UK: A Freightliner EMD Class 66 locomotive has been modified to test the diesel engine’s ability to use biomethane or hydrogen dual-fuelling as a potential path to lowering carbon emissions from rail freight.
The tests used precision injection technology from Clear Air Power. This had previously been used on road vehicles including Volvo lorries, but the manufacturer said the latest project was a first for the rail sector.
Static load bank testing was undertaken at Freightliner’s Leeds maintenance depot, and looked at the behaviour of the engine with biomethane or hydrogen dual-fuelling. The project did not look at fuel handling or storage, and the modified loco was not approved to operate on the network.
Further work would be needed to make the technology suitable for commercial operation, but Clear Air Power’s Managing Director Dan Skelton told Rail Business UK that it could offer a relatively simple ‘transitional step’ towards decarbonisation, as the Class 66 locos potentially have another 30 of years of life in them. A loco could use a mix of diesel and biomethane until hydrogen fuelling infrastructure becomes more widespread, at which point it would be feasible to switch to diesel and hydrogen.
‘Despite the complexities and challenges involved, we have clearly demonstrated we can successfully offer a route to viable, long-term decarbonisation of freight rail and its associated cost benefits’, Skelton said on May 9. ‘We’re very proud to have transferred our know-how and expertise to this new and exciting market and are looking forward to taking on similar projects in the future.’
The nine-month Reducing Emissions by Accelerating the Shift to Low Carbon Transport in Heavy Rail Freight demonstration project was awarded £398 000 under the 2021 round of the Department for Transport and Innovate UK’s First of a Kind funding competition
Clear Air Power and Freightliner were supported by the Rail Safety & Standards Board, consultancy Carrickarory, the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research & Education, Network Rail and Tarmac.
Blake Jones, Freightliner’s Managing Director of Rail Services, said ‘electrification of the network is expected to be the principal means for rail freight to decarbonise; however, alternative technologies and fuels, such as hydrogen, will be necessary for parts of the rail network that remain non-electrified.’