Operators meeting strengthening demand for rail freight

Figures released by Aurizon show that there has been greater demand for rail freight services in the March quarter of 2020.

The Queensland based business, which operates the Central Queensland Coal Network, as well as coal services in NSW and South East Queensland and national freight services, saw a 2 per cent increase in total above rail volumes when compared to the 2019 March quarter.

The growth was driven by a 12 per cent increase in bulk volumes, however coal volumes remained flat.

In an ASX statement, the company attributed the growth to strong volumes of iron ore from Mt Gibson, in the Kimberly and Mid West of Western Australia. However, the overall level of growth in the bulk sector was affected by the flooding of the Mt Isa line in the March quarter last year, which restricted volumes in that period.

The flat demand for coal volumes were affected by the ramp down of New Acland mine, industrial action and adverse weather in February and march which impacted the Centre Queensland Coal Network.

Aurizon also noted that there has been greater demand for freight rail services from Linfox due to increased demand for consumer goods during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Aurizon has put in place extra preventative measures and there have been no cases of COVID-19 among Aurizon employees.

Linfox has been redeploying some of its workforce from affected operations to manage this demand for grocery products and the company is ensuring that supply chains remain open, said Linfox Logistics CEO Australia and New Zealand, Mark Mazurek.

“It is critically important that Linfox’s warehousing, road and rail networks continue to function safely and efficiently and that we can work collaboratively to deploy our people into new roles.”

New SA port to utilise rail connection for iron ore export

Mining company Havilah Resources has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Port Augusta Operations (PAO) for the use of a port and transhipment services for iron ore export.

The agreement comprises a 99-year lease over port terminal facilities at Port Playford, near Port Augusta in South Australia. The port includes an existing rail loop, unloading facility, sea wall roads, and storage sheds.

PAO will develop the land and terminal facilities to be a modern iron ore export terminal. This will involved refurbishment, upgrading, and other transhipment arrangements. PAO will then provide port and transhipment services for iron ore.

Technical director of Havilah, Chris Giles, said that the upgrade to the port will enable a rail connection from the Havilah’s iron ore deposits in northern South Australia.

“Port Augusta Operation’s proposed port and transhipment facility is approximately 300km by existing rail link from Havilah’s Braemar iron ore deposits, so it potentially provides a favourable logistical solution for us,” said Giles.

Giles also noted that rail will be a key connection between the mine and the port.

“Our Maldorky and Grants iron ore deposits in turn are located in close proximity to the transcontinental rail line, meaning reduced capital expenditure on logistics.”

Havilah owns three iron ore deposits, Maldorky, Grants, and Grants Basin. The deposits, which rise up to the surface, have the potential to be a 65 per cent iron product with high yields, according to a statement from Havilah.

The news comes after the former Northern power station near Port Augusta was sold to be developed into a port for CU-River Mining, as reported by the ABC in February. These developments would be the first time that commercial shipping would come to Port Augusta in 50 years.

AusRAIL: Rail tech delivering consistent productivity gains for Roy Hill

Rail Express spoke with GE Transportation, a division of Wabtec Corporation, about its work with Roy Hill in the Pilbara.

 


When you set up a $10 billion mining operation complete with 344-kilometre railroad and bespoke port facility, that investment needs to start paying back in quick order.

Indeed, every efficiency, every saving and productivity boost counts at Roy Hill’s operations in the Pilbara, chaired by Gina Rinehart. What a difference a consistently, evenly loaded, remotecontrolled train makes.

The Roy Hill Remote Operations Centre in Perth runs a model railway. Completed in 2015, the railroad with its state-of-the-art rolling stock carries millions of tonnes of iron ore – blasted across eight pits, crushed, graded and blended at Roy Hill – from the mine to Port Hedland, where it is shipped to international markets.

In 2018, Roy Hill hit its nameplate goal – 55 million tonnes shipped. The strategies and technologies that enabled Roy Hill to ramp up to this run rate, and continue to increase production to a 60 million tonnes per annum run rate, are complex.

But senior executives agree that a collaborative relationship with Wabtec Corporation’s GE Transportation division – the manufacturers of Roy Hill’s ES44ACi locomotives and the integrated LOCOTROL remotely operated tower control system that goes with them – has helped drive greater value from the Roy Hill railroad.

“Back in the early days we aimed for five trains a day,” Roy Hill chief operating officer, Gerhard Veldsman said. Each train is almost two kilometres in length, consisting of two rakes comprising 116 cars each, with two locomotives at the front and another two locomotives between the rakes. At first, the average load of the cars was 138 tonnes.

Ore-carrying railways have until recently required an engineer driver to inch the ore cars painstakingly under the loading chutes, at a pace of around 0.2 to 0.5 kilometres an hour, but Roy Hill commenced its operations with the LOCOTROL tower control system. This extension of the LOCOTROL Distributed Power system allows the driver to leave the locomotive at the load-out point, and the LOCOTROL tower control system automatically carries out the loading, which on Roy Hill-length trains can take up to three hours.

“The train comes in, the system logs the loco numbers and it goes into remote control mode. Positioning sensors on either side of the chute spot the gaps in the ore cars, and the system automatically opens and closes the chute to fill each ore car,” Veldsman explained.

From the start, the LOCOTROL tower control system has allowed Roy Hill to utilise crews more efficiently rather than locally manage the load-out process. The greatest benefit has been the ability to smooth the variability in tonnes loaded per car due to the automation of the process.

Roy Hill and Wabtec have collaborated to hone the system such that, “When you look at a fully loaded train out in the yard the tops of the wagons look like they’ve been planned flat,” Veldsman said. “It’s a good indication of how steady the loading process is. When you get a lumpy ore car, you know there’s been a problem.”

Having the load spread evenly throughout each car also allows the train to be driven more consistently. Veldsman explained, “A smooth load across the bogie sets enhances a train’s ability to efficiently brake and handle curves when travelling.”

Consistent loading enabled by the LOCOTROL Remote Operator Control system has helped Roy Hill’s railway team to increase the number of cars per rake to 118 (236 cars per train), loaded to 142 tonnes each. Train frequency has gradually increased from the initial 5 trains every 24 hours, to 5.5 or 6 trains on average.

Another significant benefit that Roy Hill has attained by using the LOCOTROL tower control system is the ability to remotely drive the train at the mine that is some 1600 km away from Roy Hill’s Remote Operations Center in Perth.

In resource ventures that pre-date Roy Hill, operators sat in towers at each mine site. At Roy Hill, the crews that run 24-hour remote train load out operations sit in the comfort of the Perth Remote Operations Centre, and return to their homes at the end of their shifts. This allows Roy Hill employees to spend more time with their families and enables Roy Hill to attract and retain the best people in the industry.

As a result of improved working conditions, said Veldsman, “We haven’t had any turnover in the train-control system in three years.”

The executive team at Roy Hill is contemplating other applications of the LOCOTROL tower control system: to potentially assist load-out efficiency at the Port end of the track; or to control the “train in waiting” for loading. “We’re happy to collaborate with Wabtec regarding the technicalities and see if further efficiencies can be realised,” Veldsman says. He confirms the strong, collaborative working relationship Roy Hill has with Wabtec, and says Roy Hill’s role as a test bed for the research and development of the LOCOTROL tower control system has benefited the industry as a whole.

“It’s great that we’ve come up with several changes in software that Wabtec has recognised as good ideas and rolled out universally. As well as being good from a Roy Hill operational point of view, it’s helped improve the product for all industry users.”

“Wabtec sincerely values the collaborative relationship we have with Roy Hill and are thrilled to be a part of their ongoing success,” GE Transportation executive leader in Australia Claire Pierce adds.

 

Visit Wabtec at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 232.

BHP reports positive year despite productivity hit

BHP has overcome productivity issues faced in the 2019 financial year including a costly derailment with the release of a solid final quarter report.

BHP reported a $US1 billion ($1.42 billion) hit to productivity in the 2019 financial year, led by $US835 million of impacts from unplanned production outages in the December 2018 half year, in addition to higher-than-expected costs at several of its mining operations in the June 2019 half year.

The $US835 million figure included the blowouts caused by the company’s forced derailment of a runaway freight train in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in November 2018.

The train, whcih consisted of 268 wagons carrying 30,000 tonnes of iron ore, travelled 92 kilometres in 50 minutes before being derailed at Turner’s Siding, 120 kilometres south of its destination at Port Hedland. 

This led to a five-day suspension of rail operations and contributed to a roughly $US600 million negative impact in the first half when combined with production outages at the company’s Olympic Dam, Spence and WA Iron Ore projects.

The $US1 billion productivity loss did not include the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Veronica on BHP’s Western Australian Iron Ore operations, which affected BHP’s rail and port operations at Port Hedland in March 2019.

Despite these issues, BHP exceeded full year production guidance for petroleum and met its revised guidance for copper and iron ore, posting an 11 per cent increase in quarterly production across its entire portfolio.

BHP chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie said that the company was positioned to deliver higher volumes in the 2020 financial year.

“Our overall production was broadly in line with last year, overcoming the impacts of weather, grade and natural field decline, and unplanned outages in the first half,” Mackenzie said.

“Our exploration program delivered encouraging results, with seven out of nine petroleum wells successful and further evaluation of the Oak Dam copper prospect underway.”