Fuel is the lifeblood of the mining industry. Every part of the industry relies on it to keep moving.
In Western Australia alone, the iron ore sector is believed to churn through more than three million litres of diesel fuel in a single day, as the many massive sites run their equipment such as trucks and light vehicles, as well as other pieces of heavy machinery.
Despite the halt on the proposed slashing of the diesel fuel rebate tax scheme, the availability and efficient use of fuel on site is still crucial to maintain ongoing operations.
At most sites, this role is the responsibility of an operations or inventory manager, who manually checks the quantity of fuel in tanks and schedule delivery from local fuel providers, when appropriate.
However as mine sites develop they have updated and streamlined their operations, which has seen in some cases, manual tank level checking become more sporadic, which can lead to dangerously low fuel levels on site.
This is compounded by the fact that a number of Australian mines are fairly remote and issues of supply are more prevalent.
Companies can lose several days of production and hundreds of thousands of dollars while waiting for fuel to be delivered to their site, depending on the operation's remoteness.
In some cases these fuel contractors can be up to 200 to 300 kilometres away, and fuel runs have to be scheduled days in advance in order to have a continuous fuel supply.
But one company is now addressing this issue.
At the request of Australian miners, Bintech Systems, a manufacturer of level sensors, and Skyrima, a US based develop of M2M Solutions, have developed a fuel level monitoring solution for these remote miners.
"The automation of tank level monitoring reduces the burden of manual checks and also allows managers to have a more accurate picture of fuel stocks," Bintech Australia's general manager George Benca explained.
"It also reduces the number of incidents where you find yourself with dangerously low levels of fuel."
The Bintech system is based on M2M satellite communications, as "this allows the solutions to be installed virtually anywhere without the worry of cellular coverage," Benca said, and overcomes the lack of cellular communication around fuel tanks.
M2M satellite usage has also simplified installations, as the terminal does not need specialised 'pointing', thereby eliminating the need for installations by technicians specialising in satellite communications.
Now operators receive an email or text message when events such as water in the fuel or fuel in the tank has crossed high and low thresholds occurs.
Around the tank, an audible and visible alarm lets nearby workers know that the tank is in a state of alarm, and allows them to act on it.
Alarms are also triggered during the tank's filling if there is a danger of the ullage being exceeded.
The system even provides an early warning of potential leaks if unaccountable reductions in the fuel tanks' content are recorded.
The high and low tank level thresholds are site configurable to meet the operator's needs.
In addition to the operational benefits, the tank monitoring system also provides increased health and safety aspects.
Instead of requiring workers to climb the diesel tank and use a dipstick to figure out the approximate level of fuel in the tank, the solution now automates the measurement process.
"Not only has the risk of personal injury been eliminated, the reduction in inaccurate readings and miscalculations has led to better fuel management processes," Benca added.