Queensland Pacific Metals Ltd (ASX:QPM) (FRA:4EA) has added another feather to its cap after the findings of an interim report into greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of its TECH Project confirmed low carbon dioxide emissions.
Minviro, an international company specialising in life cycle assessment of mining and mineral processing projects, estimated the TECH Project’s carbon dioxide emission will be 36% lower than the industry average calculated by the Nickel Institute for nickel sulphate production.
There is potential for the carbon dioxide emissions to be further reduced and even have net-negative emissions, if its gas supply is derived from vented/flared gas at existing Queensland coal mines.
QPM is positioning the TECH Project to be a world-leader in sustainable nickel production as the “exceptional greenhouse gas life cycle data” makes it even more attractive to investors.
Another feather in the cap
QPM chief executive officer Stephen Grocott said: “We have been positioning the TECH Project to be a world-leader in sustainable nickel production, with our zero liquids discharge, potential to be zero-solids discharge and no requirement for a tailings dam.
“The Minviro report adds another feather in the cap for the TECH Project, positioning it as a low GHG emissions project with the potential to be net-negative.
“We are pleased that not only are we leading the way, we have further opportunities for improvement, which will be pursued in our feasibility study.
“The exceptional greenhouse gas life cycle analysis data makes the TECH project even more attractive to investors who supply the European, North Asian and North American battery supply chain.”
Minviro, which was commissioned by QPM to prepare an interim report on the GHG emissions for the TECH Project, calculated the project’s CO2 emission level to be 3.4 kilograms carbon dioxide per kilograms nickel sulphate.
The industry average calculated by the Nickel Institute stands at 5.4 kilograms carbon dioxide per kilograms nickel sulphate but the calculations do not consider any production from China.
If China production was included, the industry average would likely be higher.
Carbon dioxide reduction potential
In its report, Minviro has identified the potential for the TECH Project to receive further carbon dioxide credits, which would reduce the level of its emissions.
QPM has been assessing a number of gas supply options for the project, some of which include utilising gas, which is either flared or vented ahead of mining, at existing coal operations in Queensland.
Coal mines de-gas areas for safety ahead of mining.
Gas largely consists of methane, which is 34 times worse for the atmosphere in terms of global warming than carbon dioxide.
Flaring of gas is the process of burning it so that carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere rather than methane while the venting of gas is the direct release of gas into the atmosphere.
When in operation, the TECH Project could utilise gas that would otherwise be flared or vented and receive carbon dioxide credits.
The level of gas consumption for the TECH Project is significant and as a result, there is potential for the TECH Project to be a net-negative carbon dioxide emitter, depending on the proportion of flared/vented gas and the credits which can be applied to QPM under international standards for life cycle assessment.
As QPM firms up its gas supply and more information on the production of this gas supply becomes available, Minviro will update its assessment of GHG emissions for the TECH Project.
QPM also noted the recent announcement by Tsingshan Holding Group to sell 100,000 tonnes of nickel matte, an intermediate product that contains 70-75% nickel.
While nickel matte can be produced from nickel pig iron or ferronickel as a higher nickel content product, nickel pig iron is produced from pyrometallurgical processing, which is the highest carbon dioxide emitter of all nickel production.
The industry average for the production of nickel pig iron is 45 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilograms contained nickel in nickel pig iron.
Further processing into nickel matte and ultimately into nickel sulfate will further increase carbon dioxide emissions, making this a highly carbon-intensive option for batteries, which goes against the principles of the western electric vehicle industry.
Furthermore, the processing of nickel matte into nickel sulfate or firstly nickel metal (prior to conversion into nickel sulfate) is a complex, capital intensive process that is undertaken at very few places in the world, including Sumitomo Metal Mining’s Nihama refinery in Japan and Jinchuan’s refinery in China.
Therefore, even if nickel matte became an accepted and mainstream intermediate to produce nickel sulfate, significant capital investment would be required to increase downstream refining capacity.