Breakthrough service truck technologies unlock operational efficiencies

The Banlaw solution can control one liquid or many service fluids just as easily.

Banlaw is delivering a cleaner, faster and safer service truck filling process with an elegant solution for fuels, oils and maintenance fluids of all types.

When mines seek to manage the multiple fluid types their service trucks carry around on-site, the technologies available to do the job have been far from perfect. Until now.

There are a number of common issues, including slow filling of service trucks or an inability to bottom-fill, compartments regularly overfilling, operability issues as fluid transfer components degrade, contamination of service fluids being pumped into the mining fleet, inability to know which tanks are actually full, and even vehicles that become unsafe to drive because of the amount of liquid onboard.

Fluid management company Banlaw has been successfully deploying a unique electronic solution to overcome these service truck challenges, both retrofitting problem machines, and on new truck bodies.

Banlaw mechanical engineer Mark Fretwell says the company is seeing a lot of interest in FillSafe Power, the company’s electronic tank overfill protection product.

“It is a pressureless solution that neatly circumvents the issues associated with hardware designed exclusively for diesel, and with pneumatic solutions,” Fretwell tells Australian Mining.

“FillSafe Power has been popular on excavators and diesel locomotives for over a decade, but the latest version continuously performs system checks, which helps pinpoint a problem if there is one with relative ease.

“This makes it just perfect for service vehicles, which can have a number of these systems onboard the same truck. Recent projects in New South Wales, Queensland and Papua New Guinea demonstrate this clearly.”

Two of the challenges Banlaw has been overcoming on service trucks relate to fluid compartments overfilling, and also of operators simply not knowing when the tank is full.

When it’s unclear whether a tank is full, operators can inadvertently pump more fluid into an already-full tank, or somebody has to climb up on top of the vehicle to open hatches and check.

Besides the obvious risks from overfilling tanks and climbing up oily ladders and on top of vehicles, it is incredibly time intensive to fill perhaps nine different storage tanks incrementally or sequentially because the system can’t be trusted to do what it is meant to be doing automatically.

Fretwell explains how this can be overcome using Banlaw’s solution, saying that one benefit of the electronic solution is visible immediately.

“If there is a green light turned-on then you can fill that fluid compartment, and if there’s only a red light then you know the tank is already full,” Fretwell says.

“The status for each compartment is evident at a glance with no wasted time.”

The faster the service truck bulk diesel storage is filled, the faster that machine can be back in the pit, refuelling the mining fleet.

This contributes to overall site productivity and also limits the number of service vehicles required on-site for larger operations.

Service trucks are filled at a wide range of flow rates which require an engineered solution unique to each truck, but it is not uncommon for these machines to sit at a refuelling bay for an hour filling up.

The FillSafe Power solution uses an actuated ball valve, allowing unrestricted flow into the tank.

“Some of our service truck projects have enabled the onboard diesel bulk storage tanks to be filled at a rate of 1500 litres per minute. The result is that service trucks spend more time doing their job, and vehicle queues at refuelling facilities are resolved,” Fretwell says.

Service fluids such as oils and coolant represent a different set of challenges. They don’t behave like diesel, and therefore overfill protection systems designed for diesel fuel are not an appropriate choice.

For example, a system designed for use with diesel will often fail to shut off when operated at flow rates below 100 litres per minute, or it might quickly degrade when exposed to thicker liquids or those with corrosive attributes.

“The FillSafe Power product is easy to maintain and is elegant in its simplicity,” Fretwell says.

“It’s just an actuated valve of the correct diameter and construction for the fluid being managed, a stainless-steel electronic level switch, and a very smart controller that indicates tank status to the user with LEDs, ensures that the ball valve closes automatically at the correct fill level, and communicates any system integrity issues with an alarm rather than an expensive surprise.”

Banlaw FillSafe Power for nine fluid types retrofitted to a Cat 777 service vehicle.

 

Banlaw recently upgraded a Cat 777 service truck for a gold miner, addressing many of the challenges discussed above.

Due to the steep incline of some areas the truck needed to access, driving the vehicle with the diesel tank completely full represented a safety concern.

An electronic level switch was installed through the side of the tank to terminate filling at the lower, revised safe fill level. This would not have been possible using a traditional top-mounted mechanical level sensor or float.

The truck was also not able to bottom-fill service fluids because of two problems related to the filling process. The pneumatic system was failing to reliably allow any fluids to be pumped in.

Some compartments were also failing to cease filling at the correct level, causing overfills. It was identified that several floats had broken-off inside the tanks due to the continuous sloshing around of liquids, and the complex arrangement of pneumatic lines was suffering wear and tear, regularly failing.

Banlaw’s simple ball valve, level switch and controller setup for each tank removed the need for mechanical and pneumatic parts inside the tanks, which can be prone to fail in this way.

The Banlaw distributor on-site replaced the existing system with a bank of FillSafe Power controllers with LED tank status displays, all colour coded and located adjacent to the service fluid fill points.

Banlaw’s new approach to use an electronic solution for service truck filling and tank safety has helped miners in Australia and the Pacific overcome tank filling efficiency, safety and reliability concerns.

The service trucks from these projects do more work, more safely, and operators know at a glance which fluid storages are full, and which can be topped up.

Banlaw’s FillSafe Power is a unique modular solution, suitable for all fluid types and all flow rates, with integrated tank status indicators at the fill point, and visual alarms just in case anything goes wrong.

Banlaw’s FillSafe Power solution

  • A simple pressureless tank filling solution that cannot be overridden. There is no way to overfill tanks when the actuated valve is closed.
  • Bright LED indicators at the fill point show operators whether a tank is already full, or that it is able to be filled.
  • A bank of controllers at the fill point ensures safe filling for any number of fluid types.
  • Systems can be engineered to cater for any flow and any fluid. It works perfectly for service fluids at low fill rates and diesel fuel at very high/efficient flow rates.
  • Suitable for oils, coolant, AdBlue, diesel and all other liquids.
  • Can be used with oil couplings, dry break refuelling equipment, camlocks and other fluid transfer fittings of all makes.
  • Includes none of the mechanical parts or pneumatic components inside the tank, which often fail from the rigors of day-to-day mine site operation.
  • Level switches have built-in redundancy and can be manufactured with up to five pre-set fill levels which can be selected with a key switch.
  • Actuated valves are closed automatically at the appropriate fill level for each fluid storage, stopping tanks from overfilling.
  • Ball valves are maintained in a closed position when not filling to avoid potential spills.
  • The FillSafe Power Controller has built-in visual alarm warnings should the system identify a malfunction in any of the major system components.
  • Banlaw FillSafe Power is simple to install on-site using standard Banlaw products and following simple guidelines.

This article also appears in the June edition of Australian Mining.

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