BRITISH start-up Steamology has secured a contract to test its hydrogen-fuelled steam traction system in a converted freight locomotive. Funded jointly by Arup and rolling stock leasing company Eversholt Rail, Steamology will adapt a class 60 diesel locomotive to demonstrate the practicality of its new technology in a working prototype.

Steamology’s patented system is based on small hydrogen-fuelled modular steam generators. A total of 20 will be installed in the test locomotive, replacing its 2300kW diesel engine, together with four steam turbines and 140kg of gas storage. Low-pressure steam at 40 bar will enter the steam turbines at around 400°C, with the turbines driving the traction alternator.

The conversion project that aims to create a fully-functioning 2MW zero-emission locomotive is due to start next year. Steamology says that, if successful, its technology could be used to modify existing locomotives or incorporated in new-build designs.

Steamology says that its system has advantages over hydrogen fuel cell and battery systems, which it expects to compete with on price over the long term, as it eliminates the use of rare earth metals and recycles the water emitted. This could be collected in the locomotive, before being passed through an electrolyser running on renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen and oxygen. In addition, fuel gases can be of a lower quality (with a higher water content) than those used in hydrogen fuel cells, reducing gas cleaning and drying requirements.

The steam system provides high power with high torque, making it ideal for a freight locomotive, although Steamology it could also be suitable for passenger locomotives. 

“This project will demonstrate the viability of repowering diesel heavy duty transport assets, delivering a full asset life while meeting net zero and ESG targets,” says Steamology CEO, Mr Matt Candy.