dynaCERT says new technology can lower diesel emissions

Trucks hauling material at the Las Bambas copper mine. Credit: MMG.

DynaCERT (TSX: DYA), a Toronto-based company, has developed a technology called HydraGEN that could significantly reduce emissions by improving the performance and fuel efficiency of diesel engines used in mining machinery and equipment.

The HydraGEN technology is about the size of a suitcase for use in trucks, with larger models for use in more significant mining machinery and equipment, and the company estimates the device could reduce the carbon footprint of a caterpillar 797F dump truck by over 530,000 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year and save approximately 2,618 hours of operational time in fuel.

Over the past year, the company has been marketing the technology worldwide and now has a presence in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In February, it was ranked the number one performing company across all sectors on the 2020 TSX Venture 50 list for its performance in 2019, which saw a 284% increase in its share price and a 384% increase in its market capitalization to $185.36 million.

“I was first introduced to the technology about 16 years ago and was really taken aback by its potential,” Jim Payne, dynaCERT’s president and CEO, said in a telephone interview. “Along with several others, I invested in the technology and we launched the first HydraGEN device about 18 months ago.”

Diesel fuel is integral to the mining industry. Diesel-powered shovels and drills are used to excavate natural resources into trucks or onto conveyor belts that are also powered by diesel. Excavators, dozers, front loaders and drill rigs all run on diesel fuel.

The massive haul trucks used in mining operations, in particular, can consume a staggering amount of fuel, with consumption often exceeding 50% of a mine’s total energy costs. Take, for example, the Belaz 75710, which is capable of hauling 450 tonnes of rock in one load and considered to be the world’s largest dump truck. It is estimated to consume over 450 litres of diesel fuel per hour when fully loaded — around 150 times that of an average sedan.

The combustion of diesel fuel to power transport and stationary equipment releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute to climate change. Around 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) are emitted annually by the mining industry, according to the analysis presented in Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs by McKinsey & Company, published in January 2020.

The report also estimates that emissions associated with the metal industry’s value chain, so-called scope 3 emissions, contribute a further 4,000 million tonnes of CO2e per year, mainly from steel and aluminum production.

Load and haul trucks in the north pit at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGM mine in South Africa. Credit: Anglo American.

Furthermore, the incomplete combustion of fuel in the engines of trucks, excavators, diesel generators and other mining equipment also releases a range of noxious pollutants, including carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide and diesel particulate matter that are harmful to human health and the environment.

The HydraGen technology works by first using electricity to turn water into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) gas, which are then fed into the engine on demand during its intake stroke, which creates a homogenous mixture before combustion of the fuel. The diesel is then injected into the combustion chamber, where it mixes with the air and H2 mixture.

The presence of H2 and O2 gas in the chamber helps to initiate combustion sooner and just before the end of the compression stroke. This increases the rate of combustion, which now lasts for a much shorter duration during the power stroke phase of the engine, and results in less fuel consumption and a higher amount of power generated at a lower temperature.

“It’s well documented that trace amounts of hydrogen gas have been proven to improve the burn efficiency of internal combustion engines. The gas comes from the electrolysis of water, and because it’s produced on-demand, we don’t need to store it,” explains Payne.

The hydrogen is then fed into the cylinder, where it mixes with the fuel, allowing more of the fuel to be combusted at the top of the cylinder. This produces a cleaner and much more efficient burn, which greatly improves fuel economy as well as reducing carbon emissions directly at the source.

The increase in the thermal efficiency of the engine also ‘cools’ the exhaust emissions, reducing the release of NOx, hydrocarbons and other carbon emissions, as well as improving the fuel economy of the engine.

In independent tests conducted by the PIT Group, based in Montreal, Que., German-based Continental EMITEC and Ontario Tech University’s ACE automotive research, development and innovation centre, the technology reduced NOx emissions by 88%, total hydrocarbon content by over 57%, emissions of CO and CO2 by up to 47% and 10%, respectively, and can generate fuel savings of between 6 to 19%.

It also reduced particulate matter, also called black smoke, by up to 55.3%, improve diesel particle filter replacement times by at least 33% and can negate the need for between 40% and 60% of diesel exhaust fluid, used to reduce air pollution released by diesel engines.

The device is also equipped with the HydraLytica™ telematics technology that gathers and records data on an engine’s total lifetime mileage and volume of litres consumed to estimate a historic baseline rate for litres per 100 km travelled. It then analyses the fuel consumption and distance travelled since the device was installed to determine the savings in fuel and reductions in GHG emissions, measured in kilograms of CO2e, and then transmits the data so it can be used when applying for carbon credits.

In 2019, the HydraGEN technology was approved for use in underground mining applications. The approval followed a risk assessment commissioned by one of its dealers, Total Equipment Services (TES), a privately-owned Canadian company located in Sudbury, Ont., and one of TES’s major underground mining customers in Northern Ontario.

“We are currently running a test pilot with the company on one of their pieces of underground mobile equipment,” said Kevin Whynott, President and CEO of TES, in a telephone interview. “The primary driver for the company was to reduce emissions. And if we can demonstrate that emissions can be reduced by say 10, 20, or even 50%, then they could have more pieces of equipment running underground.”

Preliminary results from the pilot are “looking good,” according to Whynott, who hopes to have the full results of the study by next month.

The company’s HG145-6C Large Engine HydraGEN™ Technology is also being deployed on a fleet of mining trucks and equipment at two large mining companies operating in South America, one in Brazil and the other in Argentina.

In partnership with the UK-based International Environmental Partners Limited, the company has also recently submitted an application for a new methodology for estimating carbon reductions from diesel engines to VERRA’s Verified Carbon Standard program.

Because there is no approved methodology, a verified method for measuring carbon reductions would allow companies who have installed a HydraGEN device on vehicles or equipment to turn GHG emission reductions into tradable carbon credits.

“We have achieved a significant step towards a free market trading of the carbon emission reductions provided by our HydraGEN and HydraLytica Telematics technologies,” Robert Maier, dynaCERT’s chief operating officer and chief engineer, stated in a press release. “Harnessing carbon credits has been one of our long-term goals, which we identified a few years ago. We are now on the right path to create a continuous and recurring revenue stream for the company.”