Paris 2015 COP21 : Fuel efficiency in exploration camps

By IOS team, December 4, 2015

All the news around the Paris 2015 United Nation climate change conference COP21 shows the commitment of the big league in regard of greenhouse gas emission, but it should remind us that it is the little actions from each of us that will make the difference. And frankly, mineral explorers are bad boys!

The 2008 economic setback provided us, as a service company, a bit of time to think about our practices. In spring 2008, just for a single exploration project, we had to set up a fuel farm of nearly 60,000 liters! On a second project, just to fuel the helicopter, we needed more than 500 drums of Jet-A. This is two B-train twin-trailer trucks loads of drums! Since a single drum of Jet-A generates 0.4 tons of CO2, this was more than 200 tons of greenhouse gas that we generated just to wander around with the helicopter! Because fuel cost is the second or third largest expense on budget of remote projects.  Something had to be done. So we sat in front of the drawing board with a coffeepot and came up with innovative solutions!

Just consider the camp heating issue. A temporary camp is typically made of about 20 tents: dormitories, a kitchen, an ablution unit, an office, a core-shack, a split room, a mechanical shop, dry, etc. Heated with a conventional oil stove, each of these tents require about a drum (205 liters or 45 gallons) of fuel oil per week in winter. This means 20 drums per week for the camp, or 4000 liters, or 11 tons of greenhouse gas per week! Moreover, the fuel required to bring the drums on camp by plane or helicopter. And drums cost about $1200 each once on-site. Up to $25,000 per week in heating bill! Ouch!

And here comes our solution: Modular geothermal heating system for temporary camps

The concept is simple : deploy an ethyl-glycol circuit in the bottom of a deep lake and use it to extract heat through a heat exchanger toward each tent. In practice, it is much more complex, but it works well. Then, a complete camp can be heated with the use of a single 15-20 kW electrical generator. Fuel consumption is reduced to about four drums per week, or a 75 % saving on fuel cost! The system is modular, click-and-plug, the only part too bulky to be manipulated by a single man is the generator itself. For a total weight of 5000 pounds, the whole system fits into three seaplane loads ("Otter"). It can be installed within three days by a crew of four men, not much more than installing oil stove! With a purchase cost of $200,000 per system, the system pays itself through fuel economies in a single winter. And, as bonus, you get air conditioning in the summer!

We are working on the concept for five years. The system has been installed for summer and autumn usage in the last three years. And the first winter installation is expected in the next months...

Don't be climate-skeptic! Because Ecology and Economy have the same Greek root, "OIKOS", or house...

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