The EIT Urban Mobility start-up DIGAS, a global trailblazer in instant decarbonisation solutions for the railway sector; and Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail, operator of the national railway network of Ireland, have signed a contract to retrofit a freight diesel locomotive from diesel fuel to hydrogen as a proof of concept. The purpose of the €1.5m project is to help decarbonise the operations of Iarnród Éireann diesel locomotives and increase the competitiveness of the company.
Petro Dumenko, CEO & Co-founder of DIGAS: “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 Iarnród Éireann to decarbonise their existing fleet of diesel locomotives”.
Summarized, this is a cleaner, cheaper, and more practical initiative towards decarbonisation goals:
- CLEANER: Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail is providing a locomotive and will test a retrofitted hydrogen locomotive using a cleaner-burning renewable fuel
- CHEAPER: DIGAS will provide a cost-effective way to introduce hydrogen in the fleet of existing diesel locomotives by retrofitting diesel locomotives with a specialised internal combustion engine (ICE) hydrogen system
- PRACTICAL: The collaboration will demonstrate a practical path towards complete decarbonisation of the diesel locomotive fleet
Unlike other hydrogen projects in the rail sector where hydrogen is used to run locomotives via fuel cells or through specially produced hydrogen engines, this project will showcase a unique approach where hydrogen will be used in the locomotive’s current internal combustion engine. This innovative technology requires minimal change to be done to the locomotive. If successful, the project will showcase a more practical and cost-effective way to decarbonise and run the existing diesel locomotive fleet with hydrogen-powered engines.
Based on the agreement, Iarnród Éireann will provide the 071 Class Diesel Locomotive for the conversion as well as make the workshop available for the installation, testing and commissioning activities. DIGAS will manufacture, deliver and install a Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2 ICE) retrofit kit to convert the diesel locomotive to a hydrogen-powered locomotive. The conversion will allow the locomotive to run on renewable, emissions-free fuel instead of diesel fuel. As part of the agreement, the two companies will share technical and commercial information necessary for DIGAS to design, manufacture, install, and support the commissioning of the Hydrogen conversion kit and allow Iarnród Éireann to properly test a retrofitted locomotive.
The project is currently in the design process and scheduled for two testing phases across 2024 and 2025. Phase 1 will focus on static testing of the locomotion to check power and emissions output. Phase 2 will follow in 2025 and focus on service trials of the locomotion out on the rails. All designs and testing standards are subject to approval from the Commission for Railway Regulation (CRR).
The project is funded by Iarnród Éireann and DIGAS, and co-funded by EIT Urban Mobility, and Mechanical Engineering Competence Center, a Latvian body receiving funding from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility.