Ireland’s national railway network operator Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) has signed a contract with Latvia’s Digas to retrofit a diesel locomotive to run on hydrogen in an internal combustion engine (ICE).
Under the €1.5m ($1.6m) project, Iarnród Éireann will provide a 071 Class Diesel locomotive to Digas which will manufacture, deliver and install the hydrogen ICE conversion kit, allowing the train’s existing engine to run on the energy carrier.
Requiring “minimal changes”, the project is hoped to showcase a practical and cost-effective way to decarbonise existing diesel locomotive fleets.
Phase 1 of the project will get underway in 2024, testing the hydrogen engine in stationary mode to check power and emissions output, while Phase 2 will follow in 2025 focusing on service trial of the locomotive.
The rail operator has suggested, that if successful, the trail could pave the way for more of its 071 locomotives to be converted to hydrogen.
“Iarnród Éireann has 18 071 class diesel locomotives in railway operations, 12 of which are used to support freight operations. If the conversion tests are successful, these locomotives can be converted to greener and more efficient alternatives,” said Jim Meade, CEO of Iarnród Éireann.
Funded by Iarnród Éireann and DIGAS, with contributions from EIT Urban Mobility, all designs and testing standards for the project will be subject to approval from the Commission for Railway Regulation (CRR).
Digas’ co-founder and CEO, Petro Dumenko, added, “We see the same challenge over and over again with all railway operators – the need to decarbonise their operations but having an extremely long lifecycle of their assets which still runs on diesel fuel.
“This project will showcase a cost-effective and practical way for operators like IRISH RAIL to decarbonise their existing fleet of diesel locomotives.”