Rail operator Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), the equivalent of SNCF, announced on October 21 that it was conducting tests with energy company Snam to replace fossil fuel trains with hydrogen trains.
A unique agreement in its scope
FS and the largest gas pipeline operator in Europe announced the establishment of several working groups on October 21st. Your goal will be to propose projects to replace all fossil fuel trains with hydrogen trains. Gianfranco Battisti, Managing Director of FS, welcomed this agreement: “Hydrogen rail transport is a key innovation that can make the transport of goods and passengers more environmentally friendly on the remaining railway sections that are not yet electrified”.
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The FS-Snam deal is unprecedented in its scale, but this is not the first time hydrogen has been considered as an alternative energy for European pipelines, which still use half of fossil fuel. There are already two trains running in Germany. The SNCF has ordered around fifteen hydrogen trains from Alstom for its regional routes, which are scheduled to go into operation before the end of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term in 2022.
The French government has planned to invest 7 billion euros in developing a French hydrogen sector. The European Commission announced in July 2020 a major investment plan to increase the hydrogen content from 12% to 14% of the mix energy in 2050.
Hydrogen is not the miracle solution
However, the ecological interests of hydrogen are still controversial. In addition to the still high price of the resource, 95% of it comes from fossil fuels and natural gases. To be used as an energy carrier, it has to be separated from other elements such as carbon or oxygen. This manipulation requires the energy produced by nuclear power plants or coal. Hydrogen is not the miracle energy solution, but its use, especially on European railways, will be a great way to step up research on hydrogen to make it greener.