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Big Machines, Big Power, and Big Ideas for Sustainability and Reduced Carbon Futures in Construction, Mining, and Energy Industries

    Last week, the world trade fair known as bauma for the off-road mining and construction sectors took place in Munich, Germany. On display were the most massive examples of the heavy-equipment that powers global energy and transportation, resource mining, and construction sectors. While big machines dominated the floor at the expo hall, it was the big ideas about a reduced-carbon future, sustainability, and productivity that drove the conversation.

    Customers in these sectors have very specialized needs and demands for their business and equipment that operates at every corner of the globe, in demanding conditions often 24 hours a day. These include the need to be successful in a sustainable and reduced-carbon future. Manufacturers are well-ahead of responding to these needs.

    Caterpillar’s commitment to a reduced-carbon future was on display, highlighting a diversity of solutions and options available covering both new products and strategies for reducing carbon intensity in existing products. Cat’s advanced power solutions approach is all about providing options. New fuels and technology like electric battery packs and hydrogen fuel cells, along with gaseous fueled (natural gas, hydrogen) and diesel engines that are capable of using low-carbon intensity fuels provide an array of customer choice. From the largest machines to the smallest all-electric compact excavators, there are solutions for every application.

    FPT Industrial showed off new Stage V emissions level engines, compact hybrid solutions, and new battery pack technology.

    John Deere focused on its next generation engine range designed to run on renewable fuels. Current engines are compatible with renewable fuels, ethanol, biodiesel, and biofuels such as hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO). Deere also showcased a diesel-electric powertrain and their latest developments in batteries and electric motors. Taking efficiency beyond the engine, they also demonstrated how automation technology in motor graders, can boost efficiency and productivity on the job site and lower fuel consumption and emissions, as well as the use of remote monitoring of machine conditions.

    Volvo Penta expanded its electromobility offerings with a cube battery for underground mining loader equipment; a step towards helping customers transition to net-zero emissions and achieving the company’s commitment to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), where it aims to reach net-zero value chain emissions by 2040.

    AGCO Power showed off a completely new family of diesel engines called CORE. Noting that, “Alternative fuels of the future such as hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, biogas as well as electric hybrid applications set new demands for an engine. The CORE engine platform is designed to enable the use of alternative fuels with further development.”

    Yanmar introduced a carbon-neutral electrification strategy that will establish it as the all-in-one systems integrator for smart electrified power solutions tailored to the application-specific needs of individual OEMs. Yanmar has several new-energy projects in various sectors, including hydrogen-powered cogeneration, research into hydrogen fuel marine engines, bio-gas cogeneration, dual-fuel power solutions with natural gas, fuel cell marine technology, smart agriculture, and resource recycling technologies.

    For existing products in these unique sectors, it’s clear that customer demands for sustainable and decarbonization strategies are high. The use of low-carbon intensity fuels like hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) also known as renewable diesel fuel, deliver important near-term options for decarbonizing immediately. HVO is a drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel, and can be used in blends with regular diesel fuel of up to 100%.

    Sustainability and decarbonization take on many forms beyond equipment and fuel technology choice. In these sectors, with slower turnover of old equipment to new, the remanufacturing of existing engines and equipment is one element of a sustainable strategy. It supports a circular economy, one that minimizes waste and energy consumption in making new products and restoring existing products back to original performance that includes lower fuel consumption than aging products.

    Looking at these technology developments in very large machines and equipment brings a much greater appreciation for what it takes to tackle the industrial size work of mining, construction, lifting, digging, and moving material. Diesel powers most all of this equipment today and from the looks of bauma 2022, will continue that role in the future only to be enhanced by further innovation in engines and use of low-carbon fuels, being paired with electric-hybrid technologies. Hydrogen, other gaseous fuels, and fuel cell propulsion systems will undoubtedly earn a place as well. To meet the challenge of climate change, we need all of these solutions.

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