Fuelling change

Diesel has always been the life blood of the mining industry. 
It has always been the fuel of choice for mining's off road vehicles, but this may soon change. 
Caterpillar and Westport Innovations have announced an agreement to develop natural gas technology for off road equipment, with the initial focus on mining vehicles. 
The two companies will provide Westport's High Pressure Direct Injection (HDPI) to the high horsepower off road market. 
Caterpillar says that it will fund the development of the program. 
With many miners currently up in arms over the rising cost of doing business in Australia this development may now mean they can slash fuel costs, and continue operations in the country. 
Still, luckily for Australian operators the Government recently declined to cut the current Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme, which provides a tax rebate to industries reliant on diesel fuel, such as mining and transport.  
According to Westport CEO David Demers "this is a significant opportunity that has the potential to transform important segments of the global off road equipment industries. 
"The substantial price difference between natural gas and diesel fuel is resulting in a strong financial incentive to enable off road applications to take advantage of low natural gas energy costs without sacrificing operational performance," Demers said. 
He added that "there is also a clear environmental advantage because of the reduced carbon emissions," which comes just as the Australian government brings into effect its new Carbon Tax. 
The tax will see mining companies pay approximately $23 per tonne of carbon emitted. 
Steve Fisher, Cat's vice president for large power systems explained their motive behind the agreement. 
"Many of our customers are asking for natural gas powered equipment in order to reap the financial and environmental benefits. 
"This program positions Cat to become the first manufacturer to bring high pressure direct injection technology to the high horsepower off road market, to offer the broadest product line of natural gas fueled machines, and to capitalise on the attractiveness of natural gas as an alternate mobile fuel," Fisher said.

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