Pumping Iron

Posted: June 27, 2011 in Mining

Massive single-trailer outfits built by Powertrans carry 140 tonnes of ore. BIS will have 21 operating by the end of the year on Downer EDI contract.

Close to 80 Cummins QSK19 engines are powering massive ore haulage equipment at the Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek mines in the Pilbara.

The scale of the ore haulage operations at Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek mines has to be seen to be believed, and BIS Industries is in the midst of it all.

The two Fortescue Metals Group iron ore mines, 50 km apart, are home to truck and trailer combinations moving phenomenal payloads with the help of 19-litre Cummins QSK19 engines rated up to 760 hp.

BIS secured the ore haulage contract at Christmas Creek in 2009 then expanded into Cloudbreak in 2010 when it acquired the Gulf operations.

BIS had a substantial presence at Fortescue (Christmas Creek) prior to the acquisition, moving around one million tonnes of ore a month with 18 five-trailer roadtrains, but the Gulf business has added significantly to the scale of its operations.

It’s obvious the Gulf business model carries a lot of weight at BIS, a fact confirmed by Jim Ahearn, Director of Growth for BIS.

He points to strong synergies between both organisations. “Gulf has great maintenance history and practices,” he says. “Its culture is also aligned with ours in terms of respect for employees and customers, and both organisations hold strong views on Zero Harm.”

The two Fortescue mines host the biggest population of power trailers in the country – 35 units operated by BIS. Sixteen of the trailers are powered by Cummins QSK19 engines rated at 760 hp, while 19 are powered by Cummins ISX engines rated at 450 hp.

The power trailer concept is described as a “game changer” by Jim Ahearn in that it allows the movement of huge tonnages over distances and at consistent speeds beyond the viability of traditional mining dump trucks.

A remarkable innovation initiated in the late ’90s, the power trailer is manufactured commercially by Brisbane-based Powertrans. Powertrans also builds the brutal TL1250 prime mover.

The BIS power trailer combinations operate at seriously heavy weights at Fortescue, and in fact have been trialed with payloads as high as 500 tonnes on a six-trailer unit.

“To be able to offer customers access to reserves that wouldn’t otherwise be commercially recoverable by conveyor or rail systems is a step change for miners,” says Jim Ahearn.

“It also enables miners to access reserves without having to invest the capital that can otherwise be better used in their core business.

“We’re working closely with Powertrans on design features while providing operational feedback to help with on-going improvements to the design.”

At Cloudbreak, the BIS fleet moves around 135,000 tonnes of ore a day and includes 16 T1250 prime movers and the same number of Powertrans power trailers. All prime movers and trailers are powered by 760 hp QSK19 engines.

At Christmas Creek, BIS has two operations, one working directly for Fortescue, the other sub-contracting to Downer EDI.

Downer EDI is providing mining services at Christmas Creek under a six-year, $3 billion contract with Fortescue.

BIS will have 21 new trucks – massive single trailer outfits carrying 140 tonnes of ore – on the Downer EDI operation by the end of the year.

The TL1250 prime movers, coupled to non-powered Powertrans trailers, get their tractive effort from Cummins QSK19 engines rated at 760 hp.

The other BIS operation based at Christmas Creek entails 18 five-trailer road trains moving around one million tonnes of ore a month – ore that is hauled 50 km to Cloudbreak for blending.

These roadtrains, with Cummins ISX 450 engines in their Powertrans power trailers, are carrying payloads of 300 tonnes at all-up weights of around 500 tonnes.

The prime movers are a mix of Kenworth C510 and C540 models powered by Cummins QSK19 engines rated at 650 hp.

“We work to very strict maintenance guidelines here,” says Drew Davies, BIS project manager at Christmas Creek.

“Our scheduled maintenance intervals are every 125 hours for checks and correcting defects, and every 250 hours for engine oil changes. Oil analysis is carried out every service.”

One of 18 BIS five-trailer roadtrains that move one million tonnes of ore a month. These 500-tonne gross units incorporate power trailers utilising the Cummins ISX 450 engine.

The reliability and longevity of the Cummins QSK19 engine in harsh and heavy mine haulage applications is well documented by BIS and Gulf.

“We rebuild the QSK19 at 25,000 hours which is exceptional life-to-overhaul under the kind of load factors we have here,” says Drew Davies.

The importance of “staying focused” and “maintaining discipline with maintenance” is emphasised by Jim Ahearn.

 “Sticking to the disciplines we set as standards, and making sure we don’t deviate for operational reasons, is the key,” he comments.

BIS and Cummins have a well established relationship, one that Jim Ahearn says is based on “mutual trust”. A key expectation is that an integral supplier like Cummins is “proactive” in providing service support, simple access to parts and complete engines, and assisting BIS keep at the forefront of technological developments.

Currently operating from 64 locations around  Australia, BIS is looking at around 20 expansion opportunities for 2012-2013, and a further 13 for 2013-2014.

“We will not be taking on all these, but they provide a snapshot of what our growth pipeline looks like,” says Jim Ahearn.

“A couple of these are long-term infrastructure projects which would bring a solidifying dimension to our contract mix.”

 

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