A crew stands in front of one of Rio Tinto’s huge mining trucks.
Posted: July 9, 2014
When global mining and metals company Rio Tinto said it wanted to explore improving the fuel economy on its fleet of massive mining trucks in Australia, engineers at Komatsu, General Electric and Cummins had already been thinking about the same possibility.
But instead of working separately on how they could make each of their individual parts of the truck more fuel efficient in use, the companies put competitive pressures aside and worked as a team. The team figured out a way to cut fuel use by 4 to 6 percent through adjustments to the engine, drive train and the integration of those systems in the truck.
While that might not sound like a tremendous amount on a percentage basis, each truck in Rio Tinto’s fleet is about the size of a two-story house and uses a tremendous amount of fuel. Some were more than five years old.
A 4 percent reduction translates into a potential savings of over $14 million annually for Rio Tinto’s fleet of about 280 mining trucks primarily at the company’s mine in Hunter Valley, Australia. And that translates into a savings of about 27,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
“The team has worked tremendously well together,” said Justin Blomenberg, Chief Engineer – Application Engineering for the High Horsepower Engine Business at Cummins. “We worked with incredible transparency. This kind of approach doesn’t happen very often for products that are in use, but I think there’s a huge potential for it.”
Manufacturers have been working with their direct customers for many years to help them use the equipment they purchase more efficiently and effectively. Cummins, for example, has helped its customers save about $900 million on their operations since 2004 using the business problem-solving tool Six Sigma. The projects saved about 90 million gallons of fuel and avoided more than 1 million tons of CO2 emissions.
But the team approach used with Rio Tinto is unusual to improve in-service operations after purchase, and a first on this scale for Cummins in its High Horsepower business.
“Helping our customers meet their own sustainability goals can not only help them save money, it has the potential for tremendous environmental benefits as well,” said Dave Lauzun, Cummins’ Executive Director –Customer Engineering.
Cummins was interested in testing this approach in its High Horsepower business because of the potential impact. While those engines account for only about 2 percent of the total number of Cummins engines in the world today, they use an estimated 20 percent of the total diesel fuel consumed by Cummins-powered equipment.
The engineering team nicknamed the project “Dhanna Yurabaya,” which means to “Stand Strong” in one of the native Wiri languages spoken in the region where the mine is located.
Each company played a key role in the collaboration, including Rio Tinto, which actively participated in goal setting as well as testing the proposed innovations.
Komatsu, the world’s second largest construction and mining equipment company, which includes the sales of mining trucks capable of hauling payloads of 360 tons, focused on the big picture including systems integration.
General Electric, a global technology leader and supplier to the railroad, mining, marine industries and more, was in charge of the electric drive system controls, affecting the entire drive line, from engine to wheel motors.
Cummins, a global power leader, worked on the engine – a QSK60, one of the larger engines in the Company’s product line.
Team members from Cummins worked specifically on the calibration of the engine, tuning the calibration’s governor settings to work in synch with the GE drive system controls so the engine could operate at lower speeds. Cummins also targeted a one percent increase in fuel efficiency through advances in combustion.
A mining truck doesn’t have to go fast, but it does have go from periods when it’s not moving to times when it is pulling a tremendous amount of weight safely through the mine, including up steep grades under full loads and sometimes turning 180-degree corners.
Cummins is now planning a similar project with at least two other High Horsepower customers.
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