The Queensland government has announced a feasibility study will be conducted into the use of hydrogen-powered trains for bulk freight.
Freight operator Aurizon and mining group Anglo American will conduct the study, looking at whether hydrogen fuel cell and battery hybrid power units can be used in heavy-haul freight rail operations.
In a statement on Monday, minister for state development Steven Miles said the study would utilise Anglo American’s hydrogen power technology on Aurizon’s Moura rail corridor and also the Mount Isa Rail corridor.
“The Moura corridor operates between Anglo American’s Dawson metallurgical coal mine and the Gladstone Port, and the Mount Isa rail corridor operates between the North West Minerals Province to Townsville Port, via Aurizon’s Stuart Terminal,” Miles said.
He added that Anglo American was a global leader in green hydrogen solutions for its ultra-class 290-tonne payload mine haul trucking fleet, with a commitment by the company to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2040. This is the first time that the company’s hydrogen power technology can be tested beyond Ango American’s existing mine haul truck program.
“Displacing our use of diesel is critical to eliminating emissions at our sites and along our value chain,” Ango American’s technical director Tony O’Neill said.
“We believe that our innovative hydrogen-led technology provides a versatile solution, whether for trucks or trains or other forms of heavy-duty transport.”
Aurizon, the largest rail freight company in Australia, also has a decarbonisation strategy for its supply chains with a net-zero operational emissions target by 2050.
“Imagine new economy minerals which can be used to make batteries to store renewable energy, being moved from the North West Minerals Province to Townsville, on a train powered by hydrogen made from Queensland sunshine,” Miles said, claiming that the state was well placed to transform into a ‘renewable energy superpower’.
“This project is more proof of that future — where we use cheaper, cleaner energy to power Queenslander’s lives and to make the equipment the world needs as we move towards more decarbonisation,” he said.
More jobs for local industries was an added benefit to a Queensland-based hydrogen industry, minister for energy renewables and hydrogen Mick de Brenni said.
“Transport accounts for 14% of emissions and is the fastest-growing sector for emissions. However, we recognise that transport can lead the emissions reduction push if we move quickly with initiatives like this one,” de Brenni said.
“The government welcomes today’s announcement, as it is making sure Queenslanders and local businesses are at the front of the queue building the skills needed for the hydrogen industry and the thousands of jobs it will create,” he said.
Aurizon CEO Andrew Harding said his company had started a number of research and development initiatives for battery-powered trains with industry partners and universities.
“Hydrogen offers enormous opportunity in decarbonising and continuing to improve the competitiveness of Australia’s export supply chains,” Harding said.
“This is especially true for bulk products underpinning the Australian economy including minerals, agricultural products and fertilisers, industrials and general freight.”