Sustainable quarries are the future

Barbara Gregorio, divisional product marketing manager Innovative Energies and Digital Solutions, Atlas Copco Power and Flow, discusses how portable power solutions are part of a wider solutions portfolio helping to achieve more sustainable quarries
February 13, 2023
Hybrid power solutions from Atlas Copco
Hybrid power solutions from Atlas Copco

Emission norms are changing operations in the entire construction industry, including quarries. On the journey towards stronger compliance with emission standards, the focus is now way beyond only health and safety regulations for operators. While productivity and efficiency remain the key priorities, the need for a balance with more sustainable solutions is now becoming more of a need than an option.

Quarries are evolving

Quarries are buzzing with round-the-clock extraction operations which feed granite and aggregates into the construction and infrastructure industries. When versatile giant equipment operates with high productivity targets and tight deadlines, emission control in mines and quarries becomes a critical focus.

arbara Gregorio, divisional product marketing manager Innovative Energies and Digital Solutions, Atlas Copco Power and Flow
Barbara Gregorio, divisional product marketing manager Innovative Energies and Digital Solutions, Atlas Copco Power and Flow

The EU and international emission regulations aim to create a low-carbon and energy-efficient economy with goals to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases by 20%,
  • Reduce energy consumption by 20%
  • Meet 20% of the EU’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2020

The face of mining and quarrying is changing with a keen focus on contributing towards reduced energy consumption and higher energy efficiency. (Source: The integrated energy and climate change policy laid out in December 2008)

The changing role of construction equipment in quarries

From lighting to pumping to power generation, sustainable equipment profiles are becoming an integral part of the quarry portfolio. A few key ingredients in the sustainability strategy for quarries can include:

Fuel efficiency: With Stage V and Euro 6 diesel engine regulations, advanced fuel-efficient engines are the need of the hour. Forward-thinking construction equipment manufacturers are gearing up to get their machines equipped with the latest technology engines while demonstrating their commitment to a better environmental footprint.

Electric models: With stricter emission regulations, the transition from diesel to low-diesel-consumption equipment to electric models is gaining momentum. Not just electric cars, but also heavy-equipment manufacturers are rolling out electric versions of their earlier diesel-driven models to meet their sustainability goals. Hence the push towards electrification in quarries is an important development which can be supported with standalone or hybrid options to cover unpredictable power loads.

Hybrid: The new buzzword in the sustainability guide is hybrid. There is a whole new world emerging for hybrid solutions to bring in better energy efficiency with a substantial impact on emission levels. Hybrid power solutions are becoming a crucial asset in the quarry equipment profile so that energy consumption is managed with high efficiency while minimising costs, and quarries are more self-sufficient with clean energy sources.

Digitalisation in quarries: In the quest to achieve sustainability goals, safe operations in quarries remain a priority while bringing in energy-efficient operations. Digitally connected intelligent machines dot the quarry landscape and reduce downtime while increasing efficiency in quarry operations. Atlas Copco is launching new intelligent controllers which will optimise energy generation, distribution and consumption through advanced data management to improve machine performance and efficiency.

An Atlas Copco energy storage system
An Atlas Copco energy storage system

Pumping solutions: Quarries are prone to flooding, as is the case for abandoned quarries or underground quarries when they are dug below the water table. Managing the water that is accumulated from heavy rainfall and groundwater seepage in quarries is a crucial task which must be done effectively in order to protect construction equipment and allow for operations to continue.

The advanced pump portfolio from Atlas Copco offers electric submersible pumps under the WEDA pump umbrella, which has innovative features including a high performance-to-weight ratio, hardened high-chrome impellers and Wear Deflector Technology, which is designed to minimise wear, ensuring durability for a longer working life. By meticulously redesigning the pump range with the latest 3D modelling techniques, the pump’s efficiency can be increased while lowering unplanned downtime issues in tough working environments like quarries. Quarry owners will less often find themselves forced to replace pumps as service life and repairability are built in from the ground up. The future of pumps will be increasingly sustainable as electrical pumps will further reduce emissions when powered with fossil-free electricity.

Energy storage systems: As the use of energy storage systems becomes more popular, new sustainable innovations will continue to bring more energy efficiency in quarries as well. Atlas Copco’s technologically superior Li-ion battery energy storage systems, when paired with its low fuel-consuming generators, redefine hybrid technology for smart load management resulting in reduced emissions, better operational efficiency, lower total cost of ownership and higher ROI. When operating standalone in island mode, with zero emissions and zero noise, these modular energy storage systems operate as a primary source of power and accelerate the journey towards clean energy with practically no maintenance.

Design innovation: With skilled design engineers and expertise in both generator and pump product development, a combined green solution engineered to dramatically reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions is an expected outcome. New emerging technologies like submersible pumps operating with medium-sized battery packs will transform the hybrid canvas and further reduce the total cost of ownership in quarry operations.

Atlas Copco’s HiLight S2+ solar-powered light tower
Atlas Copco’s HiLight S2+ solar-powered light tower

Renewable energy revolution: With renewable energy generation gaining momentum, solar power has made its way into Atlas Copco light towers and battery pack development. The HiLight S2+ solar-powered light tower taps into solar energy to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 6 tonnes as compared with other technologies. This is a great asset in quarries for night extraction operations where bright and safe light enables operations to continue for 11 hours at a stretch. By reducing electricity costs in quarries with solar-energy options, compliance with CO2 emissions and noise regulations allows work in quarries to carry on autonomous operations all year round when the solar power is adequately tapped.

HVO – biodiesel hydrotreated vegetable oil is a next-generation fuel that further nurtures sustainability goals into construction equipment DNA, reducing the carbon footprint of the machines. This renewable fuel offers a 90% CO2 emission reduction compared to diesel and lasts longer in the tank, which in turn reduces the risk of water ingress, microbial growth, and overall risk of contamination to equipment, making power and pumping operations cleaner and greener.

For Atlas Copco, a quarry is not just a pit in the ground. It is a highly productive worksite which plays a crucial role in core infrastructure development such as roads, metros, expressways, airports, and highway expansion with its aggregate output. As quarries aim to complete the production cycle with as low as possible carbon footprint and with high productivity outcomes, Atlas Copco will focus on continuous innovations in engines, fuel, renewable energy, product design and other ways to calibrate a better balance between energy production and consumption.

With the ever-evolving new, clean energy technologies from Atlas Copco’s generators, pumps and light towers, the journey towards more sustainable quarries is better defined and more achievable.

Atlas Copco is committed to contributing to low-carbon emissions with state-of-the-art advanced equipment serving various worksites, including quarries.

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