Decarbonization and the Impact on Maintenance with Steven Dobie
Welcome Steven to the podcast. Steven is a co-host of another podcast called Maintenance Disrupted. However briefly, tell us more about yourself.
I am a maintenance and reliability engineer in the mining industry who has been in tech for a couple of years. Presently working with a centralised maintenance group focused on keeping equipment and trucks running longer.
In this episode we covered:
- Are you being impacted a lot by sustainability i.e decarbonization, electrification?
- How does this impact people from a maintenance person’s perspective?
- What are the other ways to produce power?
Within your industry you are being impacted a lot by sustainability i.e decarbonization, electrification and such, aren’t you?
Yes. Presently we have aggressive targets regarding decarbonization such as by 2030 we have to reduce our GHE by 33%. And by 2050 we should be a net zero company. It is a big challenge because it is not only our equipment that contributes to our carbon footprint at the mine site. There are other sources within our operations.
How does this impact people from a maintenance person’s perspective?
The biggest issue is skill set. There is a challenge in taking the existing workforce and training them to handle a new decarbonization program and later maintain the equipment.
It is a huge challenge. Take for instance a changing a traditional boiler that is gas fired or coal powered to an electric one. Their operation and maintenance will be different.
Exactly. The challenge is also a shortage in electrical infrastructure. Electrification will require addition of these infrastructure and that needs to be factored in the decarbonization process.
The challenge is if the existing electrical infrastructure can support an additional load coming on to the grid. We have to assess the amount of upgrade needed during the decarbonization process to avoid redoing it just shortly after an upgrade. There are so many unknowns to be prioritised especially in determining what is realistic.
Looking at the future we need to make a lot of changes on the infrastructure that haven’t been done in a long time. The equipment is old. However, currently there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place given that 2030 is only 8 years away. That is a short time to plan for the infrastructure changes needed to achieve the decarbonization goal.
The Canadian Government just announced that no internal combustion engines shall be sold for passenger vehicles after 2035. But what does that look like for the charging infrastructure in place. Most towns and neighbourhoods are unable to support multiple vehicle charging at the same time.
The power generation is also low.
We have been shutting down our coal power plants but the smart grids aren’t generating as much. The maintenance technicians are also not centralised and have to drive around maintaining distributed infrastructure on the smart grid. Managing the team has also changed.
There are alternative ways to produce power such as wind and solar that we can generate for ourselves.
Mines already do that. They have built dams, gas and coal powered plants for power generation. Handling a dam however is a challenge. Solar power can only reliably work for a year. There are mu;tiple problems to solve.
Power generation for electrification affects maintenance programs in a significant way. Be it using power from the main utility supply or microgeneration. How are you preparing for it?
Companies are not ready for the huge impact. The good thing is that there are wind and solar power generation schools coming up. On the other hand, the skill sets needed are just the same as those required for the old electrical equipment. So we just need to expand on those. The electrical infrastructure is the same but at a different scale.
The key is bringing in the right training program early enough to bridge that skill gap needed to support a large scale infrastructure.
There are also issues with the supply chain since multiple companies are ordering for these parts and equipment needed to upscale the infrastructure. This affects lead time and therefore early planning is needed
There is a mismatch in what is available and what we need in the decarbonization process. How do we improve the manufacturing of the equipment and parts needed or even do it locally?
The process is tough and the capital is intensive to purchase parts as simple as semiconductors.
The supply chain issues forces us to look farther ahead in the decarbonization process but we aren’t sure if the technology will even be available by then.
Whichever means we use to bring the parts and equipment from overseas need to be decarbonized as well. Making the supply chain shorter will definitely reduce the carbon footprint towards net zero.
There is also a question of a more targeted supply from smaller facilities rather than one big facility and this impacts the number of technicians and infrastructure needed for those facilities.
We are waiting to see a demand increase and a shortage of the workforce supply.
What do you recommend to help people get ahead of this?
Attend training courses on decarbonization.
Steven Dobie Links:
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