BHP, Caterpillar, and Finning to replace haul truck fleet at world’s largest copper mine with 798 AC electric-drive trucks
BHP Group, Caterpillar, and Finning International announced an agreement to replace BHP’s entire haul truck fleet at the Escondida mine—the world’s largest producer of copper concentrates and cathodes located in the Antofagasta Region, northern Chile. This agreement is part of a strategic equipment renewal process developed by Escondida.
The new Caterpillar 798 AC electric drive trucks will feature technology that delivers significant improvements in material-moving capacity, efficiency, reliability, and safety and generate a positive impact in key initiatives for the future, such as decarbonization, diversity and inclusion, autonomous technologies, and the development of local capabilities.
The 798 AC is powered by the Cat C175-16 diesel engine with the Cat AC electric drive; the 798 AC has a payload of 372t. The C175-16 engine is available with two horsepower options and can be configured for US EPA Tier 4 Final / EU Stage V regulations. The 798 AC is also available with a high-altitude arrangement that prevents deration at altitude and offers simplified maintenance and repair.
More than 4,500 C175 engines are in operation around the world, with more than 22 million hours of run time.
The Cat AC drive is a high voltage system (2,600 volts) that operates at lower current than most competitors’ systems. When combined with full integration of the power train, the result is lower heat generation, smaller and lighter components, and longer component life, according to Caterpillar.
The AC drive, engine and chassis systems work seamlessly together and leverage Caterpillar’s leadership in electric power generation along with the proven components of EMD locomotives. Features of the powertrain include:
Drive Alternator: The brushless alternator delivers long life and requires less maintenance. A dual bearing design enables service without removing the engine and eliminates time-consuming shimming procedures.
Inverter Cabinet: The proprietary AC drive control cabinet is pressurized and filtered to reduce maintenance. It houses the evaporative-cooled modular IGBTs and motor controls.
IGBTs: Caterpillar’s modular design IGBTs deliver maximum AC drive system efficiency through high voltage and lower current.
Retarding Grid: The radial style grid features an AC electric motor that requires no regular motor maintenance. It is quieter, lighter, and offers better visibility than larger box-type grids.
Traction Motors: Separate from the final drives for increased serviceability, the modular design allows technicians to focus on the component in need, not components that are still performing.
Final Drives: Higher durability and lower rebuild costs are delivered by Caterpillar’s ring gear output design with double reduction. This proven design has millions of hours of mining experience.
Drivetrain Cooling: The variable speed blower matches air flow to component need, not engine rpm. Optimized cooling delivers increased component life and higher speed on grade.
The 798 AC is also factory-ready for MineStar Command for hauling, an autonomous hauling solution.
The first trucks are expected to arrive at the mine in the second half of 2023, with delivery of the remaining trucks to extend over the next 10 years as the three companies work to replace one of the largest fleets in the industry worldwide, currently comprising more than 160 haul trucks.
Maintenance and support services provided under the agreement advance BHP’s local employment and gender balance strategies. Finning´s Integrated Knowledge Center, located in Antofagasta, will provide technical support for the fleet.
The agreement also allows Escondida | BHP to accelerate the implementation of its autonomy plans by transitioning the fleet to include technology that enables autonomous operation. In addition, the agreements set forth a technological path that helps Escondida | BHP meet its decarbonization goals, through the progressive implementation of zero-emission trucks.
BHP operates and owns 57.5% of the Escondida mine, a joint venture with Rio Tinto (30%) and Japan-based JECO Corp (12.5%). Escondida’s two pits feed three concentrator plants, as well as two leaching operations (oxide and sulfide). The mine is an important part of the Chilean economy, accounting for several percentage points of GDP.