Aurizon, Australia’s largest rail freight operator, and leading global mining company Anglo American will work together on a feasibility study to assess the introduction of hydrogen-powered trains for bulk freight. The study will explore the application of Anglo American’s proprietary hydrogen fuel cell and battery hybrid power units in heavy haul freight rail operations.
As part of its commitment to carbon-neutral mines by 2040, Anglo American has taken a global lead in the development of green hydrogen solutions for its ultra-class 290 tonne payload mine haul trucking fleet. (Earlier post.) Anglo American’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. An advanced trial of the prototype truck is being run at Anglo-American’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals mine in South Africa.
If the Aurizon feasibility 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-fueled heavy-haul locomotive prototype.
The feasibility study 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.
Aurizon is Australia’s largest rail freight company, with the decarbonization of its supply chains at the center of its target to reach net-zero operational emissions by 2050. Aurizon has also commenced research & development for battery-powered trains with a number of industry parties and Australian universities.
Hydrogen offers enormous opportunity in decarbonizing and continuing to improve the competitiveness of Australia’s export supply chains. This is especially true for bulk products underpinning the Australian economy including minerals, agricultural products and fertilizers, 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 kilometer than road. 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.
The North West Mineral Province contains about 75% of the Queensland’s base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold, cobalt and phosphate deposits. 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-fueled locomotives.