How does Texaco support customers with ongoing maintenance?
A significant string to our bow is the Texaco Oil Analysis Program, LubeWatch. It is far more important to analyse the oil used in off-highway applications than it may be in some on-highway applications, because of the arduous conditions that off-highway equipment operates in. Mining businesses typically operate 24/7, and this makes oil analysis an effective solution because it is cheaper than bringing the operation to a halt.
It’s a simple practice, too. Our customers send us a sample of an oil that has been working for 250 hours, then we analyse it and report back on its quality. If it’s working well, then our customers benefit from a huge saving because they didn’t have to halt their operation. If it isn’t, then they will know to change the oil immediately.
In off-highway applications, drain intervals aren’t particularly long. Trucks that are used in the mining sector have the shortest intervals because they operate in a very dusty environment, and they may be required to operate in an area where the sulphur in the fuel is relatively high.
Another example of just how significant environmental factors can be was highlighted at a recent training course I hosted in Morocco. I was discussing how on-highway drain intervals in Europe can be up to 150,000 kilometres, when I was informed by one of the participants that in Morocco, they would consider a 10,000 kilometre drain interval to be a success because of the sheer amount of sand in the vicinity. Even though the oil is still functioning in these cases, so much sand is taken on board that the oil must be taken out in order to remove it.
Our customers in the mining sector also have to consider their air compressors. In underground mining, it is essential to maintain the air levels within the mine, and a lot of the equipment uses compressed air. This needs to carefully monitored, and a good compressor oil is therefore essential, as is the need to follow up on its effectiveness.
Have rising fuel costs made a big difference to the behaviour of fleet operators?
Yes, they have. For example, some operators have started to use lower viscosity grades. Texaco Delo 600 ADF has proven to be an effective solution for these operators, as it offers less back pressure from the DPF. When back pressure occurs, it causes more regenerations to take place, which forces the engine to use more fuel. So, while our customers have been changing their methods, we have the right products to support them.
What is the timeline for greater electrification in the sector?
Electrification is on its way in off-highway applications, with investment pouring into the industry. One of the challenges of electrification in the off-highway sector is sourcing electricity in remote locations. There aren’t currently many options when it comes to producing power. One method that operators have implemented of late is the use of a standalone gas engine. However, using an internal combustion engine to create electricity defeats the purpose of transitioning towards electrification, so this reflects the current state of play; there’s still some way to go before a solution is found.
Some OEMs are starting to look at hydrogen as an alternative to electrification. These manufacturers have been developing hydrogen industrial combustion engines and even hydrogen fuel cells. OEMs are investing heavily to develop these solutions, particularly for lower to medium sized equipment. A hydrogen industrial engine is cheaper than a fuel cell, an electrical vehicle and even a battery electric vehicle, so it may be that a hydrogen industrial combustion engine could work well in off-highway applications.