A remote West Australian potash miner has set itself an ambitious target to use concentrated solar thermal energy to power 70 per cent of its operation.
The Perth-based company, Agrimin Limited, owns a sulphate of potash project on the WA-Northern Territory border at Lake Mackay, approximately 540 kilometres west of Alice Springs.
Potash is used as a fertiliser and the company will start construction on a plant to process its raw product into an export-ready fertiliser in 2019.
Agrimin has signed an agreement with a Danish company Aalborg CSP to build a thermal solar heating system alongside the processing facility.
Chief executive officer Mark Savich said the solar plant would be used to heat water, which is a key part of the fertiliser processing plant.
Mr Savich said keeping water heated at 55 degrees Celsius would use approximately 70 per cent of the total energy consumption at the site.
“What we’re looking at is a solar thermal energy system similar to [a household hot water system],” he said.
“But one that gives us constant heat through night and day and through winter and summer and that’s where this technology from northern Europe is quite amazing.”
Mr Savich said the solar thermal technology would reduce cost and reliance on traditional sources.
“The more we can move ourselves away from being dependent on not only fossil fuels, but also third parties such as gas providers and gas pipeline providers and towards something we have control of; that is really where we want to go.”
Agrimin will explore various renewable and non-renewable options to cover the remaining 30 per cent of its energy requirements for processing and site infrastructure.
Mr Savich said once the project was completed, Agrimin would have the capacity to supply 370,000 tonnes of finished fertiliser product per annum.
Global prices for potash are currently about US$500 per tonne and Mr Savich said a majority of the Lake Mackay product would be sent for export to key markets like China.
“This will be a world class project,” he said.
“There has been a couple of sulphate of potash salt lake operations built in China [recently] and I think that’s really got the focus of the global fertiliser industry that this is a new opportunity for large scale projects.”
Mr Savich said since 2,000 global demand for potash had increased by five per cent a year.
He said potash reached record levels of demand in 2016 with 7 million tonnes sold globally.
“[Agricultural industries] are really moving towards high end, high quality fertiliser and fertiliser that can be used in drip irrigation,” he said.
“We’re also leverage to fruit and vegetable demand, more so than broad acre crops, and that’s an industry that’s growing quicker.”