Leveling Energy's Growing Significance

Nanotechnology offers a new route to better fuel economy.

Offshoring won't let you opt out of energy management. Consider that in 2000, the base cost for shipping a 20-foot container from Asia to the United States was about $3,000. In 2007 the price reached $8,000 and RedPrairie Corp., a provider of supply chain solutions, projects a potential of $15,000 to $16,000 per container.

Those growing ocean-shipping expenditures are a sampling of how energy costs are bringing broader considerations to business management's attention. Fuel cost was once low enough to be primarily a departmental energy management issue, but now it's also a matter of managing corporate strategies via process optimization, says RedPrairie's Erv Bluemner, vice president of product marketing, transportation solutions.

Optimizing the use of energy is a pervasive set of opportunities waiting throughout the supply chain -- from ocean freighters to heavy-duty trucks. What's possible? Consider cutting the diesel fuel consumption of a heavy truck as much as 15% via nanotechnology.

That capability, demonstrated by a rigorous SAE J1321 Type II fuel consumption test, performed by an independent testing company, has verified the ability of a ceramic nanotechnology product from CerMet Lab Co. to increase fuel economy in a heavy-duty truck.

"A significant and repeatable improvement in fuel economy" was achieved by incorporating the ceramic-metal nanoparticles in the engine oil sump, reports Claude Travis, principal of Claude Travis & Associates, the testing organization. "It is notable that the test vehicle's gross vehicle weight of over 77,000 pounds and engine load factor-to-idle time of 97% were both higher than the national truck fleet averages."

The test consists of multiple short 60-mile runs, under conditions that are described as an extreme worst-case scenario for in-service use. The test was conducted on an International 9001 tandem drive, equipped with a Cummins ISX 450-horsepower diesel engine.

In actual field tests by freight carriers, fuel consumption decreases of 5% to 15% have been documented by the fleet drivers. CerMet says the test periods have included a more typical mix of travel for heavy-duty trucks, including longer runs, partial and/or lighter loads, and a higher average amount of engine idling time -- all conditions where friction reduction has a direct relation to reducing fuel consumption, says CerMet.

Following a test program, CerMet-enabled savings are now the rule at Hiner Transport LLC, says Paul James, president. "The test fleet of nine trucks involved both new equipment ad trucks with more than 250,000 miles," James notes. He says that with CerMet, the truck fleet has been able to achieve an 8% improvement in fuel economy.

"We are now using CerMet in our entire fleet," James says. "Adding the CerMet solution to the engine oil is the only change in the standard operating procedure." He says at Hiner the CerMet product is only used in engine oil, but he knows of other trucking companies that also use the additive to reduce friction encountered in trailer hubs. "It can be used anywhere to help resolve friction problems."

CerMet reports that food distributor Sysco's trucking organization has reported the highest efficiency gains -- 12%. Recently a city police department acknowledged fuel savings ranging from 10% to 15% after applying CerMet. In Mexico, Grupo Estrella Blanca performed a test on 20 large charter motor coach buses and documented a 7.7% decrease in fuel consumption during a 61,000-mile test period.

In addition to fuel savings, users have reported other gains, such as metal enhancement and protection of the high friction areas. CerMet says users also cite reduced engine noise and vibration as well as improved oil pressure, reduced oil consumption and reduced exhaust emissions.

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