Marking its transition to a global green renewables and resources company, Fortescue has today completed the acquisition of UK-based Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), in a move that is expected to create up to one thousand new jobs and generate huge investment in decarbonisation initiatives in the years ahead.
WAE will remain a strongly independent company to accelerate its growth, while its leading industry battery technology division will be closely coordinated with Fortescue. Both will be managed by Fortescue’s green energy, technology and development company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI).
To mark the purchase at the Oxfordshire site, WAE and Fortescue announced the development of a world first, zero emission “INFINITY TRAIN™”. The regenerating battery electric iron ore train project will use gravitational energy to fully recharge its battery electric systems without any additional charging requirements for the return trip to reload.
Fortescue Founder and Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, said “The Infinity Train will not only accelerate Fortescue’s race to reach net zero emissions by 2030, but also lower our operating costs, create maintenance efficiencies and productivity opportunities.
“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 are obvious for FFI as it pioneers this technology, captures its value and distributes it globally. Less obvious, is that we have an opportunity to not only lower our operating costs, eliminate the cost of diesel from our company but of course eliminate our rail system carbon emissions.
“Today’s announcement will also help reverse the British brain drain, retaining brilliant British engineers working here in the UK and contributing to the local economy.
“The Infinity Train continues FFI’s inexorable march to change the world’s attitude to energy generation. To move business leaders and politicians globally to the realisation that fossil fuel is just one source of energy and there are others now, like gravitational energy, rapidly emerging, which are more efficient, lower cost and green. The world must, and clearly can, move on from its highly polluting, deadly if not stopped epoch of fossil fuel,” Dr Forrest said.
Fortescue’s current rail operations include 54 operating locomotives that haul 16 train sets, together with other on-track mobile equipment. Each train set is about 2.8 kilometres in length and has the capacity to haul 34,404 tonnes of iron ore in 244 ore cars. Fortescue’s rail operations consumed 82 million litres of diesel in financial year 2021 accounting for 11 per cent of Fortescue’s Scope 1 emissions. This diesel consumption and associated emissions will be eliminated once the Infinity Train is fully implemented across Fortescue’s operations, significantly contributing to Fortescue’s target to be diesel free by 2030.
Fortescue’s studies and development costs for the Infinity Train are expected to be US$50 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, to be jointly developed by Fortescue and WAE, will address the reduction in emissions in the hard to abate heavy industry sector with significant opportunities for this technology to be commercialised on a global basis.
Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines said, “The acquisition of WAE is an important step in Fortescue’s transition to a global green energy and resources company. 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 Infinity Train is an important project to be developed together with WAE, as we work to deliver on our target to decarbonise our mining operations by 2030.
“The Infinity Train has the capacity to be the world’s most efficient battery electric locomotive. The regeneration of electricity on the downhill loaded sections will remove the need for the installation of renewable energy generation and recharging infrastructure, making it a capital efficient solution for eliminating diesel and emissions from our rail operations.”
WAE Chief Executive Officer, Craig Wilson said, “High performance battery and electrification systems are at the core of what we do and now that we are part of the Fortescue family, this presents an exciting opportunity to develop new technologies as we work together to tackle climate change.”