Thursday, January 20, 2022

Rio Tinto orders first battery-electric locomotives to reduce emissions

An American company, Wabtec Corporation, and Rio Tinto announced an order for four FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives to support suitable operations of the mining company’s rail network in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Rio Tinto’s order for four 100% battery-electric locomotives will support its effort to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

Rio Tinto ordered the newest version of the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive, which features an energy capacity of 7 megawatt-hours (MWh), nearly triple the capacity of the prototype launched last year. Based on Rio Tinto’s planned route from its mine to the port at Dampier in Western Australia, the new FLXdrive is expected to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions by a double-digit percentage per train.

The locomotive, used to carry one from the company’s mines to its ports, will be recharged at purpose-built charging stations at the port or mine. They will also be capable of generating additional energy while in transit through a regenerative braking system, which takes energy from that train and uses it to recharge the onboard batteries. Wabtec’s next-generation energy-management software system will determine the optimal times to discharge and recharge the batteries along to route, ensuring the most fuel-efficient operation of the entire locomotive consist during the trip.

A full transition to net-zero emissions technology of its entire fleet of rail locomotives would reduce Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s diesel-related carbon emissions in the Pilbara by around 30% annually.

“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. “By locking this in now, we are making progress in our efforts to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.”

Wabtec will deliver the FLXdrive battery locomotives to Rio Tinto in 2023. Once delivered, the locomotive will be trialed within controlled environments in the Pilbara and tested against a range of safety and functional criteria. The mining company plans to use the locomotives in multiple applications, including as a shunter in the railyard and ultimately in mainline service.

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