Modelling the Water, Energy and Economic Nexus

Modelling the Water, Energy and Economic Nexus


Description

The mining industry faces three long term strategic risks in relation to its water and energy use: 1) securing enough water and energy to meet increased production; 2) reducing its water use, energy consumption and emissions due to social, environmental and economic pressures; and 3) fully understanding the link between water and energy, so that an improvement in one area does not simply create a greater adverse affect in the other. This project aims to help the industry analyse these risks by creating a tool that models the interactions of water and energy both on a site and regional level. 

Water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions are inherently linked because: 

  1. Energy is used to withdraw, transport, treat and dispose of water
  2. Water is used in the extraction of fossil fuels and production of energy; and
  3. When vegetation is used to offset greenhouse gas emissions it requires water and reduces a catchment’s water flows 

This link, often referred to as the Water-Energy-Nexus (WEN), demonstrates that every water problem can be described as energy or emissions problem and vice-versa.  

Based on this, the mining industry faces three long term strategic risks in relation to its water and energy use: 

  1. Securing enough water and energy to meet increased production
  2. Reducing its water use, energy consumption and emissions due to social, environmental and economic pressures; and
  3. Fully understanding the link between water and energy, so that an improvement in one area does not simply create a greater adverse effect in the other.


This project aims to help the industry analyse these risks by creating a tool that models the interactions of water and energy both on a site and regional level.

This project is split into three phases:

  1. Development of a hierarchical systems model (HSM) to represent the links between a mine site’s water and energy use and generation of emissions.
  2. Extension of the HSM to represent the links between water and energy use and emissions across multiple mines on a regional scale.
  3. Integrating the HSM within a risk framework to better understand the ‘true’ value of water and energy in a mining context.

The project is expected to be completed in September 2013.

Objectives

  1. To represent mining’s water and energy use and emissions generation on a whole-of-site and regional scale.
  2. To increase understanding of the links between water and energy in the mining context by examining their synergies and trade-offs
  3. To increase understanding of the risk, opportunities and ‘true’ value associated with mine site’s water and energy management. 

References

Alan Woodley, Greg Keir, Jackson White, Systems Modelling of Mine Water and Energy Tradeoffs, Paper Presented at the Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering  Conference (SSEE) 2013.  18 - 20 September 2013, Canberra, Australia. 2013 (To Appear).

Key People