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The Role Of Gas In Our Clean Energy Transition

Apr 26, 2022

Recent progress in Mineral Resources’ conventional gas exploration program includes positive signs at our Lockyer Deep 1 project in the onshore Perth Basin. Our Executive General Manager Energy, Shelley Robertson, offers her insights into the role gas will play in our clean energy transition.

Mineral Resources has grown its standing in the Western Australian mining industry by thinking differently and applying an agile approach to the way we work.

Our development into a high-performing mining services provider and iron ore and hard rock lithium miner has been largely thanks to the vision, commitment and perseverance of our people.

Shelley Robertson has over 25 years’ experience across oil and gas, mining, infrastructure, renewable energy and agriculture industries. She joined Mineral Resources in 2019 to lead the business’ Energy portfolio and oversee our sustainable energy pathway.

She said our ongoing growth brings a commitment to best-practice environmental, social and governance performance. It’s essential for sustained success and at the core of our efforts to demonstrate value for our employees, partners, communities and shareholders.

“Energy security is a global focus and obviously the Western Australian mining industry needs a lot of energy to drive operations and activities that significantly contribute to our state and national economies,” Robertson said.

“Our focus as a business, and as part of our broader industry, is on continuing to challenge our thinking and seek new opportunities to grow in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Looking to gas to lead our energy transition

Maintaining this focus means pursuing alternative energy opportunities that ease our reliance on diesel and reduce our carbon footprint as Mineral Resources strives to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

We’re working closely with business, partner and industry stakeholders on new ways to integrate lower-emission and renewable energy solutions across our operations. In doing so, we’re turning to natural gas to steer our pathway towards a more reliable, cost-effective and cleaner energy future.

Our wholly owned subsidiary, Energy Resources, leads a comprehensive conventional gas exploration program focused on discovering and producing gas resources to power our site operations, reduce our operating costs and support our clean energy transition.

“Gas underpins our strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050 – but we also have ambitions to reach this goal earlier,” Robertson said.

“Energy Resources is the largest acreage holder of conventional gas exploration permits in the onshore Perth and Carnarvon Basins. We work with government, industry, landholder and community stakeholders to ensure new energy opportunities are explored responsibly and safely.

“Our gas exploration program is helping to shape a clean and affordable energy future for our business, our communities and our industry. It’s also building long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships that support our business and sustainability efforts.”

Positive signs at Lockyer Deep 1

Within our gas exploration portfolio, attention has recently turned to the Lockyer Deep 1 project (EP368), near Mingenew in the Mid-West region. The site is operated by Energy Resources under a joint venture arrangement between Mineral Resources (80%) and Norwest Energy NL (20%).

In June 2021, seismic testing and data gathering at the Lockyer Deep location identified the strong potential of a significant gas presence, with conventional drilling to a depth of over 4,000 metres confirming expectations.

Successful well testing activities in March 2022 also returned positive results for reservoir quality, gas quality and flow rates.

While further exploration in the area and additional seismic data will assist in determining the exact size and scope of the gas discovery, Robertson said initial signs were positive.

“We know there’s a significant amount of gas at this location, but we’ll need to do some more work before we can talk about exact quantities,” she said.

“If developed through to production, it’s hoped the Lockyer Deep project could provide low-cost energy security to power Mineral Resources’ site operations. Our hope is to also support our joint venture partners and clients to transition away from diesel, and present new opportunities for downstream gas developments.”

Robertson said progress at Lockyer Deep was a career highlight made possible thanks to Mineral Resources’ clear vision for its clean energy transition and the teamwork and perseverance of our people.

“Our progress to date is the culmination of some big thinking and plenty of hard work across our business,” she added.

“On a personal level, this has been a 12-year journey – working initially with Norwest Energy and now with Mineral Resources – so it’s all pretty exciting.”

Pursuing a sustainable energy future

Mineral Resources is committed to continually improving its sustainability performance while providing the metals and minerals the world needs for its clean energy transition.

We recognise the need for meaningful action to address climate change and are committed to investing in activities that reduce the carbon intensity of our operations. This includes opportunities to deliver reliable, secure, low cost and sustainable energy solutions.

In 2021, we finalised our  Roadmap to Net Zero Emissions, outlining our pathway towards a transition to gas, renewable energy and other emerging technologies to support our operations and reduce our carbon intensity.

Robertson said while the Lockyer Deep 1 project aims to support our focus on gas as a transitional fuel, renewable energy technologies will also become an increasingly significant part of our future energy mix.

“Across our business we’re working together to identify and act upon opportunities and projects that will lessen our dependency on diesel and reduce our carbon emissions,” she said.

“Gas will be an important component of our clean energy future and, while baseload supply certainty is our initial priority, we’re also turning our attention to renewables.”

This includes a 2.1-megawatt peak solar array and battery storage being installed at our Wonmunna iron ore operation in the Pilbara. It’s a flagship renewable energy initiative set to support around 30% of the site’s energy needs.

The system will reduce diesel consumption by approximately 600,000 litres and CO2 emissions by around 1,800 tonnes each year. And with an expected life of up to 20 years, the system can be redeployed to another location once Wonmunna operations conclude.