Sustainable fuels for rail freight

The ground-breaking HyDEX project is responding to calls from the rail freight industry to accelerate the transition to net zero.

The Net Zero Transition within the Rail Freight Industry

We are collaborating with the University of Nottingham on the development of a hydrogen retrofit flexi-fuel engine with a digital twin as part of HyDEX, a Research England project.

This large flexi-fuel engine will enable the co-combustion of different liquid fuels such as diesel, biodiesel and HVO with retrofit hydrogen in different mix ratios. The ultimate aim is to ease and accelerate the net zero transition within the rail freight industry and this first step will help to manage affordability, minimise disruption to the existing infrastructure and be a faster route to minimise emissions.

A Digital Twin

The engine will generate engine performance and emissions data that can be used to develop a digital twin. This will use advanced modelling and simulation techniques to create a virtual representation of the engine test rig that spans its lifecycle.

Creating this digital twin will allow scalability and interpretation into other engine types and configurations that will allow industry users to make better informed investment decisions about the net zero transition process.

Line graph showing desired RPM (5,000) against actual RPM that, over ten second

Demonstrator hydrogen store

The hydrogen for the test will be provided via an existing 200kW electrolyser store on campus and fed to demonstrator portable solid state metal hydride hydrogen store to enable hydrogen to be stored next to the engine test bed occupying lower volume than compressed gas and stored at low pressures suitable for the engine demonstrator.

Chris Swan is Head of Rail at Tarmac, a leading sustainable building materials group and one of the biggest movers of materials by rail in the UK construction industry.

"As part of our sustainability commitments, we plan to further decarbonise our logistics through the use of more rail freight and to support operational activity towards net zero through a range of actions. This includes exploring and accelerating the use of sustainable fuels and fully supports the work carried out by the University of Derby and University of Nottingham in this area" - Chris Swan, Head of Rail at Tarmac

Transition Timeline

The demonstrator is on track to be completed by late 2022. Once operational it will provide an opportunity for freight operators to accelerate their transition to net zero impact with the objective of a shift to full hydrogen by 2030.

"The rail sector is vital to the decarbonisation of transport, particularly in the switch of freight from 'road to rail’. New traction technologies will be required to achieve this; the development and operation of centralised UK based test and engineering facilities for the use of stakeholders to UK rail will avoid unnecessary duplication, reducing development costs and provide a focal point for this nationally important change.

The University of Derby and University of Nottingham’s proposed test facilities will enable the rail sector to develop low and zero carbon solutions to decarbonise rail and rail freight and enable the modal shift from ‘road to rail" - Richard Wheldon, Rail Service Development Lead at Frazer Nash

A train on a railway track

Rail Research and Innovation Centre

Our Rail Research and Innovation Centre supports collaborative research and innovation projects with rail supply chains. The objective is to drive up productivity, sustainability, and growth. We do this by stimulating the adoption of new technologies and techniques within the rail industry.

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Exterior view of the Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISU)

Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering

Work with us and gain access to our knowledge and expertise, as well as the very latest technological resources, including machinery and equipment.

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