Australia’s largest rail freight operator, Aurizon, and Anglo American have agreed to work together on a feasibility study to assess the introduction of hydrogen-powered trains for bulk freight.
Aurizon and Anglo American have entered into an agreement to conduct the study that will explore the application of Anglo American’s proprietary hydrogen fuel cell and battery hybrid power units in heavy haul freight rail operations. If the study is successful, the agreement between the two companies could be extended to further phases of collaboration, which could include detailed engineering and the development of a hydrogen-fuelled heavy haul locomotive prototype.
The feasibility study, commencing in January, will focus on the potential deployment of Anglo American’s hydrogen power technology on Aurizon’s Moura rail corridor that operates between Anglo American’s Dawson metallurgical coal mine and the Gladstone Port, and the Mount Isa rail corridor that operates between the North West Minerals Province to Townsville Port, via Aurizon’s Stuart Terminal. The study is expected to be completed in 2022.
As part of its commitment to carbon-neutral mines by 2040, Anglo American has developed green hydrogen solutions for its ultra-class 290-t payload mine haul trucking fleet. The company’s combination of powertrain technologies, designed to operate safely and effectively in real-world mine conditions, will displace the use of the majority of diesel at its mining operations, with an advanced trial of the prototype truck at its Mogalakwena platinum group metals mine in South Africa.
The decarbonisation of Aurizon’s supply chains is at the centre of its target to reach net zero operational emissions by 2050. The rail freight operator has also commenced research and development for battery-powered trains with a number of industry parties and Australian universities.
“Hydrogen offers enormous opportunity in decarbonising and continuing to improve the competitiveness of Australia’s export supply chains,” Aurizon’s Managing Director and CEO, Andrew Harding, said. “This is especially true for bulk products underpinning the Australian economy including minerals, agricultural products and fertilisers, industrials and general freight.
“Zero-carbon hydrogen-powered trains would also significantly boost the current environmental benefits of transporting more of Australia’s bulk freight on rail. Rail freight already produces up to 16 times less carbon pollution per tonne kilometre than road.”
He concluded: “Aurizon is excited to be teaming up with Anglo American on this project, particularly given their success to date in developing unique technology solutions for use in mine haul fleets.”
Tyler Mitchelson, CEO of Anglo American in Australia, said: “Anglo American has committed to carbon-neutral operations by 2040, and we are aiming to reduce our Scope 3 emissions by 50% in the same timeframe. We know that we cannot achieve all of this alone, so we are working with partners along our value chains and outside our industry to find technical solutions to decarbonise.
“This collaboration with Aurizon is a great example of the power of partnerships to help address the urgent issue of climate change, while we also look to catalyse new markets to support the development and growth of the hydrogen economy,” he said.
Tony O’Neill, Technical Director of Anglo American, added: “Our agreement with Aurizon marks the first time our hydrogen power technology could be tested beyond our existing mine haul truck program. Displacing our use of diesel is critical to eliminating emissions at our sites and along our value chain. We believe that our innovative hydrogen-led technology provides a versatile solution, whether for trucks or trains or other forms of heavy-duty transport.”
The North West Mineral Province contains about 75% of Queensland’s base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold, cobalt and phosphate deposits, according to Anglo. The province also has the potential to become a globally significant supplier of high-quality vanadium to the energy storage and steel markets with a number of projects under assessment.
The 180 km Moura rail corridor from Dawson to the Gladstone port, and the 977 km Mt Isa rail corridor from Mt Isa to Townsville Port both use diesel-fuelled locomotives.
(Pictured from left to right: Mick de Brenni, Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen; Tyler Mitchelson, Deputy Premier, Steven Miles; and Andrew Harding)