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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

 

Robert Flicker

Sustainability Assessment of Alternatives to Diesel Haul Trucks in Australia’s Iron Ore Mining

Resource extraction is a major contributor to global warming, accounting for 47% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the world’s largest iron ore exporting nation, releasing over 10Mt of CO2e emissions annually as a result of iron ore extraction processes. Industry and academia indicate that ‘haulage’, transporting raw material using diesel haul trucks, is the most emission-intensive activity in the value chain for iron ore extraction. This research aims to inform strategies for decarbonising this haulage.  

 This work synthesises previous studies focused on lowering CO2 emissions in heavy freight transport in order to identify potential alternative low-carbon fuel and powertrain technologies for decarbonising iron ore haulage. A sustainability assessment is conducted by defining and weighting economic, environmental and social criteria, then ranking alternatives based on an Analytical Hierarchy Process. These results are complemented with backcasting to identify opportunities and challenges in the transition to sustainable haulage technologies, concluding that hydrogen-electric haulage is the preferred sustainable haulage technology for Australia’s iron ore industry.  

 The proposed implementation pathway offers employment opportunities to address regional unemployment, environmental stewardship to manage pollution, and a strategy for cascading clean hydrogen production into a billion-dollar export industry. To fully realise these sustainability benefits and achieve the Western Australian Government’s net zero carbon emissions target, hydrogen haulage should be intelligently implemented by leveraging collaboration across industry and government, sharing assets and services, and supporting industrial ecology across the region.