BHP buys electric trains for the Pilbara

17th January 2022 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

BHP buys electric trains for the Pilbara

Photo by: Reuters

PERTH ( – Major BHP 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.

The four locomotives are scheduled for delivery in late 2023, with two to 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.

The miner told shareholders that conducting the trials in collaboration with two leading providers would support BHP’s planned electrification of its iron-ore fleet of more than 180 locomotives.

“Western Australian 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,” said BHP asset president for Western Australia iron-ore Brandon Craig.

“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 reduction targets and goals.”

A full transition to battery-electric locomotives would reduce BHP’s Western Australian iron-ore diesel-related carbon emissions by approximately 30% 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 and use it to help power empty trains back to the Pilbara.

A fully-laden BHP iron-ore train typically comprises four diesel-electric locomotives pulling approximately 270 cars carrying a total of 38 000 t of iron-ore.

“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.”