Estonia: diesel locomotives to be converted into hydrogen fuel locomotives (according to information of the “Zheleznye dorogi mira” Journal)


The Estonian state-owned freight operator Operail signed an agreement of intent with Stargate Hydrogen in October 2021 to convert 40 diesel locomotives into hydrogen-fueled locomotives. These locomotives will be used for shunting operations.

At the first stage, by the end of 2022, it is planned to re-equip one of the operating six-axle diesel locomotives of the C36-7A series manufactured by General Electric, replacing the diesel plant with a power plant powered by polymer fuel cells and lithium-ion storage batteries. In future, it is planned to transfer 40 more diesel locomotives to hydrogen fuel. The re-equipment of each locomotive will allow for avoiding 370 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year and at the same time make it possible to effectively use the existing Operail traction rolling stock.

In May 2021, the consulting company Civitta and two Estonian research institutes released a report on the results of the analysis of pilot projects in hydrogen energy, which made a conclusion that the use of hydrogen fuel cells in the field of maritime and railway transport would be economically feasible.

The Operail focuses primarily on the use of electric locomotives, however, for the decarbonization purpose of transportation in railway sections, the electrification of which is not economically justified, and for shunting operations, it deems it advisable to use hydrogen-fueled locomotives, which provide a higher level of autonomy than that of rolling stock on traction batteries.

The 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 (computer graphics, source: Operail).