Shell Canada and Caterpillar have signed an agreement to test a new engine and fuel mix using liquefied natural gas (LNG) that could reduce operating costs and lead to reduced emissions from oil sands mining in northern Alberta. Through this agreement, Caterpillar will test the design at Shell’s oil sands operations located near Fort McMurray.
Caterpillar will leverage its experience with LNG in other applications, and will continue development work to design and build a fully integrated mining truck where LNG displaces most of the diesel power – also known as dual-fuel.
In addition to the new truck Caterpillar is developing, Shell will also retrofit existing trucks from its fleet with the new engine for the trial, as well as provide fuelling infrastructure, at its Shell Albian Sands operation near Fort McMurray. This trial follows a trend for Shell in looking at options to use Canada’s abundant natural gas as a fuel in marine and road transportation, and other industrial situations.
“To succeed commercially in the future, we believe we have to be able to compete both economically and environmentally. We believe that is what Canadians want,” said Shell’s VP, Oil Sands, John Rhind. “With heavy hauling being such a core part of our operation, success with this could make a real difference in our operations costs and emissions.”
“We are excited to collaborate with Shell on this latest initiative to power Cat® mining trucks with Caterpillar’s LNG technology. Many of our customers are asking for natural-gas powered equipment in order to reap the financial and environmental benefits. This agreement further builds upon our efforts in delivering cost effective, reliable and innovative solutions to our customers,” said Chris Curfman, Caterpillar Vice President with responsibility for Mining Sales & Support Division.
Field testing of dual fuel powered mining trucks at Shell’s oil sands operations is expected to begin in 2016, with the trial expected to last up to one year.
Caterpillar’s natural gas powered product line-up currently includes gas turbines and spark-ignited engines for the electric power and gas compression markets, as well as a dual-fuel engine option for the petroleum market. The development and design of a fully integrated, dual-fuel mining truck represents a significant step in this space.
LNG is natural gas chilled to -162 degrees Celsius. It has been safely produced and used in heating and power generation for decades. Using LNG to power mining trucks could mean lower costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared to mining trucks powered by diesel fuel only.