Mining companies are seeking innovative strategies for decreasing costs in order to maintain their market position and retain their competitive edge in a world of increasingly slim margins. In 2014, Deloitte predicted that mining companies would begin to leverage big data to optimize operations and would seek technologies that provide continuous, real-time information on their activity and state of assets. By doing so, mining site managers could improve decision-making and asset performance by measuring both the financial and non-financial indicators that affect overall profitability.
The fuel used for on-site haulage can exceed 50% of a mine’s total energy costs, which has a drastic effect on the bottom line. The massive haul trucks used in mining operations can have staggering fuel consumption ratings, in some cases approaching 250 litres/hour—roughly 150x that of an average compact sedan.
An Ontario company, Blutip Power Technologies, has demonstrated that it has solutions that reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions from mining operations. By monitoring, intercepting and, in some cases, adjusting key engine control inputs—including parameters such as shaft positions, boost pressure and coolant temperature—Blutip’s Advanced Universal Controller (AUC) can significantly improve fuel economy in high horsepower engines, such as those found in mining haul trucks, excavators and dozers. The AUC also collects precise fuel management data, as well as engine and vehicle data, which can be utilized to assess the operational efficiencies of specific vehicles and large fleets.
It seems that there is a great opportunity for mine operators to leverage real-time big data analysis to reduce costs and decrease the environmental footprint of their facilities. I sat down to chat with Chuck Knott, president and CEO of Blutip, to learn more about his business and its growing global activity.
Blutip’s AUC typically provides immediate fuel savings of 5 to 6% for mining haul truck fleets with even higher immediate fuel savings possible in applications with higher engine load factors (such as excavators and gensets). The data analytics provided by Blutip’s Hy-Trend application allow our mining customers to even further optimize their efficiency by evaluating vehicle and fleet idle times and haul cycle efficiency. This information enables customers to make more informed decisions regarding fleet sizing and deployment. In addition, operators can expect to see reductions in carbon dioxide and particulate matter emissions from their engines.
The AUC provides a mix of on-board data analytics (segmenting and bucketing of data) in combination with off-board analytics software to provide useful information about specific regions of vehicle operations. Blutip really excels in the precise measurement of the fuel that is burned in real time, versus an ECM’s calculation of what it believes is being burned. Blutip’s precise fuel measurement is the most ideal data as ECMs are known to be in the range of +/- 10% accuracy for fuel burn calculation and they fail to take into account the density of the fuel based on temperature. Also, there are no industry standards for ECMs and their capabilities to calculate fuel burn with any precision. The Blutip AUC also coordinates real time GPS data, and also coordinates with altimeters and incline angle sensors to capture as much pertinent information as possible.
Blutip’s AUCs can be applied to numerous high horsepower applications to provide fuel savings, reduced emissions and valuable data analytics. Other mining applications include excavators, dozers, front loaders and drill rigs. Applications in other vertical markets include the engines used in prime power generation sets, and marine and locomotive applications. Blutip’s AUCs have been used by some of our customers to measure the fuel savings in the field of third-party product offerings, like diesel fuel additives. Blutip’s AUC can also be utilized to modify or restore engine mapping for engines that are converted from diesel to diesel-natural gas dual-fuel engines.
The Australian and Latin American markets are leading open-pit mining markets with substantial regional fleets of heavy mobile equipment. These markets have a history of applying technology to improve productivity. Blutip is providing fuel management solutions to some of the largest mining companies in the world within these markets and we continue to grow our Technical Service Engineering organization to service the needs of our growing customer base in these regions.