BRITISH rail freight operator Freightliner, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming, announced on April 4 the formation of a partnership with synthetic fuel manufacturer Zero Petroleum.

The partners aim to achieve fossil fuel-free locomotive operation by 2040 and overall net zero by 2050. It is the first entry into the rail sector for Zero, which develops and manufactures whole-blend synthetic, non-biological fuels.

Freightliner has been actively exploring alternatives to diesel for some time, and has assessed Zero’s carbon-neutral synthetic diesel, which will eliminate carbon emissions from fossil fuels and improve air quality and environmental wellbeing.

In addition to locomotives, the partnership aims to provide fossil-free fuel for non-road mobile machinery and other vehicles.

“The technology that Zero is developing is industry-leading,” says Mr Tim Shoveller, CEO of Freightliner Group UK-Europe, “and has the capability of accelerating both our customers’ and our own journey to net zero.”

“Rail freight is already a more sustainable alternative compared with road, reducing carbon emissions by as much as 76%. By working with Zero, this alternative fuel has the potential to reduce carbon emissions much further, providing a very clear route to net zero.”

“With Zero’s drop-in synthetic fuel solution, Freightliner and its customers can continue using best-in-class rail infrastructure, while maximising performance and minimising emissions,” says Mr Paddy Lowe, CEO of Zero.

Freightliner says that it is one of the largest operators of electric freight trains in Europe, but also has a sizeable diesel locomotive fleet for which it has been looking for sustainable solutions to reduce emissions. The company has set a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2033, which will require approximately 26 million litres of alternative fuel.

Zero says that it will be able to rapidly scale up fuel production to meet this level of demand and plans to build the world’s first commercial-scale synthetic fuel plant in the next two years.