The Los Pelambres copper operation, 60% owned by Antofagasta Minerals, is one of the world’s largest copper mines. It sits at an elevation of more than 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in the Andes range, 240 km northeast of Santiago.
After encountering unanticipated problems from a newly implemented fast-refill fuel system for its haul trucks, the mine resolved those issues and gained additional benefits by installing a monitoring system that accurately reports and records truck fuel-tank status.
Los Pelambres’ 55 Komatsu haul trucks are a critical element of mine production. As part of an effort to maximize asset utilization, the mine adopted a fast refueling system for the trucks that would reduce refueling time from 25 to approximately 5 minutes. However, this initiative produced an unexpected series of issues that offset the intended goal—specifically, the mine was seeing frequent rupture of factory-installed fuel sensors due to high pressure from the refueling system. Without a working fuel sensor, drivers had to guess when it was the right time to refuel and could only estimate how much fuel would be needed to top off the truck’s tank.
Not surprisingly, guessing rarely paid off. Drivers sometimes waited too long to refuel and the tank went empty, causing air to leak in. Purging the air added five additional hours to the refueling process. Overall, tanks were filled to maximum capacity only 0.6% of the time, which ended up significantly increasing the number of refueling stops. Because no one could optimize the refueling schedule, drivers often reported to the same refueling center at the same time, which caused long lines and delays.
These issues and the ensuing consequences not only undercut the intended benefits of adopting the new refueling method; they actually increased downtime and negatively impacted revenue at the mining site. To address the problems created by the fast refueling system, Los Pelambres invited a group of companies to submit a proposal for a solution that would:
- Equip the trucks with a ruggedized fuel sensor that would withstand the pressure from the fast refueling system.
- Relay fuel level and truck location data back to a centralized application over cellular or satellite depending on network availability to ensure uninterrupted connectivity.
- Include an application with a user-friendly graphical interface that would display the position of trucks as well as tank levels in real-time. The application would also allow the control center to monitor alarms based on user-defined thresholds.
The monitoring system installed at Los Pelambres uses ORBCOMM’s IDP-782 data terminal to transmit fuel-status information over cellular or satellite networks.
The solution selected for Los Pelambres was developed by Tarco LTDA, a Chilean integrator specializing in developing custom tracking and monitoring solutions for the mining industry. The PCR 1000—Tarco’s state-of-the-art remote fuel monitoring system—constantly monitors tank levels and transmits tank-level data as well as other vehicle telematics data back to a centralized application in real-time using ORBCOMM’s IDP-782 terminal. Since mining trucks operate in remote areas, satellite connectivity is a must to ensure timely and consistent data delivery. The ORBCOMM IDP-782 transmits data over the cellular network when available and automatically switches to the IsatData Pro satellite data service when cellular is down for uninterrupted connectivity. The ruggedized fuel monitoring system is capable of withstanding extreme environmental conditions, including heat, cold, water, dust, altitude and vibration.
To solve the refueling issues, ORBCOMM’s IDP-782 dual-mode terminal continuously collects, processes and transmits data from the truck’s fuel sensor. When it comes to managing alarms, the terminal is programmed to identify user-defined thresholds and send only relevant information over the air to minimize data transmission costs. The PCR 1000 remote fuel monitoring system gives the control center complete visibility into refueling operations and an easy-to-use interface that displays truck location and tank level in real-time…