Since unveiling its Zero Emission Mining Program at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, the German-based multinational has been working hard to meet its ambitious targets on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The company's zero emissions strategy included a pledge to offer low GHG emission solutions for all trucks and excavators by 2022, something that was achieved last year with the offer of electric configuration on these products. It now intends to follow up by offering fossil fuel-free solutions for the majority of its clients' applications by 2030.
Liebherr has committed to exploring a wide range of pathways to meet its zero emission targets. These include conducting investigations into future zero emission technologies, updating its equipment offerings, and partnering with customers and industry experts to develop zero emission solutions for the wider mining industry.
Liebherr has also conducted a feasibility study to investigate the viability of a variety of zero emission technologies that could be used to complement its existing mining equipment portfolio. The study, which was finalised in early 2022, examined four drivetrain technologies that have potential use cases for large mining machines: battery electrification, including trolley solutions and the ability to undertake stationary or dynamic charging; ammonia internal combustion engines; methanol internal combustion engines; and fuel cell electrification, either via a hydrogen fuel cell-battery hybrid in a truck running on a trolley line or through other ways of dynamic charging.
As part of the feasibility study, simulations were run on these technologies in a number of different scenarios, including looking at how each would work in different locations and in a range of haul profiles. The simulations also factored in fuel pricing predictions for 2030 to assess the viability of the proposed solutions.
A commitment to innovative solutions
Liebherr offers equipment and zero emission technology solutions for its customers that are modular. This allows the company to offer upgrades and retrofits to future energy solutions on existing equipment, easing their client's transition to low or zero emissions and futureproofing their existing assets.
Dr Isabelle Ays, head of Zero Emissions for Liebherr Mining, said: "We know that zero-emission mining solutions increase complexity in the mine. We are continuously expanding our expertise so that we can assist our customers to manage the increasing complexity in their business, including but not limited to professional consultancy for the most appropriate zero emission mining solution.
"We are also working hard on the modularity of our trucks so that our customers have the option to retrofit or upgrade their trucks to any powertrain and fuel source of the future. This is already possible with our excavators, with the option to convert them from diesel to electric.
"Further, we understand that the key to the success of our Liebherr solution is to bring the energy into the machine. That's why we are continuously expanding our expertise in dynamic and stationary charging."
Liebherr's application engineers use specialised simulation software to determine the optimal combination of stationary charging and dynamic charging solutions for each customer. All elements - such as possible locations for trolley line hardware, line length, ramp design and other key elements - are considered to optimise costs, maximise production, and minimise overall emissions.
Liebherr has offered trolley solutions for its range of mining trucks since 2016 through its Trolley Assist System. This system allows customers to power diesel-electric trucks by connecting them to overhead electric powerlines.
"We have recognised that in the future electricity will continue to be the cheapest alternative to today's diesel," Ays explained. "For this reason, every mine should try to use electricity whenever possible.
"Dynamic charging with trolley overhead lines offers an optimal way to use electricity without interrupting the mining process. Also, future Liebherr trucks with zero emission drives will have this Trolley Assist option so that our customers can keep their energy costs as low as possible."
The existing global fleet of Liebherr trucks with the Trolley Assist System consists of 50 363t T284 trucks across two sites, and seven 100t T236 trucks in Austria.
Cable management solutions for electric excavators
Liebherr has worked with electric excavator technology for over 30 years, and has now introduced the Liebherr cable reeler option for its entire range of mining excavators from R9150 to R9800 in both face shovel and backhoe configurations. The cable reeler enables management of the excavator's electric cable during operation. This provides better mobility of the machine, optimises safety, and reduces the number of crew required for cable handling.
The cable reeler is an automated, hydraulically-driven solution, with a reach of up to 300m. The heavy-duty installation integrated into the undercarriage structure is designed so that the excavator ground clearance is not reduced. This way the system is durable even in hard operating conditions with the lowest impact on the mobility of the machine.
Liebherr's D98 engine series is designed specifically for mining applications. With its modular design, this engine can be used in equipment produced by Liebherr and by other OEMs.
Despite being originally designed as a diesel engine, the D98 series can also work with certain alternative fuels. Due to the engine's larger volume displacement, the D98 series can use synthetic renewable fuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and up to 10% biodiesel. The D98 series is also being used as the basis for developing internal combustion engines that can operate using other kinds of alternative fuels.
Hydrogen and ammonia engines
At the Bauma 2022 exhibition, Liebherr demonstrated its expertise in hydrogen engines by winning the Bauma Innovation Award in the climate protection category for its first hydrogen-powered excavator, powered by its H966 hydrogen engine. Liebherr began developing hydrogen combustion engines in 2019 and now, following the H966 engine's success, is further exploring the capabilities of these engines to run with ammonia. Testing this fuel source in an internal combustion engine is expected in early 2023.
As part of its Zero Emission Mining Program, Liebherr has formed a partnership with Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) for the development and supply of mining haul trucks, integrating zero emission power system technologies into the Liebherr T264. The phased supply of haul trucks will commence following a two-year joint validation period which has already begun.
To engineer, manufacture and supply the new trucks in accordance with Fortescue's delivery requirements, Liebherr will use its vast OEM expertise in the design and manufacturing of machinery and machinery core technology such as electric drive systems, hydraulics, and electronics.
Partnerships such as this are important in accelerating technical development, field testing, and implementation of practical and relevant solutions for clients. They support Liebherr's commitment to the zero emission agenda and to a sustainable future for the mining industry.