While major capital equipment costs hit mining companies hard, it is the everyday costs associated with keeping these pieces of capital equipment in top shape.
When it comes to diesel fuel, there is little the industry can do, as the fuel is literally the life blood of the industry – without it every single part of the resources industry (as well as transport and logistics associated with it) grinds to a swift halt.
Even when the proposed abolition of the diesel fuel rebate scheme reared its head, there was little the mining industry could do if it had passed, as fuel plays such as critical part.
In 2007 BHP used more than 1400 megalitres of diesel – accounting for more than five per cent of Australia’s total diesel consumption , and in 2013 used 2041 megalitres of distillate and gasoline, demonstrating the consistently rising demand for fuel and in turn the significantly rising costs associated with it.
In fact after labour costs fuel is the next biggest expense for miners.
However there are steps miners can take to get more out of their fuel.
Using more fuel economical vehicles, using additives, using cleaner fuel – are all options for companies, but not all fuels are the same.
It’s not unusual to expect ISO (International Standards Organisation) cleanliness levels for new fuel or oil to arrive at a customer with a cleanliness level of ISO 22/21/18.
This three-digit ISO code denotes the number of particles larger than 4 microns, 6 microns and 14 microns you would find in a sample of 100 millilitres of fluid.
In other words, in 100ml of oil or fuel with an ISO count of 22/21/18 you could have approximately two to four million particles larger than 4 microns, one to two million particles larger than six microns and between one hundred and thirty thousand and a quarter of a million dirt particles larger than fourteen microns.
For new, clean diesel fuels operators would expect ISO 14/13/11 for their site.
In two independent studies examining injector wear with a known concentration of two parts per million of test dust, it was shown that 5 per cent of injector wear took place in the first three hundred miles of driving, and 20 per cent took place over the next three hundred thousand miles.
According to studies carried out by fuel filter manufacturer Donaldson if fuel is cleaned to an ISO cleanliness level of 14/13/11 compared to fuel that is delivered at 22/12/18, we estimate the average fuel saving could be as much as 3 per cent over the life of the vehicle.
The benefit of using clean fuel in modern mining machinery is significant, added to BP’s fuel technology experts.
BP recently undertook a field trial with a large iron-ore mine in Western Australia, testing the effects of clean fuel on the engines of Caterpillar 793C dump trucks.
After tests running for more than 6000 hours they observed a more than five per cent increase in power, 2.6 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency and considerable reductions in carcinogenic particulates and CO2 emissions when using clean fuel.
The mine valued this improved productivity and engine durability in the tens of millions of dollars.
BP Global Mining Technology Manager John Appleyard was an integral member of the project team and explained why the company had invested heavily in a clean fuels project.
“Achieving fuel cleanliness onsite is a difficult task,” he said.
“We wanted to help our customers keep fuel clean because it substantially improves fuel efficiency.
“The Fuel Integrity and Technology (FIT) program is a comprehensive clean fuels strategy that can be personalised to any business in the mining industry.”
The education of workers onsite is important in preventing fuel contamination because they are directly involved in the storage and handling.
Trial participants were also welcomed the fact that BP’s clean fuel program included an interactive training module that could be accessed online, took less than an hour and delivered the best-in-class fuel education for supervisors and operators.
Appleyard said BP provided greater access to its global fuel technology experts.
“Our mobile team conducts site assessments and audits on fuel facilities,” he said.
“We use the results from these studies to provide personalised advice so our customers can prevent fuel contamination onsite.”
The FIT program launch is supported by the continued rollout of ultimate diesel across the country, highlighted by a new supply point at the updated BP terminal in Gladstone.