Sime Darby and the IntelliGas Group have entered into a unique partnership which will see the production of cutting edge technology, set to significantly reduce fuel costs for miners and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mine Energy Solutions (MES) Executive Director, Craig James, said MES was a joint venture between the Queensland-based gas technology specialist, IntelliGas and multinational Sime Darby to displace imported diesel as the dominant fuel for heavy machinery.

MES has adopted High Density Natural Gas (HDCNGTM) to deliver significant, safe and sustainable fuel savings to owners of mobile machinery.

MES has also developed and applied cutting edge engine and fuel management technology to convert a CAT 3516B engine to dual fuel and enable up to 95 per cent displacement of diesel fuel with natural gas over a full range of operating conditions on a dynamometer.

Mr James said the dual fuel converted engine had been fitted to a Caterpillar 789C mine truck with field trials conducted at Morayfield in QLD, attracting over 150 industry, government and business observers over 10 demonstration days.

“Average diesel displacement in excess of 80 per cent was achieved over the full range of drive cycle conditions simulated by the trials without loss of torque or power,” he said.

“MES is focussed exclusively on mining applications, initially in Australia, and then internationally. MES sees the HDCNG to be a “game changer” for the mining industry.

“In addition to the ability to reduce fuel costs, MED also reduced carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25 per cent and significantly cuts particulate and noxious emissions, delivering health safety and environmental benefits to the mine owner, its work force and adjacent communities.

“The uptake of this technology will also improve road safety. In Central Queensland, there is the potential to take as many as 8,000 diesel tanker trucks off the roads annually between the fuel depots at Mackay and Gladstone and mine sites to the West.

“Adding to the a gas fuelled engine also improves driver comfort as it produces less noise and vibration.”

MES field trials truck driver, Ben Causer, said these benefits were immediately noticeable.

Mr Causer, who has 18 years experience driving heavy-duty mine equipment as driver and instructor, said drivers would love the engine running on gas because the vibration simply faded away.

“The truck performs better and more crisply with the MES controls, even on diesel; but, when the natural gas fuel is introduced it is also noticeably smoother,” he said.

The engine technology is innovative, can be retrofitted to existing mine fleets including dozers, wheel loaders and diesel shovels and integrated seamlessly with existing manned vehicles or autonomous mining machinery,” Mr James said.

“MES intends to offer the mining industry an end-to-end fuel solution never before experienced in the industry. Many major mine sites throughout Australia are relatively close to natural gas sources and/ or gas transmission pipelines. MES will source gas supplies, compress it to HDCNG, transport it to the mine and provide either automated or mibile re-fuelling systems.

HDCNG is natural gas compressed, transported, stored and dispensed at pressures in excess of 350 bar (5076psi). It has approximately twice the energy density of conventional CNG and approximately 65 per cent the energy density of LNG. It has less space and weight claim than CNG and none of the safety in handling and other issues that result from the cryogenic nature of LNG.

The HDCNG fuel packs will be mounted on the mine truck in four fuel cassettes, each containing two lightweight composite cylinders, which are designed to be robotically exchanged at the re-fuelling station in less than five minutes and on both sides of the truck simultaneously – much like a “Swap and Go” bottle exchange. Alternatively an “in-pit” mobile re-fuelling service can be provided.

The MES HDCNG technology is genuine dual fuel: should gas supply be interrupted, the engine is still capable of running on 100 per cent diesel and reverts automatically if required to do so. Should the truck be relocated to a mine where natural gas is not available, the dual fuel conversions are easily reversible.

As a result of the field demonstrations MES is confident that the Caterpillar 789C HDCNG dual fuel mine truck will be accepted into a mine fleet for the necessary next step – extensive reliability and operational trials as a prelude to commercialization.

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