How a Mexican company helps miners improve energy efficiency

Bnamericas Published: Friday, December 23, 2022
How a Mexican company helps miners improve energy efficiency

Miners with operations in Mexico are increasingly using clean energy, according to mining chamber Camimex's 2022 sustainability report.

Local company Quark Electric offers solutions that facilitate this transition. CEO Juan Sebastián Rocha talks to BNamericas about the company’s potential and growth plans, among others.

BNamericas: How long has Quark Electric been operating and which mining solutions do you offer specifically?

Rocha: We are a relatively young company. We have been operating for all of 2022 in Mexico in different states. Our team has extensive experience with different solutions for the energy, mining, oil and gas sectors, which has allowed us to grow exponentially. We are currently … starting projects in Colombia and have a close relationship with some energy companies [there].

We offer numerous services to the mining sector, ranging from the design stage, prior to the opening of a mine, to electrical infrastructure designs, which include emergency plants, design and sizing of wiring, panels, lighting, considering that these are special and explosive environments. It is not the same as a conventional design.

Also, [we cover] everything that is required by the grid operator to interconnect, like studies, presentation of pre-feasibility for the interconnection with the electricity supply of the utility or supply company. We do the tests on the control equipment, for protection and measurement, pre-operative tests and carry out inspections and plan energy efficiency strategies.

We also offer specialized equipment that sometimes must be rented for electrical tests, and we offer a training service for technical personnel in the maintenance area.

BNamericas: What energy efficiency opportunities does the Mexican mining industry offer?

Rocha: In extractive processes, the electrical infrastructure has many points of improvement to reduce consumption. By reducing consumption, we avoid energy generation and therefore, depending on the energy type, we reduce CO2 emissions.

On the other hand, companies in the mining sector are choosing to obtain electricity supply from renewable energy plants. We work closely with the design, commissioning and maintenance of renewable generation plants. So we are attacking both the efficiency part of the consumption process, as well as the implementation of renewable energy parks.

On this latter point, some clients request the design and sizing of some type of plant, say solar or wind, and we evaluate the energy potential in the area, presenting a design, presenting all the basic and detailed engineering so that a construction company can build the renewable energy park.

And when parks exist, we offer service tests prior to the plant start-up, to ensure equipment and operation are configured correctly, so it boots as it should.

BNamericas: Could you detail the concrete benefits companies get by implementing these efficiency plans?

Rocha: By implementing energy efficiency strategies or plans, we reduce energy consumption. From there, we start with a financial benefit. By reducing energy consumption, we also reduce fuels consumption needed for energy generation, which translates into lower production costs in the extraction process.

And by reducing consumption and implementing energy efficiency strategies, the carbon footprint is reduced, since it is clear that the mining industry is highly dependent on fossil fuels. We reduce the consumption of natural resources.

On the social side, these strategies are increasing technology [development] and generate employment options, because the mining industry has to train new employees in these areas that also help improve the production process. We not only provide the solution but also the training so that new forms of employment are generated. And by implementing energy efficiency strategies, miners improve their corporate image, showing they are committed to the energy transition, streamline processes and reduce environmental impact.

BNamericas: Which solutions are in highest demand?

Rocha: Basically, three specific services. Mainly, thermographic studies to detect hotspots in the infrastructure, not only electrical ones but also in the hydrocarbon extraction plant.

We also have the ultrasound part. Ultrasound studies allow us to detect some atypical phenomena, like problems with electrical transformers, liquid gas pipes, protection equipment, insulators. We can anticipate where a hotspot or an event of an electric arc or a leak of some liquid or gas will emerge.

Third, power quality studies help ensure electricity supply complies with the conditions required by law in terms of harmonic power distortion levels, power factor, and voltage and current profiles. The law has certain levels that allow both distortion and power factors, as well as changes in voltage and current profile. Failure to comply with these levels may imply fines and sanctions.

BNamericas: How do you help companies comply with energy certifications? What do these certifications involve?

Rocha: The first certification we help clients to comply with is the electrical network code of the energy ministry. This network code is important because it establishes the criteria of efficiency, quality, reliability, continuity, security and sustainability of the national electrical system. It is the pillar of the electrical industry. This network code was established through the electrical industry law and is regulated by CRE. Mainly, when interconnecting with an energy supply company, like [state utility] CFE, you must comply with the network code. Failure to do so will lead to the interconnection being denied and loss of concessions.

We help to comply with these standards and that the company has studies, calculations and work plans CFE requires, guaranteeing compliance with the network code.

Several companies were denied electricity supply, losing them millions in the extraction process. When they have to expand, they also have to justify with calculation memory studies and a work plan on how they do that expansion and how it will interact with the energy transmission infrastructure, how much it will affect the grid.

BNamericas: What are your growth plans for next year?

Rocha: Our big bet for 2023 is the implementation of advanced measurement systems, which allow the mining, oil and gas, or industrial sector in general, to offer interactive visualization platforms for real-time operation, for electrical infrastructure and production processes. 

In addition, we have big data management to evaluate the trends of some electrical variables or of the production process, record anomaly events, and use artificial intelligence algorithms to predict behavior after adaptation of energy efficiency plans.

We have made this commitment to innovation and technology together with a Spanish company to reach these sectors, mainly oil and gas and mining, and provide these technological tools for the operation and maintenance of their electrical and productive infrastructure.

We project our profits to grow by 50% in 2023, and in our client portfolio we want to enter mainly the oil and gas sector, where we are qualifying as service providers.

We are already in the sectors of public service providers, with CFE in some projects in the industrial sector, and manufacturing, where we help with expansion studies [regarding] wind and solar parks.

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