Report suggests using hydrogen to decarbonise Inland Rail

A UK group could use its technology to make the Inland Rail emissions-free

Report suggests using hydrogen to decarbonise Inland Rail
Arcadis wants to make hydrogen power a key part of the Inland Rail

An Arcadis report says hydrogen is a cheaper option than diesel to power trains on the proposed Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail route while also eliminating emissions.

Global engineering design and consulting firm Arcadis is urging the federal government to ensure the Inland Rail project can include hydrogen-powered trains to decarbonise the 1,700 kilometre freight link.

UK-based clean-energy group Smart Ports worked on a study with Arcadis to show hydrogen is both cheaper and more efficient than using diesel to power trains along the Inland Rail route, saving 763,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from yearly operations on the line.

Smart Ports was given the green light to explore how Australia’s rail infrastructure could be decarbonised using its ammonia-to-hydrogen cracking (SMAHRT) technology.

This technique involves converting hydrogen to liquid ammonia, transport it to tanks and then re-converting or cracking it back to hydrogen at its storage and use point.

This technique helps overcome challenges associated with transporting hydrogen in a compressed gas or liquid form.

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The Arcadis study says that if this technology is used on the Inland Rail then a single Melbourne to Brisbane journey would be cheaper than using diesel from 2024 onwards.

"Hydrogen will be cheaper than diesel and will practically eliminate carbon emissions from freight movements," Arcadis clients director Luke Keys says.

"It will be up to rail operators to select their fuel source but the pressure will be on them to switch to clean fuels. The design of the rail link must allow for ammonia and hydrogen fuel to be easily stored and accessed along the route."

Keys says the time to include this design is now before it becomes too expensive to retrofit fuel infrastructure on the Inland Rail project.

Smart Ports CEO Alan Robinson says: "This study not only showed us how to deploy our SMAHRT technology to help decarbonise Australian rail networks but also explored the importation of green ammonia from Australia into the UK and other markets."

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