L&M Radiator Engineers Share On-the-Ground Challenges Facing Today’s Mining and Oil and Gas Operations
What is the number one issue facing mining and oil and gas operations across the globe?
It’s downtime due to heavy-equipment maintenance and repairs.
“Without out doubt, it’s the number one issue facing our customers,” said Tim Cass, Design and Applications Engineer for L&M Radiator, which makes legendary Mesabi heat exchangers for heavy-duty trucks, equipment and utility-grade gensets.
In a recent discussion with other L&M Radiator engineers, Chris Domogalla, a Design and Applications Engineer with L&M Radiator noted: “Downtime equates to thousands of dollars lost per hour and the subsequent headaches of production goals not being met. It’s a real worry – especially for operations that are located in some of the most remote parts of the world where obtaining parts can be a real problem.”
“One of our customers calculated the cost of an hour of downtime for one mining truck – it came to thousands of dollars per hour,” said Cass, “And that’s just for one truck. Imagine if more than one truck goes down? Well, you can do the math from there.”
Based on conversations with maintenance supervisors around the world, it appears the most common cause of heavy-equipment downtime is damage from some sort of impact, such as a rock or a piece of equipment backing into a structure or wall.
“One of our customers operates a mine in northwestern Australia that experienced damage to one of their conventional radiators, a fairly exposed component, as a result of a loader backing into a bank,” said Cass. “The customer put our core on and within a few days, the operator caused the exact same damage. Our replaceable tube approach helped save the company from a tremendous amount of downtime. It took just a few hours each time to replace our tubes, which saved the mine literally tens of thousands of dollars in lost income. After that experience, the mine decided to put Mesabi heat exchangers in all of their equipment. That’s how much of an impact we had on that operation.”
“The cost savings alone offset the investment in our equipment by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” added Cass.
According to John Bernal, L&M Radiator Western States Sales Representative, citing another mining operation, the downtime cost for a haul truck within that mine’s fleet based on an 18-month lifecycle for a radiator with two engine rebuilds was approximately $267,000 in repairs and maintenance over a 14-month period. “When that customer swapped their fleet over to Mesabi, they essentially eliminated those costs,” said Bernal.
Meeting Emissions Requirements as They Continue to Tighten
L&M Radiator engineers identified another key challenge for its customers — ever-tightening emissions requirements in the U.S., Canada, and the European Union.
New Tier Four final and Stage Five diesel engine requirements are more strict. Because engines must burn hotter to meet the emissions standards, the cooling packages require more airflow or more space. To meet these challenges, L&M engineers are working closely with their customers to find creative solutions to meet these demanding new emissions standards.
For example, L&M Radiator recently custom designed a cooling system for a heavy-duty mining truck operating in an underground mine in Sweden. A new design was needed to help the truck meet Stage Five emission standards, which is required in Europe.
“We increased the charge air cooler section of the Mesabi cooling system without making the cooling package any larger,” said Cass. “In addition, we used extra capacity in the radiator section, changed the design of the charge air cooler to a more efficient tube going from five joints per inch to nine joints per inch, and ultimately, we were able to design it within the same size package and meet the Stage Five emissions specifications.”
While many mining companies operating in LRC (Less Restrictive Countries) are using equipment that does not meet the more stringent stage four and stage five standards, some larger companies operating in the LRCs (which includes Australia and Chile) want to demonstrate their commitment to green leadership.
“We’re seeing a growing number of companies buying equipment that produces lower levels of emissions,” said Cass. “For example, one of our customers offers a truck model in two versions – designated D and F. The F complies with the latest, most stringent emission requirements and the D model, which is sold in LRC countries, does not.”
Cass pointed out that L&M excels at keeping used, older heavy-duty equipment in top-running condition. After these pieces of equipment reach a certain age, they are often sold in the after-market and find their way to LRC countries. Over time, equipment that meets stage four and stage five emissions standards will be readily available in the aftermarket, which will gradually change the dynamic in LRC countries.
“Because we offer custom solutions, we can design aftermarket packages to retrofit older equipment even when conventional heat exchangers fail, become obsolete or are no longer available,” said Domogalla. “We do that a lot in the local mines, with tube and shell coolers that were originally installed 30-40 years ago. Our proven engineering collaboration and ingenuity can help mining and oil and gas companies achieve complex green goals.”
Overcoming Environmental Conditions
The environment in which heavy-duty mining equipment operates is another big challenge facing mining and oil and gas operations. Saltwater, extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme humidity, dust, huge volumes of insects — you name it – Mesabi heat exchangers have probably encountered it.
For example, it’s not uncommon for Mesabi heat exchangers to be equipped on heavy-duty mining equipment operating near an ocean, or on a gen set on an off-shore oil rig. Facing the possibility of significant salt corrosion, L&M Radiator engineers can customize its heat exchangers with salt-resistant materials such as brazed brass tubes or stainless-steel framework, according to Domogalla.
Another common environmental consideration is clogging. Sometimes conditions are simply really dirty. Whether it’s dirt or mud causing the conventional cooler to overheat every couple of days or the fact that a conventional cooler is just not cleanable, L&M implements a solution called Mesabi V-Tubeä heat exchangers, which features a more clog-resistant design that allows debris to go through the spaces between the tubes and makes for easier cleaning.
“We designed V-Tube heat exchangers specifically for those places where the dust, dirt and mud are so extreme that traditional, conventional heat exchangers can’t cut it,” said Domogalla.
Can you imagine what -67 degrees Fahrenheit might feel like? That’s how cold it can get on Baffin Island, which is located between Canada’s Hudson Bay and Greenland. It’s where Mesabi radiators are used on 13 Cummins generators to power the Baffinland Iron Mines mining and shipping operations. In addition, Mesabi radiators also are used on the mine’s heavy-duty trucks that haul iron ore from the operation’s Mary River Mine. In such extreme cold, thermal expansion is an issue as cold-soaked radiators try to cope with hot coolant.
“Conventional radiators typically can’t handle that type of expansion, but the Mesabi tube and seal design allows for the necessary thermal expansion,” said Rob Holden, Sales Engineer with L&M Radiator’s Canada Division. “Our experience in working in those conditions helps make environmental elements a non-issue for Mesabi radiators.”
Battling Increasing Operational Costs
In working closely with its mine and oil and gas customers, L&M Radiator’s engineers have built a reputation of helping its customers spot opportunities to cut costs.
If equipment fails in the field such as a fan that has exploded, which can take out the heat exchanger core, L&M Parts and Service can get a customer the tubes they’ll need to make the repair the very next day and to get the equipment up and running without having to pull out the entire radiator. With Mesabi tubes, the equipment can be back up and running at 100 percent cooling capacity.
For example, at the 25,000-hour point, a number of Mesabi customers will send their radiators out to be overhauled or rebuilt. All the tubes get pulled and cleaned, and about 10% are replaced versus an entire core replacement with a conventional style.
“A radiator rebuild is cheap insurance considering the costs of rebuilding an engine,” said Cass. “However, it’s not always necessary to rebuild a Mesabi radiator. We recommend just cleaning it.”
Bernal points to the example of a Goldstrike’s Komatsu 930s with 100,000 hours that was going on its fourth engine – and still operating with the original Mesabi radiator. “As long as the engine package is not changed,” said Bernal “there is no drop-dead date [referring to the warranty] on Mesabi products.”
“While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of time Mesabi heat exchangers can outlast our competitors and how much money is saved as a result,” said Cass. “We know that if our products are maintained properly, they last for the life of the equipment and sometimes, indefinitely.”
“From minimizing downtime and maximizing cost savings, our longevity in the mining industry proves that Mesabi products are the best bet,” added Bernal. “Our goal is to keep our customers’ trucks and other heavy-duty equipment in the dirt as long as possible through radiator repair efficiency and long-lasting durability. You buy one Mesabi for at least two engine lives for a haul truck, versus buying four, five or six of somebody else’s radiators. The cost savings at the end of the day, lack of downtime and headaches is quite significant.”