Fortescue’s evolving zero emissions mobile fleet and associated electrical infrastructure

Fortescue has reflected on rapid progress with its green zero emissions technology strategy in its just released Climate, Sustainability and Annual Reports. In FY23 (July 2022 to July 2023), Fortescue deployed its first prototypes on site and in June 2023, its first battery electric haul truck arrived at Christmas Creek.

The ‘Roadrunner,’ based on a converted 240 ton class Terex MT4400 Fortescue says  brings several surface mining firsts, including the ability to fast-charge in 30 minutes and the capacity to store regenerated power as it drives downhill.

In addition to this, a prototype Offboard Power Unit (to power a Liebherr electric R 9400 excavator previously delivered to site) and a prototype 3 MW Fast Charger (to charge the prototype battery electric haul truck) have also been transported to the Christmas Creek iron ore mine site to continue commissioning and site-based testing. The final major piece of primary mobile equipment for testing will be Fortescue’s hydrogen fuel cell electric truck, based on the 240 ton class Liebherr T 264, which will be delivered to Christmas Creek in FY24 – more specifically by the end of 2023.

And in May 2023, Fortescue’s dual-fuel ammonia-powered locomotive nicknamed ‘Locommonia’ arrived at Solomon to undergo field tests. Commissioning of the locomotive is being completed in readiness for mainline trials in FY24. The miner says it is continuing to explore the development of a world-first Infinity Train which would use gravitational energy to recharge its battery electric systems without any additional charging requirements.

On the bigger picture, in FY23, Fortescue says the team also continued to design solution pathways consisting of both ‘off-the-shelf’ products and new technologies via collaborations and partnerships with world- leading OEMs, including Liebherr and Fortescue WAE.

The focus of this workstream also includes the design and construction of the on-site electrical infrastructure required to power and charge the new zero emissions fleet.

Fortescue adds that the Green Mobility group is also identifying solutions for generators, light vehicles and support mining equipment as well as working with on-site contracting partners to align on a pathway to successfully transition their fleets. A suite of trials for validating battery electric light vehicles, support mining equipment and electrical infrastructure will be completed in FY24.

The team is also pursuing opportunities with OEMs across the complex supply chain and has committed to purchase three electric 400 t excavators and two battery electric locomotives.

Fortescue has also started designing and constructing the on-site electrical reticulation infrastructure that will take the energy from the Pilbara Energy Connect transmission to where it is needed on site. The project aims to integrate Fortescue’s Pilbara iron ore mining and port operations into one common 220 kV network.

This program of works will continue through FY24 to FY28 to enable its sites to have the electrical infrastructure ready to power the electrical equipment, as it becomes operational.