The Anonymous Widower

BHP Joins The Party On Electric Rail

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Australian Mining.

This is the introductory paragraph.

BHP will add four battery-electric locomotives to its Western Australian rail network, becoming the fourth major miner to improve rail decarbonisation efforts in Australia since mid-December.

These are some details of the locomotives.

  • Two are from Progress Rail and two are from Wabtec.
  • The locomotives have 14.5 MWh batteries.
  • The locomotives will be delivered by 2023.

BHP will also investigate the use of regenerative braking using the topography of the rail route.

With four companies going electric, it does seem that Australian mining, is very much driving the move to battery-electric heavy-haul freight.

Considering, that Wabtec only formally launched the FLXdrive concept in Pittsburgh in September last year, which I wrote about in FLXdrive ‘Electrifies’ Pittsburgh, that would appear to have been good going.


January 17, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I see that BHP, Rio Tinto and Roy Hill operate on the Pilbara Railway and are engaged in the purchase of Wabtec FLXdrive locos.
    Pilbara Railway is interesting because it’s not so much one railway line but a series of different lines for the four mining companies extracting iron ore. On some lines shared operating agreements exist, in other places, mining companies have built competing lines. This can be seen in the map

    The first 200 Kms or so from the coast are relatively flat with gradients increasing for the last 250 Kms.
    Most of the mines are situated in the Hammersley Range at elevations of 750 – 1200 metres above sea level and have been developed in the last 20- 25 years.
    Watching a few videos you’re aware that gradients are long and demanding where ore trains find themselves labouring, Thankfully that occurs infrequently with a full load when they are travelling down to the coast. There’s going to be a lot of regeneration and the duty cycle will be highly suitable for battery assisted operations.
    Roy Hill operate two coupled Locos at the head end of the train and two coupled mid way down the train. For the project, three existing EMD diesel locos are retained while the FLXdrive vehicle replaces the fourth EMD .
    All three companies intend to run the Wabtec Locos as part of the same sort of configuration.
    Coupling the battery loco to a diesel unit could be described as Battery Diesel Hybrid Consist.
    With the judicious use of jumper cables and a bit of applied control technology they could recharge not only from regenerative braking but also from the diesel locos that partners it if necessary.
    The decision of Fortescue to go with hydrogen fuel cell locos over the same area will provide an excellent comparison of performance.

    Comment by fammorris | January 17, 2022 | Reply

    • I do find it interesting that the mining companies are one of the first to embrace low-carbon technology. But then as I write this, I’m having a hot chocolate in a cafe next to Whitechapel station, where the new escalator barrel was built using a mining technique called uphill excavation. Perhaps,we should steal a few ideas from the moving industry. Imagine what a 10MWh battery-electric Class 66 locomotive would be capable of! I don’t think it would be difficult to build either.

      Comment by AnonW | January 17, 2022 | Reply

      • A valuable insight, yes we should always learn from others, I’ve filched more than my fair share of ideas from other areas of engineering in the past and you only have to look at biochemistry and the way it has stimulated areas of investigation in the field of energy storage.
        I’m also a believer in the lessons to be learnt by engineers studying biomimicry. What’s the connection between the Shinkansen and the Kingfisher?

        Comment by fammorris | January 17, 2022

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