Mining giant BHP orders electric trains for WA iron ore rail network

British-Australian mining giant BHP has purchased four battery-electric locomotives for use on the company’s Western Australia Iron Ore rail network, as part of the company’s goal of net zero in 2050.

BHP said on Monday it would test the battery-electric locomotives – two of which will be supplied by BHP’s current supplier, Caterpillar Progress Rail, and two others by US rail giant Wabtec.

Deliveries of the four locomotives are scheduled for the end of 2023 and BHP should immediately undertake trials to test their performance and emission reduction capabilities when delivering iron ore from its Pilbara mines to the export facility. of Port Hedland.

The trials will be the first step in BHP’s broader plans to electrify its iron ore fleet of more than 180 locomotives, a transition that would reduce carbon emissions from BHP’s iron ore diesel by around 30% per year. year.

Additionally, BHP’s trials on the locomotives will also test their energy recovery capabilities using the natural topography of the rail network, which is expected to further reduce overall train power demand.

Specifically, as trains travel to port, they will be able to brake on descending grades to recover energy that would otherwise be lost and use that recovered energy to help propel empty trains towards the Pilbara.

“WA Iron Ore is important to BHP’s global operations, and I am pleased that we can play a leading role in helping to develop new and innovative solutions that can shape our business for a cleaner future,” said Brandon Craig, chairman of BHP Western Australia Iron Ore Assets.

“Rail is the fundamental link in our value chain from pit to port, and the power required to deliver fully loaded iron ore wagons from the Pilbara to Port Hedland is significant. The trial of battery electric locomotives in conjunction with Progress Rail and Wabtec has great potential to support our operational emission reduction targets and objectives.

BHP has committed to achieving net zero operational greenhouse gas emissions (scopes 1 and 2) by 2050 and also set a medium-term goal to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% based on 2020 levels by 2030.

A near-term goal is also within reach, to keep the company’s operational greenhouse gas emissions for fiscal year 2022 at or below its 2017 levels while continuing to grow the business.

“We are delighted to support BHP with our EMD Joule locomotives for deployment on its Pilbara Railway,” said Marty Haycraft, President and CEO of Progress Rail.

“Equipped with the latest technology, our 8-axle, 14.5 MWh battery capacity locomotives provide optimum levels of energy regeneration and will play a pivotal role in helping BHP achieve its sustainability goals.

“The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive represents the future of sustainable rail operations,” added Wabtec Freight President Rogerio Mendonca.

“The railroad and mining industries are on the cusp of technological advances to equip customers with zero-emission locomotive fleets. The FLXdrive is a major step towards realizing this vision. It will provide BHP with the tractive effort, fuel savings, emission reductions and reliability needed to profitably run their rail operations.

About William J. Harris

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