A UK drilling and blasting contractor is enjoying significantly reduced fuel consumption levels and increased productivity following the recent purchase of a Sandvik DI550 down-the-hole drill rig, the first unit of its kind in the UK.
Leicester-based TI Drilling & Blasting Services have reported a 40% reduction in fuel consumption and a 20% increase in drilling productivity following the purchase of the new rig. The 24-tonne unit is currently spearheading production at Midland Quarry Products Ltd’s Old Cliffe Hill Quarry, which was reopened in recent years to access the site’s remaining extensive reserves of diorite.
Acting as sub-contractor to Blasting Services, TI Drilling & Blasting Services’ connection to the twin-quarry site at Cliffe Hill dates back to 1986. When the old quarry was closed in 1989, TI Drilling focused their attention on the neighbouring Stud Farm Quarry (New Cliffe Hill). But with the reopening of Old Cliffe Hill Quarry, the company renewed its acquaintance with the former site, recommencing work there in 2007.
According to TI Drilling founder Terry Inskip, blasting now takes place at the old quarry site approximately three times a week (as opposed to the daily blasts employed during his initial deployment at the site), with each blast bringing down between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes of rock.
Mr Inskip’s decision to purchase the first Sandvik DI550 crawler-mounted DTH drill rig in the UK was prompted by a desire to reduce fuel costs. ‘As a contractor, I keep a close watch on the cost of fuel, but not as close as the quarry operators who ultimately pay for the fuel,’ he explained. ‘With the rising cost of diesel, we were conscious of the need to reduce fuel consumption. And after a visit to the Sandvik factory in Finland in 2010, we were convinced that the new DI550 rig could help us achieve that.’
Even though this was a key factor in the purchasing decision process, the actual fuel consumption reduction came as a pleasant surprise. ‘Compared with our existing, competitive rigs, we have seen a 40% reduction in fuel consumption with the Sandvik machine, and with diesel fuel price rising on a monthly basis, this is proving to be a significant cost saving,’ said Mr Inskip.
This reduction is afforded to a large degree by the use of a clean-running Tier 3 Caterpillar C13 diesel engine that delivers 328kW at 1,800 rev/min, and by a variety of advanced controls, including automatic flow and pressure control and engine rev/min optimization, during different phases of operation.
Nevertheless, Mr Inskip was keen to point out that these savings had not been achieved at the expense of productivity. Combining a 24.4m3 air capacity at 24 bar compressor pressure with a 5in hammer, the DI550 is also particularly productive. ‘The rig is incredibly fast. Even the twin-speed tracking has been a bonus, allowing us to move quickly from face to face. Based on the first two months of operation, it’s already around 20% faster and more productive than our older rigs, said Mr Inskip.
He further highlighted the DI550’s suitability for the Old Cliffe Hill Quarry site, which features an almost constantly changing geology. ‘All drill rigs love constant hard rock drilling but when they hit a bed of clay the material has a tendency to clog the tool,’ he explained. ‘The DI550 has an anti-jamming system that senses softer material and automatically pulls the tool back.’
Daily servicing and maintenance duties are also easier and faster on the DI550, thanks to a redesign that ensures that all key maintenance points can be readily accessed from ground level. ‘Maintenance duties that would have taken hours previously can now be accomplished in minutes. Even large-scale maintenance operations do not keep the machine out of action for more than an hour or two,’ said Mr Inskip.
He added: ‘We bought the machine with the Sandvik Security+ warranty that covers the machine for three years or 5,000h and a four-year, 8,000h warranty on the engine. With the hours that we’re working, this is absolutely vital as we need a service every month.’
Mr Inskip is also mindful of the need for operator comfort and safety, but within TI Drilling & Blasting this has taken on even greater significance as his son is learning to operate the DI550. ‘Of course, we want all our operators to be safe and comfortable while they’re at work, but when it’s your own son at the controls, it is even more important,’ he said. ‘With the Sandvik DI550, I am happy that my son is learning in one of the most advanced rigs of its kind, and that he is safe, protected and comfortable while he’s doing so.’