a given point of an operation. This can be used to understand the energy use per unit of output as opposed to an absolute value that does not take into account influencing factors such as operational growth or size.

The Energy and Mass Balance Tool follows three main steps:

  1. Defining a balance boundary: the timeframe, the points of energy transference. This should include all parts of the operation i.e., mining operations, processing plants and utilities such as on site power generation and industrial gas supply.
  2. Identifying key energy and mass flows: to build a high level energy profile of the operation that identifies key energy/mass sources and flows.
  3. Finally the methodology requires definition and assessment of sub-processes for more detailed assessment.
  4. Benefits

The tool can be customised to meet the needs of individual sites. It can:

  • provide an operational understanding of energy usage;
  • develop energy intensity/performance indicators;
  • analyse downtime;
  • identify and cost energy savings opportunities; and
  • be used for modelling, forecasting and target setting.


One of the key challenges in improving the understanding of energy use for any operation is ensuring that relevant data is selected for inclusion in the energy baseline for an operation. If too much information is included, the meaning can be lost, and the process can be hindered. With too little information, the process will not deliver the value that might be expected.

The relevant data can be extracted from monthly operating reports, and information generated by the operational control systems of the mine and processing plant. Expertise in energy efficiency will assist in the determination of relevant data.

An energy and mass balance assessment can work in your business
Optimal results can be obtained through a combination of an intimate knowledge of site operations, energy efficiency experience, and skills in energy profiling and broad industry knowledge. The application of an Energy and Mass Balance Assessment can identify energy savings opportunities and greenhouse gas savings, track energy use and opportunities, and be used by management to provide insight into key energy drivers in the business.

The information obtained in an energy and mass balance can also be used to develop benchmarking analyses, identifying trends in performance, outliers and target areas for a more detailed focus to better understand savings potential or areas of best practice. 

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