Fortescue Metals Group completed its acquisition of Williams Advanced Engineering at the beginning of March 2022, with WAE commencing development of a regenerating battery electric iron ore train with FMG-owned Fortescue Future Industries.
The US$221-million acquisition of WAE provides critical technology and expertise in high-performance battery systems and electrification to increase Fortescue’s operational efficiency, lower maintenance costs, and accelerate the decarbonisation of its mining operations.
WAE will remain an independent company to accelerate its growth, while its industrial battery technology division will closely coordinate with FMG, enabling it to establish a new global battery growth business opportunity.
FMG chief executive officer Elizabeth Gaines said the acquisition of WAE was an important step in FMG’s transition to a global green energy and resources company.
She added: “We are rapidly establishing the building blocks which will allow us to fully integrate technologies, manufacturing capabilities, and green energy generation and distribution to deliver across the entire value chain.”
The development of the electric iron ore train, called the Infinity Train, will support FMG in its target to achieve net zero scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.
In a world first, the Infinity Train will utilise the gravitational energy generated on the downhill loaded sections of FMG’s rail network to recharge its battery electric systems, without any additional charging requirements for the return trip to reload.
The self-sustaining system will increase operational efficiency, lower maintenance costs, and eliminate diesel and the associated carbon dioxide emissions from FMG’s iron ore trains.
The regenerative capability will remove the requirement for investment in recharging infrastructure and additional renewable energy generation capacity.
FMG’s development costs for the Infinity Train are expected to be US$40 million over the next two years and will be classified as operating cost efficiencies, with the studies to refine the capital estimate and schedule.
The technology jointly being developed by FMG and WAE will address the reduction in emissions in the hard-to-abate heavy industry sector with opportunities to commercialise it on a global basis.
FMG founder and chairman Andrew Forrest noted the Infinity Train would not only accelerate FMG’s race to reach net zero emissions by 2030, but also lower their operating costs and create maintenance efficiencies as well as productivity opportunities.
He continued: “The Infinity Train will join Fortescue’s green fleet under development, and will contribute to Fortescue becoming a major player in the growing global market for green industrial transport equipment, providing great value for our shareholders.
“The commercial opportunities for FFI as it pioneers this technology, captures its value and distributes it globally, are obvious.
“Less obvious, but just as important, is that we lower our operating costs, eliminate the cost of diesel from our company, and of course, our carbon emissions.”