Energy engineers give tanker company fuel for thought

12th March 2012

Energy engineers give tanker company fuel for thought Work carried out by Hallam Energy experts at Sheffield Hallam University has helped a Barnsley-based tanker manufacturer potentially reduce a major supermarket's fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.

Barnsley-based Road Tankers Northern (RTN) has developed a new tanker for Morrisons, which experts say has a lower carbon footprint and is more economical. Hallam Energy used drag analysis more often associated with Formula One teams to examine the aerodynamic performance of RTN's iconic trailers - a short cab and a long cylindrical trailer. Using hi-tech computational fluid dynamics (CFD), researchers focused on the space between the two units to improve aerodynamics, leading to lower fuel consumption. RTN had made attempts to narrow the gap between the tractor and trailer but approached Hallam Energy so it could identify conflicts and transform them into opportunities for innovation. Dr Andrew Young from Hallam Energy said that the cavity between tractor and trailer can be made more efficient if the mechanisms for drag generation are well understood. He said: The challenge of improving the tanker's aerodynamic performance while retaining its iconic looks required innovations drawing from sectors including motorsport and marine. Essentially, a tractor-tanker pairing is a combination of short tractor and long tanker objects, which have different drag characteristics. Any disruption to the air flow caused by the tractor has to be tolerated by the tanker, and this is where significant gains in performance can be realised. By reducing the induced drag and setting-up the flow to progress more smoothly, we were able to identify massive potential cost savings that go beyond existing research into tanker fuel consumption." Professor Alan Smith, head of business development for ACES at Sheffield Hallam, said: "The successful completion of this project has given RTN a unique selling point - they can demonstrate that their tankers are more fuel efficient with reduced customer costs and carbon footprint. By using advanced CFD technologies in real world scenarios we have given the company even more scope to make subtle changes to their fleet that can lead to even greater savings." RTN operations director Don McKelvie added: "This project is a superb example of industry and academia working together to make a very saleable product. Even the tiniest design changes can have a massive effect on the amount of fuel that is used by these tankers and we are planning to collaborate with Hallam Energy on future projects to see if further savings can be identified. The company has been able to redesign its tankers with the proven knowledge that they are lighter and more aerodynamic which translates into fuel efficiency and carbon savings without loss of structural integrity." A further project using the University's state-of-the-art rapid prototyping and wind tunnel facilities means that CFD and CAD models can be tested in the lab before full-scale tankers are built.

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