Aurizon continues charge for green rail with UQ

Aurizon has partnered with the University of Queensland (UQ) to strengthen its credentials in zero-emission rail freight technology, investigating ‘new-generation’ batteries and green hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

The research will focus on the application of this technology in heavy industries like mining freight.

Aurizon is Australia’s largest rail freight operator which involved transporting 202 million tonnes of coal in the 2021 financial year.

The research will assess the energy requirements of 33,000 kilometres of Australia’s rail network to understand how new technologies could replace current power systems.

University of Queensland locomotive mechanics expert Paul Meehan from the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering said this research could make significant changes to some major Australian industries.

“Together with Aurizon, this project will advance our knowledge and understanding of battery and hydrogen technology, specifically the application of these technologies in the Australian heavy haul rail industry,” Meehan said.

“It is a unique opportunity to design new and future solutions to decarbonise a major transportation industry and reduce the impact of climate change.”

The findings from the partnership on the use of battery and fuel-cell technology could then present opportunity to benefit other vehicle types across heavy industries, according to UQ senior lecturer from the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, Ruth Knibbe.

“In addition to mapping the specific requirements for large industries, the complex and large-scale ‘refuelling’ infrastructure will be assessed for both battery charging and hydrogen refuelling and storage,” Knibbe said.

Aurizon plans to achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2050, as outlined in its first climate strategy and action plan in 2020.

Aurizon head of asset management and strategy James Petty said the study with UQ was just one key to achieving this and other related goals.

“We need to define the specific energy requirements for mainline operation of our trains, and how the emerging technologies in batteries and hydrogen fuel cells can deliver that in practical terms,” Petty said.

“This collaboration will allow UQ to further develop their extensive knowledge in the battery-hydrogen space, while also providing Aurizon with key information required to help support the goals established in our 2020 Climate Strategy and Action Plan.”

The UQ study follows Aurizon’s recent announcement with Anglo American. The two industry leaders will conduct a feasibility study into using Anglo’s hydrogen power technology on multiple Aurizon rail corridors in Queensland.

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