Floating fuel pickup – simplicity in innovation

The FuelActive® Floating Fuel Collection Unit provides a simple yet low maintenance and highly effective solution to the problem of fuel contamination that plagues mines around the world due to a combination of particles from dust and /or the use of biodiesel or lower quality diesel. I AM Managing Editor Paul Moore spoke to the company to get a sense of the technology’s potential and to date.

Sometimes the simplest ideas in mining can have a huge impact when measured across a fleet of equipment. In some cases they may not have been thought of before or in others the idea may have been put forward but not properly implemented or supported – often all it takes is a champion on site to install it so the data can speak for itself. A prime example of this type of innovation can be found in Cardiff, UK-headquartered FuelActive Ltd.

Approximately 80% of machine downtime or premature maintenance is caused by fuel contamination. This is a global problem affecting the mining sector. Fuel contamination increases operating costs by unduly increasing repair and maintenance budgets, reducing productivity and eroding capital efficiency. With the engine operating at a lower thermal efficiency, this can lead to increased harmful emissions and reduced fuel economy. The operator also runs a serious risk of causing catastrophic engine failure on the jobsite. There are several alternatives for fuel contamination, but all require regular maintenance and replacement parts. FuelActive claims it is the only in-tank, set-it-and-forget-it product on the market today.

The patented FuelActive fuel collection unit is a unique and innovative solution to the problem of fuel contamination in diesel engines. Unlike a standard fuel pickup hose, the unit uses a floating pickup hose that draws clean fuel from the top of the fuel level, avoiding harmful contaminants settling to the bottom. Contaminants such as solid particles and water can hamper or ruin the efficiency of the best fuel injection systems. And the contamination starts with the first filling. Having the most efficient filtration, which begins with a clean collection method inside the tank, is essential to ensuring that all diesel engines operate at the highest level of efficiency.

FuelActive states, “By supplying fuel lines with the highest quality fuel available, FuelActive protects the fuel system and significantly reduces problems associated with contaminated fuel. Most contaminants are waterborne and are about 15% heavier than diesel, sinking to the bottom of the fuel tank. By drawing fuel from the upper fuel level, the FuelActive unit avoids contamination settling at the bottom of the tank.

Max Lytle, Chief Commercial Officer, said I AM: “Contamination in diesel tanks usually consists of sediment (dirt, metal and rust), water and microorganisms, all of which separate very quickly and settle to the bottom of the fuel tank. Diesel engines standard systems place the fuel sampling point exactly where these contaminants are found, at the bottom of the tank.These contaminants create many problems for operators; early clogging of filters, damaging lift pumps and degrading the performance of sensitive engine injectors. The patented FuelActive unit is a unique and innovative solution to this problem.

The introduction of high pressure common rail with injection pressures >2500 bar has further increased the need to run on clean fuel. Skilled technicians can install the FuelActive unit in less than an hour, in almost any application. FuelActive gets to work immediately, protecting the engine from the effects of diesel fuel contamination. It works in virtually any environment, at temperatures ranging from -40°C to 50°C. FuelActive is also made from high quality materials specifically designed to work with hydrocarbons. It is covered by a five-year warranty on all standard products.

Proven in contract mining in Indonesia

Mining is a very conservative industry – operators want to see data and preferably comparative data showing the effect with and without the technology – and they want a lot of it. They also want data that shows consistent performance and a proven benefit to the bottom line. FuelActive has already achieved this goal on a number of mining and quarrying sites. However, one of the most impressive was a deployment with global contract mining major Macmahon Holdings at a client’s gold mine in Sumatra, Indonesia. Macmahon’s extensive experience in surface and underground mining has made the company the mining contractor of choice for global resource projects in various commodity sectors.

Macmahon operates a fleet of Volvo A60H ADTs experiencing excessive low power incidents (LPI). A combination of a dusty, humid environment and the use of B30 biodiesel, which is relatively standard in Indonesia, is suspected to be the cause of the IPVs. Macmahon accepted a proof-of-concept (POC) trial from FuelActive. Three FA16 FuelActive units were sent to site for installation in April 2021. It is important to note that as a check these ADT units were compared to new units of the same specification for the same application on the same site. Setting the bar high, ADTs equipped with FuelActive units already had 4,500 hours under their belt. Considering the age disparity, the performance of Volvo’s ‘new’ ADTs has been quite solid in the first two months. However, the effects of the contamination began to show. In the last six months of 2021, data has clearly favored FuelActive’s performance.

Macmahon’s service records documented 27 LPI on “new” standard units and 9 on FuelActive units – a 66% reduction. Using Volvo’s OEM fleet telematics to record fuel consumption data over a 25-week period, Fuel Active units achieved better fuel economy for 22 of the 25 weeks. One in three standard ADTs in the control group had fuel injectors replaced during the test period, and none on the FuelActive-equipped units, also noting that two trucks outside the control group had fuel injectors replaced. Average fuel economy across the control group was 36.7 liters per hour, with an average fuel economy improvement of 3.4% over FuelActive. To convert this into sustainability and bottom line benefits – a savings of 3.4% equates to 1.25 L/hr or 18 L/d (based on a typical 15 hr/d ADT operation). These statistics are equivalent to 49.1 kg of CO2 emissions saved per day or 17,930 kg of CO2 per year for each truck equipped with FuelActive. In terms of costs, based on 18 L/d, the return on investment for FuelActive was 251% in the first year.

As a result, in November 2021, Macmahon placed an order for the remainder of the Volvo ADT fleet – the number of fleets totaling 10. In January 2022, Macmahon extended the FuelActive solution to its fleet of Cat 390 excavators and Volvo ADTs remaining. The contractor’s fleet also includes Cat 745 ADTs, so there is potential for further expansion in the future.

PT Macmahon Maintenance Manager Nigel Wixon said, “Macmahon Indonesia strives to improve its business through technology. At the end of April 2021, we installed FuelActive on three Volvo A60s to target a reduction in low power incidents that lead to significant equipment downtime. Fortunately, low power incidents have been reduced by 66% on these trucks, which improves the reliability and availability of our trucks. We’ve also seen noticeable fuel savings on FuelActive-equipped equipment, averaging 3.4% over the past six months. The savings were evident every month, equivalent to almost 18 t of CO2 saved per year per truck. I would recommend that FuelActive be installed on all mining equipment for repair and maintenance savings, increased equipment uptime, fuel savings and durability benefits.

Tom Michaelson-Yeates, Mining Manager at FuelActive, adds, “FuelActive is a unique set-it-and-forget-it solution aimed at reducing the significant costs associated with diesel contamination. Working with Macmahon, an innovative global mining contractor, has given us the opportunity to demonstrate that we are increasing mining productivity and reducing repair and maintenance costs. The fact that we can prove consistent and significant fuel economy with clear financial and sustainability benefits is a potential game-changer in the industry. This matches the data we have seen in other sectors.

Chilean copper ultra class trucks

Finally, in very different mining conditions, FuelActive was installed and proved to be highly effective during a 12-month trial on ultra-class Komatsu 980E dump trucks in one of the largest copper mines in the world. in the Antofagasta region of Chile, in the arid and high Atacama Desert. Filters lasted over 1000h compared to the previous limit of 250h. Pumps and injectors perform to manufacturer’s specifications – no replacements in 12 months. The system has experienced consistent and reliable performance. FuelActive-equipped trucks deliver unmatched levels of uptime, power and speed compared to the mine’s other 400-ton class trucks. No significant fuel-related failures were observed in units equipped with FuelActive during the 12 months. This equated to significant productivity performance over 12 months of testing to the point where FuelActive was included in the mine owner’s standard specification for future mining truck service and maintenance contracts. Additionally, FuelActive is currently being tested at another large copper mine in Chile.

Jeff Dawes, President and CEO of Komatsu Mining, said, “For Komatsu Chile and our customers, the installation of FuelActive fuel collection units has proven to be an effective way to combat the global problem of fuel contamination in diesel-powered machinery.

Other mining applications for FuelActive active today include a coal mine in South Africa, nickel mines in Indonesia, underground mines in Australia, projects with OEMs, including a suitable option for mobile crushing units and screening, and an ongoing pilot project with a major exploration drill OEM.