Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hey Grinder Guy my fuel bills are costing me my profits!



Like every other consumer, those of us in the recycling world are suffering from high fuel prices, times the dozens of pieces of equipment we all have. If your contacts do not have a fuel surcharge option, you are going to keep losing profits.
My calls inquiring about low speed high torque shredders have increased dramatically. When I tell customers they cut 2/3 of their fuel bill out and oh by the way, your shredder tips last a couple months, there is no formula a little less production doesn't save you thousands of dollars in operating cost.
With some 1000+ HP grinders using 40 or 50 gallons of fuel every hour, your fuel bill exceeds $200 an hour. That is painful and unsustainable without raising prices.

I am no engine expert, but I have learned a few things running equipment. Here are some grinder specific and equipment in general ideas on how to conserve fuel. Just a 10% savings will mean thousands of dollars at the end of the year:

Air Cleaner- It doesn't get much simpler than this. Without enough air, your engine will never burn all the fuel being dumped into the engine. If you see black smoke from the exhaust, the first thing to check is the air cleaner.

Fuel system- Fuel system treatments and clean fuel filters keep the correct flow and volumes running through the engine. Some fuel treatments are expensive, but especially for older engines, will help them run much more efficiently. Have a Service Technician from your engine manufacturer test each injector and they will be able to tell you which are operating correctly and which need replaced.

Derate your engine- Have your engine manufacturer derate your engine to a lower horsepower. Each engine has 3 or 4 horsepower ratings, so by lowering your horsepower you can save fuel. Talk with your engine manufacturer about the pros and cons. You will probably not notice a loss of 50-100 horsepower, but your wallet will.

Keep your services up to date- Clean oil will keep an engine cooler and running smoothly. Especially with older engines that operated their fuel systems with oil pressure.

Fuel temperature- Cooler fuel will burn much more efficiently. The hotter the fuel, the more inefficient it becomes. Keep your fuel storage tanks covered and keep your fuel tanks full. Today’s engines return a considerable amount of fuel back to the tank which in turn heats up the fuel. This will be minimized with a full tank.

Clutch/Pumps- Keeping your clutch maintained to proper torque or oils changed as required will create less drag on the engine. Extra pumps used that can be removed will help also. Change a hydraulic conveyor to electric and removed that pump and save the 10-15 horsepower.

New Fuel Systems- With all the new electronics and new common rail fueling systems, some Tier 4 emission engines are getting better fuel economy than the Tier 3 engines.


Speaking with Eric Mathewson and Sam Meeker of Caterpillar at Waste Expo in Las Vegas, they gave a few other options:

RPM Reduction - Something as simple as having the engine computer lower a bulldozer rpm slightly when it is put into reverse can save gallons of fuel per day and not sacrifice productivity.

Tracking software- Common options on equipment these days is some sort of tracking software. Not just some “Find my Bulldozer App.” A product such as Caterpillars Product Link allows you to track many points of operation including idle time. If enabled, a piece of equipment can be shut off after idling a set period of time, thus saving fuel. All these features can be tracked remotely also. Check with your equipment or engine manufacturer for software they may provide.
            Another example is the Ecco mode on the Komptech Shredders. With this mode enabled, the machine monitors the torque on the shredder shafts to determine if there is material in the hopper or not. If there is not, the shredder throttles down to an idle while still turning the rotor shafts very slowly. When material is put into the hopper, the torque on the shaft increases and the machine throttles up to full rpm. So you don’t have to worry about your operator going on break or going to load a truck with the shredder running at full engine rpm. Check with your grinder or shredder manufacturer for similar software.

            On the grinder specific side, eliminating drag on your rotor or hammermill will reduce engine load and result in lower fuel use.
How do we do that?
For example, on a first grind or grinding landclearing debris just for reduction, a precise product size is not necessary. Try using older tips and larger screens. By increasing the distance between the tip and the screen or the tip and the anvil, you will reduce drag which will help you maintain rpm and keeps you productive. This example works best with upturn rotors and woody materials. Downturn rotors and hammermills with stringy wood or palm material, this would not be a good option. For those situations, maintaining a tight tolerance at the anvil and bigger screens and greater tip distance afterward works best. For a finish grind this does not work at all, as you will create more fines in your product and production rates will suffer.
Experiment a little when you have the time and you may be more than pleased with the outcome.

Questions, Comments?
Dave Whitelaw
Grinder Guy 813-421-2757

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