Three alternate fuels - propane, hydrogen, and renewable diesel - are trending in the mining industry.   -  Photo: Work Truck

Three alternate fuels - propane, hydrogen, and renewable diesel - are trending in the mining industry. 

Photo: Work Truck

The original mining vehicle started with the minecart in the 1500s. The cart, made of wood and metal, had the sole purpose of moving earth and minerals out of the tunnels.

Fast forward hundreds of years, the biggest mining vehicle, Bagger 288, weighs 13,500 tons and is 721 feet long.

While the original mine cart required no fuel, current mining vehicles need fuel — and lots of it.

But as the world shifts to zero-emission vehicles, the mining industry is following suit.

Fleet managers can take advantage of several alternatives to fueling mining vehicles than diesel to reduce fleet emissions.

Top 3 Mining Vehicle Alt-Fuels

Mining trucks are powerhouses that must dig through the earth or carry heavy loads from point A to point B.

According to Cummins, the average mine haul truck requires 30 gallons of fuel an hour (a semi-truck is 1.5 gallons per hour). The mining industry can save time and money by using alternative fuels.

Alt-Fuel — Electric

There has been a recent push to go electric in the mining industry. Popular mining vehicle manufacturers have already come out with electric mining vehicles.

Caterpillar rolled out its first 2,650-horsepower electric mining truck in November 2022.

And mining manufacturer Epiroc has the following batter-electric mining vehicles available: 

  • Boomer M20, M, and E2.
  • Minetruck MT42.
  • Scooptram ST14.
  • Boltec M, E.
  • Simba M4, M6, E7.

According to Epiroc, “Battery-powered electric vehicles are superior in almost every aspect. Machine emissions are eliminated, less service and maintenance are required, and maybe most importantly, the environmental footprint is minimized.”

Alt-Fuel — Propane

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, propane can be used as a fuel source for any vehicle, from light to heavy duty.

Although propane has been used as a vehicle fuel source for decades, it hasn’t been as popular in the mining industry.

But that’s starting to change with companies like Superior Propane delivering propane to mining sites for easily accessible fuel.

According to Superior, “Using propane for heating applications and power generation gives you premier engine performance in all climates while also requiring less maintenance and downtime.”

Not only that, but propane’s low carbon and low oil contamination characteristics may result in longer engine life, and it can perform well in any climate, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Alt-Fuel — Hydrogen

The world’s largest zero-emissions mining truck, nuFuel, is two stories, weighs 220 tons, has a 290-tonne payload … and is hydrogen-fueled.

One of the biggest benefits of using hydrogen as a fuel source is that you don’t have to buy a new vehicle. The engine can be converted. And that’s precisely what happened to nuFuel.

nuFuel is a prototype and part of Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining project. According to Anglo American, the dump truck was converted from a diesel engine to a hydrogen-electric drive. Not only is it zero emissions, but it also generates more power than its diesel predecessor.

And Anglo American has stated this won’t be the last. It plans on fueling whole mining fleets with hydrogen.

“Over the next several years, we envisage converting or replacing our current fleet of diesel-powered trucks with this zero-emission haulage system, fueled with green hydrogen. If this pilot is successful, we could remove up to 80% of diesel emissions at our open pit mines by rolling this technology across our global fleet,” Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive of Anglo American, said in a press release.

Alt-Fuel — Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel-fueled mining vehicles are gaining popularity and entering the trial phases. Mining company Rio-Tinto completed a successful trial in 2022 of using renewable diesel on a mining truck. The company partnered with Neste and Rolls-Royce to use hydrotreated vegetable oil made from sustainably sourced renewable raw materials.

According to Rio Tinto, “Results showed that a truck running on renewable diesel delivered similar performance and reliability as trucks running on conventional diesel. Based on these positive results, Rio Tinto U.S. Borax will continue to work with the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of California, and engine manufacturers to have a full transition of the heavy machinery fleet onsite to renewable diesel by 2024, representing an anticipated CO2e reduction of up to 45,000 tons per year.”

The company has already started several other trials on its mining equipment and renewable diesel at its Bingham Canyon mine and Kennecott copper operations.

Out With the Old, in With the New: Diesel Alternatives for Construction

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About the author
Hillary Weiss

Hillary Weiss

Senior Editor

Hillary Weiss is a former senior editor at Bobit. She has a decade of digital publishing experience and a passion for all things related to fleets.

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