Mining in the future: on track with a different sort of train

Mining depends heavily on infrastructure to move, deliver and transport ore and manpower from one location to another. The chain that connects all the dots is the railway – an essential connector in the mine to port journey.

(Representative) Train at a port carrying coal

But trains consume a lot of energy and are often dependent on energy sources that increase emissions.

Vale, the Brazial mining giant and Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Company have been working on a solution.

Vale said in a press release, “In addition to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by replacing diesel fuel with sustainable electric energy, the equipment also reduces noise emission, which mitigates its impacts on the communities surrounding Vale operations.”

According to Progress Rail, the railway will be piloted this year and will then be used to support operations in the Tubarão yard.

This 100% electric switchyard locomotive is part of the PowerShift Program to replace Vale’s energy sources with clean ones. This initiative contributes to Vale’s strategy to reduce its direct and indirect emissions (Scope 1 and 2)1 by 33% until 2030, as of 2017. This goal complies with the Paris Agreement.

The announcement comes as Vale has pledged to reduce its Green House Gas emissions under what it calls the PowerShift program. The idea is to replace Vale’s energy sources to cleaner sources.

This initiative contributes to Vale’s strategy to reduce its direct and indirect emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by 33% until 2030, as of 2017

– Vale

This initiative contributes to Vale’s strategy to reduce its direct and indirect emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by 33% until 2030, as of 2017.

According to Vale: railroad emissions account for almost 10% of Vale’s total Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Thus, if this technology is proven to be feasible, the electric equipment may contribute to the reduction of railroad emissions.

“Our team has taken great pride in this exciting project, working closely with Vale to deliver a new advanced technology battery locomotive in approximately 11 months. This locomotive will help Vale achieve their emissions objectives,” said Marty Haycraft, President and CEO of Progress Rail. “We look forward to continuing to support our entire global customer base with innovative products and services to help them meet their operating and environmental objectives.”

According to Gustavo Bastos, Executive Manager at Vale’s Center of Excellence and Innovation, tests with the pilot-locomotive for maneuvering operations, in Tubarão, are paramount to develop a conceptual solution for regular locomotives operating in the railroads. “This equipment is a landmark on the strategy of decarbonization of Vale’s assets, and it is in compliance with the New Pact with Society,” says Bastos.

There have been others who are trying to innovate in this space.

GE Transportation is developing a battery-electric locomotive that could give railway operators a big boost in fuel efficiency. According to GE: Diesel-electric locomotives like the machines GE is building are essentially power plants on wheels. They use a powerful diesel engine to generate the electricity that drives the electric motors that spin the wheels. Read more here.

Then there is a race to put Hydrogen powered trains on the track. HydroFLEX, according to the University of Birmingham, marks an important step in the development of a zero-carbon emission propulsion system that could help to decarbonise Britain’s railway.  The HydroFLEX pilot involves the fitment of a hydrogen powerpack to an existing Class 319 train, which would eventually allow it to run on conventional electrified routes as well as independently. This results in a highly flexible train that can operate on different parts of Britain’s rail network. Read more here.

Hydroflex2_900
Team behind the Hydroflex – or the hydrogen powered train. Could this be used in mining?

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