TOWNSVILLE, AAP – Locomotives powered by renewable energy could soon supercharge Queensland’s heavy freight network as the state government launches a feasibility study into hydrogen power.

With rail freight operator Aurizon and miner Anglo American, the feasibility study will explore the use of hydrogen powered technology used with mine trucks in South Africa and how they can be applied to heavy freight trains in Queensland.

Locomotives in Aurizon’s fleet currently use up to 200 million litres of diesel every year, with trains from Mount Isa to Townsville guzzling 22,000 litres one way.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles says he’s excited to see results from the study and to move more of the state’s transport towards renewables.

“This visibility study will provide further evidence that this is entirely possible,” he said on Monday.

“The opportunities to reduce pollution are enormous, but also the opportunities to lower the carbon footprint of our products, including Anglo Americans’ met (metallurgical) coal that will make it more competitive in future markets.”

Anglo American has begun transitioning its mining truck fleets to renewable alternatives with their “ultra-class” 290 tonne truck used in South Africa.

Chief of Anglo American’s business in Australia, Tyler Mitchelson, says the company is enthusiastic about trialling the technology.

“This is the first time for hydrogen powered technology to be tested outside of our existing haul truck program,” Mr Mitchelson said.

A six-month feasibility study kicks off in January before work can begin on constructing a business case and designing and building a prototype.

A two megawatt prototype fuel cell is used in Anglo American’s mining in South Africa which is believed to be the same power required for heavy freight.

Aurizon chief executive Andrew Harding said he was “stunned” by Anglo American’s progress on the technology.

“The progress has been quite good. It’s industrial scale. Being able to move a 290 tonne dump truck is no insignificant feat,” he said.

“The fundamentals are what strikes me as making it very possible.”