Australian composite materials innovator, Omni Tanker, has announced it has launched a world-first composite triple road train, which it says is  able to move almost 100-tonnes of payload in a single haulage run, while significantly reducing operational costs for its customer Townsville Logistics.

Employing advanced composite materials and engineering practices commonly found in aerospace, Omni Tanker’s new triple tanker features world-first Mould-in-Baffles to better manage the movement of fluid (surge) in the road tankers, enhancing safety, while advanced fabrication techniques also reduce the weight of the trailer units.

This Mould-in-Baffle principle was conceptualised five years ago and is now an important part of Omni Tanker’s innovation portfolio, with the technology set to enter service in the Australian market, as well as export markets including North America and Europe.

The collaborative project between Omni Tanker and Mick Murray Welding delivered a triple road train solution that boasts a 15 per cent gain in payload – as a result of the advanced carbon fibre composite construction – enabling a reduction in the number of trips and associated emissions through the greater carrying capacity.

CEO and founder of Omni Tanker, Daniel Rodgers said, the company  is combining advanced manufacturing technology with aerospace materials and heavy-duty trailers to deliver game-changing liquid payloads for the critical minerals processing industry ight here in Australia,

“Mick Murray Welding was crucial in achieving project success for our first product in the mining sector. They knew what the mining industry demanded, and they knew the harsh operating conditions they operate in, so it made absolute sense to combine Omni Tanker’s lightweight tanks with their high-tensile steel-skeletal trailers,” said Rodgers.

“Via advanced manufacturing techniques and outstanding partners, we were able to boost the payload carrying capacity of road tankers for chemical liquids from the current 85 tonnes per load, typical of stainless-steel tanks, to 98 tonnes – a fifteen per cent uplift.” he said.

Three triple road train sets have now been delivered to Townsville Logistics for use in heavy acid transport across Northern Australia, with greater payload capacity meaning fewer trips, as well as associated cost and environmental benefits.

Omni Tanker is an Australian innovation success story, using advanced composite materials to produce lightweight tanks with exceptional chemical resistance by combining the strength of carbon fibre composites with the chemical resistance of specialty thermoplastic liners using their patented technology.

Type approval of the new Mould-in-Baffle structures has now been granted, with unit builds completed for Australian road trains in late 2022, followed by first type approval for European Swap Tanks under the European ADR (Road) and RID (Rail) in early 2023.

Road transport of chemicals is a demanding industry that requires proven materials. Achieving game-changing weight savings required deploying materials currently used in aerospace and high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

The Omni Tanks used on the triple road trains were required to contain baffles inside, as a safety feature to mitigate sloshing of fluids, and to meet dangerous goods transport tank regulation requirements.

The Mould-in-Baffles developed for these tanks are highly specialised and unique to Omni Tanks. Based on a moulding process that produces the internal baffle at the same time as the lining of the tank, there are no seams or joins associated with the baffle joining the tank wall. As a result, the interior lining of the tank is weld free – a major enabling feature for the triple road train.

Key to what Omni Tanker does is a patented process to connect thermosets to thermoplastics, in this case joining the carbon fibre-reinforced polymer tank structure with a polyethylene thermoplastic liner.

The liner allows the transport of high-purity chemicals without contamination, as well as Class 8 dangerous goods, protecting the structural tank. Together, these advances allowed for a game-changing solution for the critical mineral processing industry.

Omni Tanker, which began exports in 2016, believes there is vast international potential for this breakthrough solution.

“This was our first build with Mick Murray Welding for Townsville Logistics and really, it’s the first build of its type in the world,” adds Rodgers.

“We’re doing world firsts here in Australia – combining advanced manufacturing technology with aerospace materials and heavy-duty trailers to deliver game-changing liquid payloads for the critical minerals processing industry.”

Sun Metals Corporation and Townsville Logistics are local subsidiaries of South Korea’s Korea Zinc, the world’s largest base metals producer.

Sun Metals has set ambitious decarbonisation targets across the organisation, including a goal of being the first in the world to produce “green zinc”. It aims to be 100 per cent renewable energy-powered by 2040 at its Townsville site, where it makes high-grade zinc metals, as well as secondary products including sulfuric acid and copper cake.

Its sister company Townsville Logistics is working on a number of major initiatives to reduce the emissions footprint from its operations and sought to significantly increase the payload for its tank trailers used to transport heavy sulfuric acid. Operating at a maximum allowable vehicle weight, the way to increase net payload transported – and cut down on trips and associated emissions – is to reduce the tare weight of equipment.

Another important contributor to the project, though in a less obvious way, is the University of NSW, Sydney (UNSW).

UNSW and Omni Tanker have established a history of effective collaboration with a relationship that has been in place since 2015, working together on projects as varied as fibre optics for structural health monitoring of tanks and adopting cutting-edge nanomaterials to address microcracking in liquid hydrogen storage tanks for space.

A large amount of applied research and development was made under a Global Innovation Linkage (GIL) grant project which commenced in 2019. Within the GIL project, Omni Tanker undertook design, prototype testing and certification of their revolutionary Mould-in-Baffle structures. UNSW employed a postdoctoral researcher for modelling production processes and surge in service.