Six ways to cut oil costs on the mine

Total fuel truck performs on site refueling at Kopeto mine in New Caledonia.

Despite the weaker oil price, the mining industry is always on the hunt for efficiency measures and way to drive down costs.

One of the major ways to decrease energy costs and machinery downtime is to have a solid operational plan in place. Total, one of the world’s largest energy companies and a mining industry specialist lubricant supplier, has developed a six step guide aimed at helping miners battle the cost crunch.

  1. Rationalise your lubricants: An oil management fundamental is to rationalise the number of lubricants and lubricants packaging used, the company said. “After an on site analysis, the Total mining team found that it can result in savings of up to 17 per cent of total oil costs.” This can be achieved through savings in physical inventories, costs associated with handling, spillage, theft, storage space, and stock obsolescence.
  2. Standardise your oil packaging: Are the same products needed in a variety of different packaging, such as pails, drums, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), and bulk? Too many options can often results in increased costs and duplication. “Looking into where and how each pack size is being used and dispensed will allow you to reduce the number of disposable packs,” Total explained. This will not only simplify an operator’s ordering process, but also free up valuable storage and reduce the overall costs of working capital.
  3. Avoid contamination: Contamination control is often overlooked when considering why premature failure occurred or why lubricant life has been diminished. The two main contaminants in oil are dirt and moisture. When oils are contaminated it dramatically accelerates equipment wear, which can result in premature breakdowns and unscheduled downtimes, increasing overall operating costs. According to Bosch Rexroth, between 70 and 80 per cent of all hydraulic failures which can lead to machinery breakdown can be traced back to contaminated oil. Maintaining clean oil is a crucial investment for mining companies, with Total suggesting using contamination control techniques such as desiccant breathers on bulk and intermediate containers as well as filtration on bulk fluid dispensers. “The benefits of sound contamination control in lubricants will extend the life of lubricated equipment and reduce overall maintenance costs,” Total said.
  4. Oil analysis: Oil is the lifeblood of the industry and literally keeps the wheels turning, so ensuring it is as clean as possible is crucial. The aim of oil analyses is to get snapshots of the condition of the lubricant and the equipment at singular points in time. Using this information operators can develop greater visibility of their equipment and provide predictive maintenance schedules, a forecast for oil change frequencies, and avoid the costly repairs that come with unscheduled downtimes.
  5. Getting a FIFO approach to lubricant storage: Having a proper First-In First-Out approach to the storage of lubricants on site will reduce the ongoing occurrence of ‘obsolescence costs”. This also reduces the potential for products nearing the end of their shelf life, and which may have suffered from contamination, being introduced into the circuit and having a detrimental effect on equipment.
  6. Get a lube supplier audit: Lubricant specialists are often able to assist customers in identifying areas of improvement for lubricant efficiencies that aid cost saving initiatives. “For example, replacing just one lubricant with another can contribute to the reduction of many different types of costs, including purchasing, maintenance, energy, fuel, and waste oil costs,” Total stated.

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