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Project to run UK locomotive on biogas, hydrogen receives gov’t funding

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UK rail freight provider Freightliner, working in partnership with a consortium of specialist suppliers, has secured government funding to develop a dual-fuel solution for the Class 66 locomotive.

The technology, utilising biogas and hydrogen, is one of the 30 winners of the latest round of the First of a Kind competition announced by the UK Transport Secretary. Already the safest and greenest mode of ground-freight transportation, said Freightliner, the competition aims to make the railways even cleaner, greener, and more passenger-friendly.

This is the first time that this technology - widely used in the road industry - will be applied to the rail freight sector on such an important and widely-used class of locomotive, said the firm.

The project will investigate the ability to substitute diesel with both hydrogen and biogas on the Class-66 locomotive, which hauls over 80% of freight on the UK rail network and, in doing so, reduce carbon emissions on one of the industry’s most challenging two-stroke locomotives. This will be achieved by retrofitting the Class 66 with Clean Air Power’s precision injection technology, creating a Class 66 that can run on a combination of diesel, biogas, and hydrogen.

Freightliner, which operates over 113 Class-66s in the UK, and Clean Air Power, providers of innovative clean air solutions for freight, will work with Network Rail, Tarmac, the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB), Flogas, Carrickarory Consultancy and the University of Birmingham to deliver the project.

Tim Shakerley, Freightliner’s UK rail managing director, said: “Freightliner is excited to be a key partner in this pioneering decarbonisation project.

“As the largest freight operator of electric traction, we already have a number of environmentally motivated initiatives underway and are delighted to be working with Clean Air Power and other partners on this additional government-funded project.

“With decarbonisation high on the agenda, these initiatives will further support the government’s pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Exhaust emissions will be assessed in line with the latest RSSB guidance to understand the baseline condition and the impact of dual-fuelling for both hydrogen and biogas. Emissions and substitution data is a key output of this project and will be available to RSSB.

All work on locomotives, static testing and emission data collection will be carried out at Freightliner’s vehicle maintenance facility in Leeds, supported by Carrickarory Consultancy and RSSB.

“We’re delighted to be working with Freightliner and other partners on this project,” said Dan Skelton, managing director of Clean Air Power.

“All parties are focused on delivering a fully functioning low-carbon, low-emission, hydrogen-friendly Class 66 locomotive.

“Our solution offers a route to viable, long-term decarbonisation and its associated cost benefits, which will be practical to implement and scale. With the know-how and expertise we share, we’re looking forward to this new and exciting initiative making a real difference.”

Work commenced on 1 July and will take place over nine months.