The Anonymous Widower

BHP To Trial Battery Locos On Pilbara Iron Ore Network

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

The article summarised all the battery-electric locomotives ordered to bring the iron ore to the coast by mining companies; BHP, Fortescue, Rio Tinto and Roy Hill.

The article indicates some of the innovative operations that will be tried. This is a sentence from the article.

A key element will be to assess the potential for capturing regenerated braking energy on the loaded downhill runs, and storing it to power empty trains back uphill to the mines.

I would hope that the South Wales Metro, the Buxton branch and the East Kilbride branch will use similar energy conservation techniques.

January 26, 2022 - Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. There would be no harm in having a battery container behind the loco to store the energy and i doubt it would be a weight penalty as the engine plus fuel tanks are a fair amount of weight. Batteries are heavy as well but its battery energy density/vol that will be limiting factor if these mining runs are long downhill sections.

    From the miners perspective its a great way for them to improve their ESG credentials. I’m surprised that battery heavy haul has appeared so fast thought this would be province of hydrogen prime movers.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | January 26, 2022 | Reply

  2. Miners have had some bad publicity lately and decarbonisation is an easy win for them if it works. It could also raise the share price, which is good for the company, directors and share holders.

    I am also surprised how fast it has appeared with Wabtec.

    I wonder, if the results of running one battery-electric locomotive with one or two diesels has shown much better results than they expected and the savings in fuel costs go a long way to paying for the conversion.

    There may be one or two problems with hydrogen.

    Supply of fuel to freight depots.

    North America has had some bad train wrecks in recent years with fuel trains and perhaps operators and those living by lines are happier with batteries.

    Comment by AnonW | January 26, 2022 | Reply

  3. As well as investing in battery and hydrogen technology for these heavy haul locomotives in Australia, we shouldn’t overlook the potential of powering existing diesel locomotives with green ammonia. Last year Fortescue demonstrated the use of a high ammonia-diesel mix with a 2-stroke EMD loco engine. Clearly they still have a lot to do but they have they have taken two locos for conversion with the aim of having them in service by the end of this year/early 2023
    There are drawbacks. It doesn’t have the lubricity of diesel so ammonia is hard on engine injectors, it doesn’t like cold-starting, attacks components containing zinc, copper, or alloys like brass and it’s moderately toxic. Additionally, compared to diesel it has a lower energy density which influences range or tank size. That said it easily transported and has a much higher energy density than hydrogen.
    Ammonia also burns slowly and like hydrogen produces water, which hampers combustion. This favours engines, whether they be ammonia or hydrogen that run at relatively low and constant speed, reason that they’re both being investigated for marine applications.
    In summary, just like a hydrogen powered internal combustion engine it has to be tailored for use. It’ll be interesting to see how Fortescue get on.

    Comment by fammorris | January 27, 2022 | Reply

    • When I hear of alternative fuels, I have a quiet chuckle at one of my father’s stories.

      During World War II, he was a civil servant, who went round Southern England with a brigadier looking at the organisation of the Home Guard and how to defend England should the Germans invade.

      They had this problem, at a paint factory, where there was a very large tank of white spirit, which they were worried could be used by the Germans in their tanks.

      My father’s solution was to arrange a smaller tank of linseed oil on top of the white spirit tank and arrange that the two oils would be mixed on invasion.

      If the Germans had then attempted to use it as tank fuel, they wouldn’t have got very far.

      Comment by AnonW | January 27, 2022 | Reply

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