Interview: Automating fuel management

Photo: Xtellio The Fuel Xense fits on top of existing gauges. Photo: Xtellio

Ever wondered if you could monitor the temperature or level of fuel in your storage tank remotely, without the need for staff to visit the site?

That’s exactly what a collaboration between Xtellio, Western Global and Cooper Equipment Rentals has done, enabling fleet owners to improve fuel management and monitoring through the use of a sensor that measures the direction of the needle gauge.

Speaking to IRN at the ARA Show in New Orleans, the companies revealed more about the partnership, what it means for the end user and how the collaboration came about.

Improving productivity

You can trace the beginning of the partnership between Xtellio, Cooper and Western Global all the way back to the ARA Show in 2023.

It was here that Tom Valbak, CEO of Xtellio, pitched the idea to Cooper about the possibility of utilising a tool that would enable the Canada-based rental company’s fleet to be remotely monitored.

Born from that meeting was Fuel Xense, a small wireless device that sits on top of the tanks existing fuel gauge, enabling real-time remote monitoring of fuel level, temperature and tank location.

Xtellio says the sensor can help companies to “optimise the re-filling process.”

“The idea for the Western Global fuel cubes started with a requirement from Cooper Equipment Rentals that they needed to pull off data from these fuel cubes,” Valbak tells IRN on the Xtellio stand at the ARA Show.

Tom Valback, CEO of Xtellio Tom Valback, CEO of Xtellio

“We went through two iterations, first at the ARA Show last year and then again at ConExpo, which is the iteration that we’re looking at now.

“We built the first batch of devices that were tested over the summer and then in early fall, everything was good to go, and Cooper signed up for the first order, which we sent to them just before Christmas.

The device itself measures the direction of the needle, giving an XY coordinate to estimate the fuel level to within a one or two percent accuracy.

It measures the fuel level and temperature once an hour, which then connects to Xtellio’s Gateway Xentral, transmitting the data to the Xtellio Cloud via onboard SIM solutions.

In the case of Cooper, they use a Trackunit dashboard, but the system is flexible in the sense that it can be on-boarded on to other external dashboards.

The install, like the concept, is simple, Valbak says, with the Fuel Xense able to be fitted on top of a Rochester R3D Remote Ready fuel gauge in just five minutes. “You have the gauge face on top, and it is just a case of unscrewing what’s already in there and putting this one in instead.”

Fleet expansion

Rod Lentino, director of rental equipment, Cooper Equipment Rentals, says the company is now rolling out between 40-50 of the tanks a week and is expecting to equip its entire fleet of tanks in the future.

“We have a fleet of 600 tanks, 400 from Western Global and 200 from another manufacturer,” he says. “We have a mechanical interface issue with the other units so they run with different gauges.

“We have to work with them to put the read ready gauges like Western Global uses on but once we do, we will have another 200 to deploy on to those units.

“We’d like to have the same solution for all the tanks so it becomes universal, and the partnership that we have with Western Global, they include it as part of our standard spec so we don’t have to ask for that option to be included.”

Rod Lentino, director of rental equipment, Cooper Equipment Rentals, giving a demonstration at the Western Global stand at the ARA Show. Rod Lentino, director of rental equipment, Cooper Equipment Rentals, giving a demonstration at the Western Global stand at the ARA Show. (Photo: Xtellio)

Lentino says productivity is the main benefit for its customers, at least for the short-term, and will enable them to analyse fuel level remotely, while future automation capabilities could also come into play.

“These products stand alone on the customers jobsite and requires someone to have a look and see what the fuel level is,” he says.

“If they check at the wrong time of the day, it might be too late to call in a truck to refill them. What we want to do is equip them with the technology to be able to remotely monitor them and potentially even automate further down the road through an alert without any human intervention.”

Although Cooper hasn’t delved into the DEF units to date, Lentino says the sensor also provides benefits for users of the tanks.

Being Canada-based, where temperatures regularly drop below −20 °C in some areas in winter, DEF tanks are at risk of freezing, he says.

One of the issues is that the fluid crystallises at a fairly high temperature, so the customer needs to closely monitor the temperature within the tank. The sensor can be used to monitor and send an alert to customers to warn them if the fluid is at risk.

“If it crystallises in the tank, the product is ruined and you can’t melt it again,” he says. “It changes the chemical composition, meaning it needs to be pumped and refilled. With this, we can avoid that and create a mitigation system to avoid the spoiling of the fluid.”

Another benefit, he says, is the ability to alert the end user if there has been a fuel theft. For example, if there’s a dramatic drop in fuel level after working hours, an alert system can tell the customer that they have been subject to theft or another unforeseen drop of fuel level.

The view from the manufacturer

As for Western Global, the company quickly bought into the idea, as Jeff Lowe, director of product management, says, “Because it’s wireless you can add other sensors, other measuring devices, secondary tanks and you’re not having all these wires that are running everywhere. So when we talked about it was like, that’s what you need.

“With wired connection, we have to drill through this thick steel and that leaves the risk of damage or unsightliness to modify the tank. And even if you do it, you have exposed wires that are at risk on site.”

Lowe also reveals that Western Global aren’t ruling out the possibility of including the device on its tanks as a standard feature in the future.

“It’s a possibility and is something we’re looking into,” he says. “As more of our customers, like Rod, look to help their customers control their assets, it’s something we are supporting.

“Also, for all the reasons it benefits Rod and his crew, it also benefits us. We’ve got tanks going everywhere and, although they don’t have fuel in them, we still need to know where they are.”

The company is also testing the waters for the product in Europe at various jobsites, Lowe says.

Jeff Lowe, director of product management, Western Global Jeff Lowe, director of product management, Western Global. (Photo: Western Global)

As for the future, it’s not out of the question that the company will be able to tie in the data from the system into Cooper’s customers ERP system, according to Lentino; “Maybe they have carbon or emission reduction goals and they want to understand what their carbon footprint is.

“This is the way we can provide them with the data with their daily consumption so they can track and report on that however they wish. Right now they’re getting fuel invoices from the fuel supplier who say, you’ve just had 10,000 litres of fuel delivered.

“OK, but what was the daily consumption of it, so they can manage their daily fuel uploads. There’s potential to do something like that once we get the data out there.”

Valbak adds, “A lot of rental companies don’t really appreciate software tech. Whereas Cooper are really passionate about what they are doing and the future of how it could help their customers.

“They’re trying to broaden their view by saying, what else can we do? There’s been a lot of focus on just machines on the job site, which is important, but there are so many other things like fuel tanks that are just as important.”


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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]