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Natural gas could displace diesel for mine trucks

A prototype high-density compressed natural gas (HDCNG) system being hailed as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to diesel for mine trucks has been developed by Mine Energy Solutions (MES), a collaboration between gas technology specialists IntelliGas and multinational conglomerate Sime Darby.

Field trials of the prototype on a dual-fuel Caterpillar mine truck at Morayfield, Queensland last month — which attracted more than 150 government and industry representatives from the mining and gas industries — indicated that average diesel displacement was around 80 percent for the HDCNG system, MES says.

This, it adds, allows mine operators to cut carbon emissions by up to 25 percent and reduce fuel costs without having to compromise on vehicle performance.

Anecdotal reports from drivers in the trials also indicated reduced cabin noise and vibration when the truck was running on the HDCNG system.

The prototype truck is a Caterpillar 789C mining truck from Brisbane’s Hastings Deering (owned by Sime Darby) fitted with a CAT 3516B engine which has been modified to include IntelliGas’s engine monitoring and fuel management systems, as well as the HDCNG system.

MES says the fuel system can be retrofitted to any type of manned or automated mining vehicle and the conversion can be easily reversed if necessary. MES is aiming to provide a total fuelling solution for mining customers and says it will convert the engines, source natural gas, compress it to HDCNG — which has around twice the energy density of regular compressed natural gas — transport it to the site and provide re-fuelling systems.

The technology also has the potential to be a boon for Australia’s gas energy industry.

Peak national body Gas Energy Australia CEO Mike Carmody says he is excited about the results coming out of the trials.

“Natural gas is an abundant, Australian fuel that is positioned to improve our country’s energy security, environmental responsibility and public health as a viable alternative to imported diesel,” he says. “Technological developments such as this will help make this a reality by harnessing the benefits of gaseous fuels and overcoming barriers to their application and uptake.”


Attendees at the HDCNG field trial (l-r): Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Department director general Dr Brett Heyward, Capricornia federal MP Michelle Landry, Intelligas Group executive director and CEO Paul Whiteman and Hastings Deering Group CEO Dean Mehmet.


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