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Colas Rail UK trials sustainable oxide fuel cell technology

1 min read

UK-based Colas Rail has announced that its freight business has collaborated with G-Volution to decarbonize locomotive operations by using solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) running on near net zero carbon emission Bio Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Bio-LPG) to generate power for auxiliary load.

Image: Hope Drew & Adelan Ltd
Image: Hope Drew & Adelan Ltd

Colas Rail UK was approached by G-Volution to partner with the company on a project to install a SOFC into a Class 37 locomotive to power the auxiliary systems.

This proof of concept was successfully showcased at Colas Rail’s Rugby Depot in September where more than 40 delegates witnessed a demonstration of the innovation of the SOFC providing power for the exterior and interior lighting of a Colas 37254 locomotive.

Route simulations by the University of Birmingham using a 35kW SOFC show that for a typical Class 37 operation using two locomotives will save on average 50 tons (12%) of CO2e per annum and combined with an average 8% reduction in fuel costs.

Other benefits brought by this approach are improved air quality (zero particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are produced by the SOFC) and significant reduction in noise and engine idling.

Paul Conway, head of engineering and compliance at Colas Rail said, “Innovation with a focus on decarbonization is essential given the challenge to reduce dependency on fossil fuel. This trial has proven that a lower carbon option is available for auxiliary power generation. It’s still early days for this technology but it’s an excellent start and something that Colas Rail Services have been proud to be a part of.”

SOFC’s are fuel flexible and process biofuels such as Bio-LPG, Bio-LNG and hydrogen and generate electricity. The SOFC project was funded by the Department for Transport’s Innovate UK First of a Kind competition.