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IrBEA: Irish trial of a biomass-based fuel for Heritage Railways “a huge success”

Pictured at the Heritage Railway in Stradbally, Co.Laois, at the trial of the new biocoal, are L-R, Bob Gwynne - National Railway Museum UK, Colin Keyse - Severn Wye, Nigel Glynn - Irish Steam Preservation Society, Robert Johnson - Arigna Fuels, Stephen McCormack - Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), Sean Cain - Irish Steam Preservation Society. Photo Credit R. Gwynne
Pictured at the Heritage Railway in Stradbally, Co.Laois, at the trial of the new biocoal, are L-R, Bob Gwynne - National Railway Museum UK, Colin Keyse - Severn Wye, Nigel Glynn - Irish Steam Preservation Society, Robert Johnson - Arigna Fuels, Stephen McCormack - Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), Sean Cain - Irish Steam Preservation Society. Photo Credit R. Gwynne
Heritage sites have traditionally burned coal, from open fire grates in historic houses to steam locomotives, traction engines and stationary engines. IrBEA said that the search has been on for a coal substitute that gives similar characteristics to coal, but which does not add to the burden of carbon in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels - and that Ireland is leading the way in this area.
On 24 September, Ireland saw the first passenger train to be hauled by a steam locomotive using a 100% renewable biomass-based coal substitute. This was on the Stradbally Woodland Railway, a short narrow-gauge line with steep gradients.
The fuel used was a stove-ready commercial product called Harvest Flame that is made via the process of torrefaction from biomass – in this case olive stones, a residue from the food industry. This material is also suitable for small locomotives and traction engine boilers. IrBEA said that Ireland’s original volunteer run heritage line has now also pioneered a first step towards carbon neutral steam heritage.
Nicola Glynn, secretary of the Irish Steam Preservation Society (ISPS) said: “We were excited to try this new form of fuel. Our railway and traction engine rally is in a beautiful part of Ireland, and doing our bit to help decarbonise the economy is important to us. Plus, our crews enjoyed not ending the day covered with coal dust, as this is a remarkably clean fuel.”
Peter Layden, Director of Arigna Fuels said: “Arigna Fuels are delighted to support the heritage steam industry, replacing the original fossil coal with Harvest Flame, our new biomass-sourced 100% renewable and sustainable fuel.  Not only will this fuel help to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the heritage sector, but it will also allow people to continue to enjoy first-hand the magnificent and historic engineering, a legacy of a different era.”
Stephen McCormack of IrBEA said: “IrBEA and its members continue to develop and promote sustainable forms of bioenergy. IrBEA is excited to be supporting this novel and innovative application of a fully sustainable biofuel in such an iconic use. The small steam engines of Ireland have played a very significant role in the development of energy production, industry and agriculture in our Island and it is important to keep this heritage alive whilst showing that a move to a bioenergy based, non-fossil fuel future is achievable. A new product for an old process, with much potential.”
Pictured at the Heritage Railway in Stradbally, Co.Laois, at the trial of the new biocoal, are L-R, Bob Gwynne - National Railway Museum UK, Colin Keyse - Severn Wye, Nigel Glynn - Irish Steam Preservation Society, Robert Johnson - Arigna Fuels, Stephen McCormack - Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), Sean Cain - Irish Steam Preservation Society. Photo Credit R. Gwynne






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