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Hydrogen-powered trains on the card for Queensland

If the study is successful, the parties would deploy the technology on Aurizon’s Moura and Mt Isa rail corridors. Image courtesy of Aurizon.

Rail freight operator Aurizon has teamed up with global mining firm Anglo American to explore potential development of hydrogen-powered trains for bulk freight on two of Aurizon’s rail corridors in Queensland.

Aurizon and Anglo American have entered into an agreement to conduct the Feasibility Study that will explore the application of Anglo American’s proprietary hydrogen fuel cell and battery hybrid power units in heavy haul freight rail operations to replace diesel engines.

If the study is successful, the parties would deploy the technology on Aurizon’s Moura rail corridor which connects Anglo American’s Dawson metallurgical coal mine and the Gladstone Port, as well as Mount Isa rail corridor that operates between the North West Minerals Province to Townsville Port, via Aurizon’s Stuart Terminal.

Tony O’Neill, Technical Director of Anglo American said the agreement marked the first time the miner’s hydrogen power technology would be tested beyond their existing mine haul truck programme.

“Displacing our use of diesel is critical to eliminating emissions at our sites and along our value chain. We believe that our innovative hydrogen-led technology provides a versatile solution, whether for trucks or trains or other forms of heavy duty transport,” Mr O’Neill said.

Queensland’s Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Steven Miles said the announcement was in line with Queensland’s ambition of becoming recognised Australia’s ‘hydrogen state.’

“The announcement is more proof that Queensland is committed to capturing every section of the renewable energy value chain,” the Minister said.

Queensland has been taking a series of initiatives this year to position itself as a hydrogen super hub and exporter.

In October, the Queensland Government signed an agreement with renewable energy and hydrogen company Fortescue Future Industries to build one of the world’s largest hydrogen-equipment manufacturing facilities in Gladstone. Japan’s largest hydrogen supplier Iwatani is also conducting a $10.4 million feasibility study into the development of a large-scale renewable hydrogen facility in Gladstone.

Similar projects are underway at Townsville, where a feasibility study by Ark Energy is investigating the development of a renewable hydrogen facility focused on the transport industry at Sun Metals’ zinc refinery in Townsville, along with hydrogen export facilities at the Port of Townsville.

Mr Miles said Queensland is perfectly positioned to be the world’s 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.

“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.”

Queensland’s Minister for Energy Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said the project showed yet again the way renewable energy and the burgeoning hydrogen industry meant more jobs in more industries for more Queenslanders.

“Projects like this are important because they enable domestic demand and create an ecosystem for green hydrogen,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Transport accounts for 14 per cent 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.”

Aurizon is Australia’s largest rail freight company, with the decarbonisation of its supply chains at the centre of its target to reach net zero operational emissions by 2050. Aurizon has also commenced research and development for battery-powered trains with a number of industry parties and Australian universities.

Related stories:

Gladstone, QLD set to have one of the world’s largest hydrogen manufacturing hubs

New facility to increase North Queensland’s hydrogen capacity

QLD Gov explores hydrogen export from Port of Hay Point

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