Electric trains to haul Rio Tinto iron
Orders Wabtec battery locomotives for Western Australia mines Metal Tech News – January 12, 2022
Last updated 1/11/2022 at 2:08pm
Taking a large step toward its goal of halving the carbon emissions at its iron mines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia by 2030, Rio Tinto has placed an order with Wabtec Corp. for four FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives.
"Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and an acknowledgment of the need to increase the pace of our decarbonization efforts," said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services Richard Cohen.
The seven-megawatt-hour Wabtec locomotives will pull trains of iron ore from Rio Tinto's Pilbara mines to Western Australia ports.
A complete swap from diesel to electric rail transport is expected to reduce Rio Tinto Iron Ore's diesel-related carbon emissions in the Pilbara by around 30% annually. In addition, the electric drive is expected to significantly lower fuel costs.
"The FLXdrive is ideally suited to support Rio Tinto's sustainability targets for their Pilbara system," said Rogerio Mendonca, president of freight equipment for Wabtec. "This locomotive provides the tractive effort, fuel savings, and emissions reductions to cost-effectively run rail networks in the mining industry."
During commercial test operations, a Wabtec FLXdrive locomotive powered by roughly 20,000 battery cells was tested across more than 13,320 miles of hilly terrain in California's San Joaquin Valley. This 2.4-MWh locomotive reduced overall fuel consumption by more than 11%. This is the equivalent of 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel saved and 69 tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduced.
Being built at Wabtec factories in the United States, the more powerful locomotives for Rio Tinto are slated for delivery in 2023.
The mining company plans to scale up the use of the electric locomotives to mainline service.
Rio Tinto currently uses three diesel-electric locomotives to pull trains with 240 cars hauling about 28,000 tons of iron ore.
The FLXdrives are expected to start off by working with diesel locomotives in a hybrid application for mainline service, recharging during the trip through regenerative braking and at charging stations. Wabtec's next-generation energy-management software system will determine the optimal times to discharge and recharge the batteries along the route to ensure the most fuel-efficient operation of both the electric and diesel locomotives pulling the ore.
"Rio Tinto is a progressive leader in the mining industry adopting advanced technologies necessary to drive sustainable, efficient operations that deliver results for its customers, shareholders, and communities," said Wendy McMillan, Wabtec's Regional senior vice president for South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. "We are proud to continue our long-standing relationship with Rio Tinto and support their efforts to reduce emissions and operating costs with the FLXdrive battery locomotive."
This deal with Rio Tinto adds to the momentum of Wabtec's battery-electric locomotives for the mining and rail markets.
FLXdrive is one part of Wabtec's goal to develop the next generation of zero-emission locomotives powered with batteries, hydrogen combustion, and hydrogen fuel cells.
For more information on a deal between Wabtec and General Motors' Hydrotec for hydrogen fuel cell technology can be read at GM powers trains, planes and automobiles in the June 23, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.