Cleaning up with big savings

Image of Cleaning up with big savings

Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) is reaping some big savings thanks to choosing GECA certified products from Environmental Fluid Systems (EFS).

With the help of EFS, FMG identified and mitigated a major health risk and sustainability hazard associated with its rail operation by substituting dangerous products with safe ones.

FMG operates a number of train services transporting ore from its mining operations to various ports for export. As part of the regular maintenance rail equipment workers are required to clean dust and oils from trains and carriages using pressure cleaners and chemical cleaning agents.

The previous regime employed a common chemical agent, which due to the atomising effect of the high-pressure cleaner on hot train surfaces, was being inhaled and ingested by workers. When these workers began experiencing nose bleeds, migraines, dizziness and other illnesses the root cause was quickly determined to be Butyl Cellosolve – the key active ingredient in the cleaning agent.

It was also determined that, aside from the immediate symptoms, exposure to Butyl Cellosolve can have serious long-term health effects.

FMG was also looking to improve oil water separation in the wash down area to reduce huge oily water disposal costs. The chemical reaction of conventional degreasers form strong emulsions with oil which are then difficult to separate with oil water plate separators which work on the principle of phase separation.

“By shifting to GECA certified Triple7 Heavy Duty, FMG has improved the short-term health and comfort of its workforce,” said EFS General Manager Ben Ohlmeyer.

“More importantly, FMG has ensured that the potentially long-term health effects of Butyl Cellosolve were averted before they could take hold.”

By removing serious toxins from the working environment FMG immediately reduced worker sick days and improved morale resulting in increased output. By averting long-term health issues FMG has also protected itself against potentially damaging and expensive legal issues and industrial action.

Ohlmeyer said FMG has also made significant financial savings.

“FMG was paying around $200,000-$300,000 per annum for disposing of oily water. It will never need to pay that degree of cost again. Water that is deemed oily costs 60c per litre for disposal whereas it pays 15c per litre for oil,” he said.

The cleaner waste water has also allowed further innovation in enabling it to be re-used for other activities around the site, increasing their environmental image and the sustainability of the Pilbara operations.