BHP joins Rio Tinto in electric locomotive move

Wabtec wins again as top miners eye decarbonisation of operations

BHP joins Rio Tinto in electric locomotive move
BHP is trialling two makes of e-locomotive


Once a fairly obscure name outside the rail industry, electric-locomotive manufacturer Wabtec is in the spotlight again, with another of the world’s top miners wanting its product.

This time it is BHP, which, with Rio Tinto, makes the second and third biggest miners globally by revenue on Wabtec’s books.

The wrinkle here is that, of the four e-locos due in late-2023, BHP will buy two from Wabco and two from current provider Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company.

"WA Iron Ore is significant within BHP’s global operations, and I am pleased we can play a leading role in helping to develop new and innovative solutions with potential to shape our business for a cleaner future," BHP asset president WA iron ore Brandon Craig said.

"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.

"Trialling battery-electric locomotives in collaboration with Progress Rail and Wabtec has great potential to support our operational emissions reductions targets and goals."

Read how Rio Tinto and CBH are using alternative propulsion, here

All four locos are destined for trials at its Western Australia iron ore rail network, delivering product from its Pilbara mines to the Port Hedland export facility.

"Conducting the trials in collaboration with two leading providers will support BHP’s planned electrification of its iron ore fleet of more than 180 locomotives," the miner said.

"A full transition to battery-electric locomotives would reduce BHP’s WA iron ore diesel-related carbon emissions by approximately 30 per cent annually."

The trials will also test ‘energy recapture’ opportunities using the rail network’s natural topography to further reduce the trains’ overall power demand.

On the way to port, locomotives can capture energy from braking on downhill slopes (energy that would otherwise be lost) and use it to help power empty trains back to the Pilbara.

"We are excited to support BHP with our EMD Joule locomotives for deployment on its Pilbara railway," Progress Rail president and CEO Marty Haycraft said.

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

A fully-laden BHP WA iron ore train typically comprises four diesel-electric locomotives pulling approximately 270 cars carrying a total of 38,000 tons of iron ore.


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