BHP Western Australia Iron Ore Orders Four Battery Powered Locomotives

(Credit: Wabtec Corporation)

by | Jan 17, 2022

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(Credit: Wabtec Corporation)

BHP Western Australia Iron Ore has ordered four battery operated locomotives to take part in its resources transport and help with its goal to decarbonize its rail network.

The company will use two FLXdrive battery locomotives produced by Wabtec Corporation and two Progress Rail’s EMD Joule locomotives. The Wabtec locomotives have an energy capacity of 7 megawatt hours and the Joule locomotives have a capacity of 14.5 megawatt hours. All of the locomotives are expected to be in operation by 2023. Wabtec’s energy management system will determine optimal times to discharge and recharge the batteries to help determine the most fuel-efficient way to complete a trip. The company says the locomotives will help reduce BHP’s fuel costs and emissions by more than 10% per train.

BHP, which extracts and processes minerals, oils and gas, currently uses four diesel-electric locomotives that pull trains made up of approximately 270 cars that can carry 38,000 tons of iron ore. The battery-electric locomotives will join the train fleet providing a hybrid option that can be recharged during the trip through regenerative braking.

“Rail is the fundamental link in our pit-to-port value chain, and the power required to deliver fully-laden iron ore wagons from the Pilbara to Port Hedland is significant,” says Brandon Craig, BHP asset president for Western Australia Iron Ore.

This is the second significant battery-electric locomotive deal in Australia this month. Wabtec also is set to provide Rio Tinto four FLXdrive locomotives to use in its mining operations in Western Australia where it has a target to reduce Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

Rio Tinto has three diesel-electric locomotives that pull 240 cars and 28,000 tons of iron ore.

Trains tend to produce fewer emissions than other vehicles in the transportation industry. According to the EPA, for example, freight trains account for 0.5% of the United State’s total greenhouse gas emissions and 1.9% of the total emissions in the transportation industry.

An analysis by the American Association of Railroads found that if a quarter of the truck traffic moving at least 750 miles went by train instead it would cut emissions by about 13.1 million tons.

That said, like other transportation fields that are implementing cleaner fuels like aviation or adding battery-electric truck fleets, there is an effort to make locomotives cleaner as well. New emissions standards for trains will be coming online in the coming years, and improving diesel engines, using hydrogen fuel cells and hybrids, and batteries are all technologies moving forward in the industry to improve emissions, according to Railway Age.

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