BHP to purchase four battery-electric trains for Western Australia

January 17, 2022

More battery electric trains will be put into action in Western Australia as BHP announced that it will purchase four battery-electric locomotives and conduct trials at its Western Australia Iron Ore rail network, as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to reduce its operational emissions.
Previously, Rio Tinto announced that it would purchase four battery-electric trains for the same region.

The four locomotives purchased by BHP are scheduled for delivery in late 2023. Two will be supplied by BHP’s current provider Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, and two from Wabtec.

BHP will test the battery-electric locomotives’ performance and emissions reduction capabilities in delivering iron ore 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.

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

The trials will also test unique ‘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.

A fully-laden BHP WA Iron Ore train typically comprises four diesel-electric locomotives pulling approximately 270 cars carrying a total of 34.5 kt (38,000 st) of iron ore.

“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 Western Australia 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.”

“Replacing diesel-powered vehicles with electric technology is a key part of our plans to reduce operational emissions, as is partnering with a broad range of global equipment manufacturers and technology providers,” said BHP Group Procurement Officer, James Agar.

“By working with two global leaders in Progress Rail and Wabtec, we can broaden the scope of our trials and be better informed as we prepare for the planned replacement of our diesel-powered iron ore rail fleet. This is a good first step with significant potential.”



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