Mineral Resources bulk ore transport system BOTS

MinRes boss comments on ‘iron ore monorail’

Chris Ellison, managing director of Mineral Resources, has spoken publicly about the company’s ambitious plan to construct a first-of-its-kind, driverless monorail for iron ore transport in the Pilbara.

The bulk ore transport system (BOTS) was described by Mineral Resources in its half yearly presentation late in February as “occupying a niche between heavy rail and conveyor”.

“BOTS is an autonomous system utilising electrically powered, purpose designed wagons to transport bulk ore materials.”

The first instance of BOTS, which is set to be built for BC Iron’s Iron Valley mine – but will have around 30mtpa of excess capacity for third parties – will consist of 13 bottom-dumper wagons and one ‘power car’ per set, with each wagon bearing a 15 tonne payload.

Each 2km driverless train will consist of 20 to 24 sets, which translates to between 260 and 312 wagons, and up to 4600 tonnes in total payload.

BOTS will be able to travel at 80km/h fully loaded, will have fully redundant communications, and will be controlled via a remote operations control centre, Mineral Resources said in February.

Despite being a line of wagons on rails, Mineral Resources insists BOTS is not simply a ‘railway’, with the distinction coming down to how the wagons are moved.

“Unlike a railway system, BOTS does not rely upon a locomotive to pull the wagons,” the company explained, “but instead utilises a diesel/LNG powered electricity generation system that distributes electricity to the individual wagons for self-propulsion.

“BOTS vehicles will move on a purpose built, elevated structure that will pass over existing road and rail infrastructure and will not impact existing surface water flows.”

Road and rail crossings, as well as creek crossings, will be navigated by 45m span trusses up to 10m high. Creek crossings will be reinforced for high flow and debris protection.

Mineral Resources thinks the BOTS can “revolutionise” transport of bulk ore, by offering a cost effective solution in the face of the iron ore price slump, while also being environmentally responsible, and focusing on a reduced development footprint, and an easy removal down the line.

Ellison, in an interview with Fairfax this week, said the project was designed to be a solution for miners when – as he believes – the iron ore price drops below US$50 a tonne.

“We want to make money when iron ore is sub-US$50 a tonne and we want our clients to as well,” Ellison was quoted as saying by the AFR.

“What we really think we can do is help Australian mining get down to the lower quartile [in terms of costs]. What it needs to be is Australia competing with other countries, not each other, if we want to make Australia wealthy.

“If iron ore is going to China and Japan, it’s better if it’s Australian iron ore.”

The first BOTS project will provide 12mtpa of capacity for BC Iron’s mine, Iron Valley – a 331km journey from the export facilities at Port Hedland.

“Other mines along the route could add an extra 30mtpa of iron ore,” Mineral Resources said in February, with “discussions in progress” relating to that capacity.

The company hopes to start work on the project by the end of this year. It hopes to handle the first Iron Valley ore on BOTS by mid-2017. It says the WA government has been positive in its response to BOTS.

If the ambitious Pilbara project goes ahead, and is successful, Mineral Resources says it has “wide-spread potential applications” across the entire bulk commodities industry.

Aurizon Train

Aurizon runs mega-train to WICET

Bedding coal has been delivered to the new Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) via the longest train rail operator Aurizon has ever put through its Central Queensland Coal Network.

The 2.3km train last week carried 11,000 tonnes of coal in 136 wagons through the Blackwater rail system to the new port, which was constructed by a joint venture of a number of coal mining companies.

The bedding coal is being used to establish the stockpiles at WICET as it gears up for its first shipments of export coal.

Aurizon’s executive vice president of operations Mike Franczak said the operation was a sign of things to come.

“We’re moving more tonnes, on larger trains, from mine to port as we drive improved efficiency across the coal supply chain,” Franczak said.

“This is an excellent outcome for customers, our supply chain partners and the Queensland coal industry generally.”

Franczak said the Brisbane-based rail company has achieved several innovative operational improvements in recent years, including lifting payloads, improving locomotive reliability, and bettering online performance.

“Quite simply, we are getting smarter about the way we use our existing assets,” Franczak continued. “The drive to improve train payloads at Aurizon draws on the very best available technology and innovation in the areas of train marshalling, train handling and track/train dynamics.”

The effect of this, he explained, is that as the company improves its capacity and productivity, it is also reducing the amount of workers on the trains, “making for a safer, more energy-efficient mode of transportation”.

Coal trains for export will commence in earnest next month. The average Aurizon train on the Central Queensland Coal Network has around 100 wagons and a pay load of about 8,500 tonnes of coal.

Downer lands $1bn deal with Pacific National

Australian engineering group Downer EDI has won a ten-year maintenance contract with rail operator Pacific National, that the engineer values at around $1bn.

Downer announced to the ASX today that it had struck a deal with Pacific National, a subsidiary business of transport and infrastructure business Asciano.

Downer chief executive Grant Fenn said the agreement was an important development in Downer Rail’s aim to provide “total rail asset solutions” to its customers.

“Under the agreement, Downer will provide a full suite of asset management services for over 300 Pacific National locomotives,” Fenn said.

“This includes a range of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance services and a 24 hour Fleet Control Centre.

“The new features of the agreement include remote monitoring of the assets and inspections while in service to ensure more locomotives are available for service,” he continued.

“The locomotives are out on the tracks for longer hours and that they run at higher levels of reliability.”

Pacific National moves roughly 145mt of cargo each year. The company delivers rail operations for coal and other bulk solids, as well as container transport and specialised freight, such as steel.

The Pacific National deal announced today was the second bulk handling contract win for Downer so far this year. The company announced on January 5 that it had won a deal to maintain haul truck fleets at two coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

That contract commenced on February 1, and is worth about $60m. Around 110 people will be employed to service 90 haul trucks.

Sydney Train

Rolling stock defect detector wins award

Sydney Trains has won an award for an innovative system that is installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects.

The Project Management Achievement Award, in the Developmental Projects category at the 2014 Australian Institute of Project Management’s NSW Chapter, was awarded for Sydney Trains Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project.

The awards were opened by NSW governor Marie Bashir.The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project was delivered by the Sydney Trains Maintenance Directorate’s Operational Technology team.

Part of a suite of condition monitoring systems, Hot Box Detector systems are installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects, so they can be rectified before they damage rolling stock and infrastructure, or pose a risk to public safety.

The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems project was particularly complex as it involved the introduction of new technology, was multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, had safety and operational impacts, and was industrially sensitive, Sydney Trains said.

Nonetheless, the project was delivered on time and under budget, a factor the state government agency said demonstrated its capability in project managing the procurement, trial and rollout of the latest technology to enhance network safety and service reliability.

Project manager Codruta Bastucescu accepted the award on behalf of Sydney Trains.“I was very grateful for the opportunity to manage this project. Like all disciplinary projects, it was a great team effort involving over 100 people over the course of five years. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of Sydney Trains,” Codruta said.

Siemens weighs up its UK options

Siemens has secured a £1.6 billion contract to supply new passenger rolling stock for London’s Thameslink commuter railway, but at the same time has announced it is pulling out of the tender process to supply rolling stock for the CrossRail project due to production capacity constraints.

The £1.6 billion Thameslink contract is for the supply of 1,140 new commuter rail carriages to replace existingrolling stock on the north-south commuter route that runs through London, connecting Bedford in the north through to Brighton on the south coast.

In addition, Siemens will be responsible for the long-term maintenance of the fleet and overseeing construction of two new train maintenance depots. This is the largest order that Siemens has won in Great Britain and one of the biggest orders for Siemens’ global rolling stockbusiness.

For the Thameslink project Siemens has invested in the development of a new train platform.

According to Siemens the new Desiro City model for suburban, regional and main-line transport will reduce overall energy consumption and track wear by up to 50% compared to predecessor models. The trains are up to 25% lighter than the existing Desiro UK fleet, thanks mainly to car bodies of lightweight aluminum construction and bogies that are approximately one-third lighter in weight.

The trains will be manufactured at the Siemens factory in Krefeld, Germany, and the first trains will enter service in 2016.

The Desiro City Thameslink can be coupled to form 8 and 12-car trains and operated in dual mode (750 V DC or 25 kV AC). They are built for a top speed of 160 km/h or around 100 mph.

Funding for the purchase of the rolling stock will be provided through PPP arrangement with German bank HSH Nordbank AG as Lead Arranger in the financing for the availability-driven PPP project.

Meanwhile, Siemens has also announced that its withdrawing from the tender to provide rolling stockfor the east west London Crossrail project which is currently under construction.

The company says that it feels that with the successful tender for the Thameslink contract and otherrolling stock orders it no longer has the capacity to deliver 600 carriages for the Crossrail link.

“Crossrail is a very large project and, since first undertaking our initial assessment of capacity and deliverability, Siemens has won multiple additional orders,” the company said.

“To pursue another project of this scale could impact our ability to deliver our current customer commitments.”

Siemens is still involved with the Crossrail project having previously won a contract to provide signalling and control systems.
Hitachi, Bombardier and CAF remain in the bidding for the Crossrail rolling stock contract with bids due next month and an announcement on the successful tenderer expected to be announced mid-2014. Both Bombardier and Hitachi would be likely to construct the new trains at facilities in the UK.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

IRT: leading technology development for mining

While the Australian economy is enjoying a fortunate position due to the thriving mining industry, research and technology have been integral factors which have enabled the mining industry to reach its current position.

As part of one of the main technology service providers for the railway industry, the personnel at the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University have been supporting the mining industry’s railway operations over the last four decades. IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements at the same time as reducing risks and costs, ultimately improving the bottom line of their clients.

The latest technology IRT has developed is the instrumented revenue vehicle which is a fully flexible automated measurement platform to continuously monitor and provide feedback on both rail condition and train operation. This technology is designed to be installed in standard vehicles which are embedded within a normal operation.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology has several key advantages over previous maintenance inspection methods. With the objective of increasing production rates, mining operations are often under pressure to reduce railway track downtime. The ramifications of reducing track downtime are that it would minimize traditional track measurements and maintenance activities. This could result in a significant increase in operational risks because of a lack of maintenance and an inability to identify deterioration of track condition in a timely manner.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology measures the condition of a railway system during normal rail operations without requiring any track downtime. In addition, IRT’s technology measures the dynamic responses of normal vehicles during loaded and empty operating conditions under standard speed profiles. Unlike previous track recording vehicle measurements, IRT technology measurements are a direct indication of the loads being imposed on the rail network in a usual operating environment.

By Ravi Ravitharan*

It is also important to note that the information collected using the IRT’s instrumented vehicletechnology is available for railway operations within a twelve hour period. It is anticipated that in the near future real time reporting of track and train related issues would be also available.

The above technology is widely used in railway systems in mining operations and now available to all railway operations including passenger and freight, to assist with both track and rolling stock management.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology measurements have shown an excellent correlation with track inspector findings. Now these measurements are being used extensively for track maintenance activities, and to restrict line speed to mitigate damage to and risk from deterioration of the track structure.

Assessment of the effectiveness of maintenance operations, operational planning and maintenance programming are other benefits of the new technology IRT has developed.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology has also been used for analysis of train driving strategies and in-train forces, train driver training, derailment investigations, analysis of the dynamic effect on bridges, dumper indexing for minimization of coupler loads and assistance with the design of new rolling stock.

IRT, the premier track and vehicle railway engineering research centre in Australia, focuses on developing new technologies that could be integrated into existing processes to provide rail operators with the ability to effectively manage their resources.

*Ravi Ravitharan is director, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | City Hall Newcastle
For more information email: kara.clifton@informa.com.au

Rail technology roadmaps: a Canadian perspective

The recent Rail Technology Workshop saw senior rail executives come together to kick-start the development of a technology strategy and roadmap for the Australian rail industry for the next 30-40 years.

By Jennifer Perry

While many rail organisations have developed individual technology roadmaps, the workshop marked the first time that industry came together to work towards a common technological base.

With Canada a few steps ahead of Australia, having already got a technology roadmap in place, delegates benefitted from hearing the Canadian experience that was shared by Mike Roney, chair of Canada’s Railway Research Advisory Board.

Roney said that the Canadian rail industry used the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) technologyroadmap as a basis for developing a specific Canadian technology strategy, and took more of a freight focus because that’s where “the money is made”.

“The AAR technology roadmap started when our chief executives said that even if the railways don’t gain market share, we still have to be carrying 80 per cent more tonnage on our lines 20 years into the future which requires us to spend a great deal of money on capacity improvements,” Roney said.
“The target we came to was if we can do 50 per cent of that improvement in capacity through technology then there is a great deal of value in that for the railways.”

Canada took many of the AAR’s technology roadmap principles into consideration when developing its own strategy, including the need to develop capacity without spending capital; making assets sweat; fuel efficiency and advanced power systems; reducing in-service failures; automated health monitoring of track and rollingstock; interoperability; positive train control; and information technology that supports improved customer service.

“The next piece of evidence we put together was the visioning of the top operating officers within Canadian National and Canadian Pacific – the two major Canadian freight railways – who were basically asked what they would like their railway to be when they grow up,” Roney said.

The resulting vision highlighted key strategic areas such as the need for new technologies to lower stress states and for the rail network to be fluid, scheduled and precise; the need for safety systems to be more vital, predictive and condition based and for technologies that reduce emissions, amongst others.
Some of the technologies that featured in this vision were wireless train control systems to improve safety and capacity, friction management to control the friction levels along rail lines and reduce fuel consumption, ECP braking and longer trains with distributed power.

Key stakeholders then came together to decide on what research priorities would form Canada’s joint industry government research program for its technology roadmap; Roney said that with a lack of industry funding for research, it was paramount that funding went to areas that “everyone up the line” recognised as the top priorities.

Research projects included human behavior and compliance, energy and the environment, railroading and harsh and changing environments, infrastructure integrity, human factors, operational fluidity and capacity and emerging technologies.

Roney’s views were welcomed by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board’s (RISSB) general manager Kevin Taylor, who told Rail Express that with Canada “out there leading rail reform”, it had plenty of good case examples for Australia to follow including the development of a technologystrategy.
Taylor said that while the Rail Technology Strategy Workshop marked an important step in the industry’s development of a technology strategy, it was “just the start” of what may be a rather lengthy development and approval process.

“A project plan will be provided for RISSB’s approval in November, and subject to this approval, work will start in earnest,” he said.

Taylor also mentioned that it was important that broad industry buy-in was achieved in the development of the strategy and thus the RISSB process of consultation will be followed.