Estonia: diesel locomotives are being converted to hydrogen fuel
In October 2021, the Estonian state freight operator Operail signed an agreement of intent with Stargate Hydrogen, which provides for the conversion of 40 locomotives into hydrogen fuel locomotives. These locomotives will be used in shunting operations.
At the first stage, by the end of 2022, it is planned to re-equip one of the six-axle locomotives of the C36‑7A series manufactured by General Electric, replacing the diesel with a power plant powered by polymer fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.
In the future, it is planned to convert another 40 locomotives to hydrogen fuel. The re-equipment of each locomotive will avoid emissions of 370 tons of carbon dioxide per year and at the same time will allow to effectively use the existing rolling stock of Operail.
In May 2021, the consulting company Civitta and two Estonian research institutes issued a report on the analysis of pilot projects on hydrogen energy, which concluded on the economic feasibility of using hydrogen fuel cells in the field of shipping and rail transport.
Operail focuses primarily on the use of electric locomotives, but to decarbonize traffic in areas where electrification is not economically viable, for shunting work prefers to use hydrogen-powered locomotives, which provide a higher level of autonomy against rolling stock on traction batteries.
Stargate Hydrogen is an Estonian company that develops comprehensive solutions for the use of environmentally friendly hydrogen. In the summer of 2021, it became a member of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance.
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