Alternative power makes inroads in other modes

Ships and trains join trucks in local freight transport decarbonisation push

Alternative power makes inroads in other modes
The Edwine Oldendorff greeted at the Albany Grain Terminal by, left to right, CBH head of chartering Pia Rosenkranz, chief marketing and trading officer Jason Craig, director Helen Woodhams and barley trading manager Drew Robertson


Dry bulk ship operator Oldendorff Carriers and agribusiness CBH Group have linked for the first biofuel trial on a vessel exporting grain from Australia.

The move comes as massive global miner Rio Tinto has sealed a deal for four battery-electric locomotives for use in the Pilbara region of Western Australia as part of the company’s strategy to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

CBH Marketing and Trading is shipping 30,000 tonnes of sustainably certified malting barley aboard the Edwine Oldendorff, which departed from the Albany Grain Terminal bound for Vietnam on Sunday.

The ship is bunkered with a BP-supplied biofuel blend for the trial.

The biofuel blend is estimated to produce about 15% less greenhouse gas emissions for this journey than conventional fossil fuels.

According to CBH chief marketing and trading officer Jason Craig, the grain co-operative was proud to be pioneering efforts, alongside two of its global partners, to explore ways to reduce its carbon footprint along the supply chain.

"Customers across the world are increasingly seeking to source sustainable products, including sustainable grain," Craig said.

"It is our role, as Australia’s leading grain exporter, to take the necessary steps to lower carbon emissions along our supply chain.

"Biofuel is one low-carbon option that could be part of the solution to reducing emissions in the shipping industry."

The malting barley, which is accredited as sustainable under the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification program, is set for Vietnamese malting company Intermalt, CBH noted.

Intermalt services a number of brewing customers, the largest being Heineken, which has set a target of a carbon neutral value chain by 2040.

"We need to meet the growing market demand for sustainable or carbon reduced grain by being proactive, practical and adapting," Craig said.

"By doing this, we are making sure we can continue to keep our WA growers competitive."

The trial will provide information on how the ship’s engine responds to biofuel, its speed and efficiency, and measure the emissions it produces.

"We are excited to be working alongside our key global partners to conduct this trial, which will provide valuable information and help pave the way for a more sustainable grain industry," Craig added.

Oldendorff Carriers Melbourne MD Ben Harper highlighted the importance of the trial and the CBH link.

"Collaboration is crucial for us all to learn and share information about the best paths in our efforts to decarbonise the supply chain," Harper said.


Meanwhile, Rio Tinto bought four 7MWh FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives from Wabtec Corporation with production due to commence in the United States in 2023 ahead of initial trials in the Pilbara in early 2024.

The locomotives, used to carry ore from the company’s mines to its ports, will be recharged at purpose-built charging stations at the port or mine. They will also be capable of generating additional energy while in transit through a regenerative braking system which takes energy from the train and uses it to recharge the onboard batteries.

A full transition to net zero emissions technology of its entire fleet of rail locomotives would reduce Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s diesel-related carbon emissions in the Pilbara by around 30 per cent annually.

Rio Tinto MD of port, rail and core services Richard Cohen said delivery of the prototype locomotives will be an important early step for the company on the path toward a decarbonised Pilbara.

"Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and an acknowledgement of the need to increase the pace of our decarbonisation efforts.

"Battery-electric locomotives offer significant potential for emissions reduction in the near term as we seek to reduce our Scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions in the Pilbara by 50% by 2030."

Wabtec hails the FLXdrive as the world’s first 100% battery-powered locomotive and part of Wabtec’s goal to develop the next generation of zero-emission locomotives. .

"This locomotive provides the power, fuel savings and emissions reductions to cost-effectively run rail networks in the mining industry," Wabtec president of freight equipment Rogerio Mendonca said.

"The rapid adoption of the FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonising their operations."

His company said it has a clear path in the rail industry to power new locomotives – and repower existing locomotives – with batteries, hydrogen internal combustion engines, and hydrogen fuel cells. 

Once delivered, the Rio Tinto locomotives will be trialled within controlled environments in the Pilbara and tested against a range of safety and functional criteria, including integration with AutoHaul, the heavy haul freight transportation system, developed in a ‘collaborative creation’ between Rio Tinto and Hitachi Rail STS.


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