Namibia to develop Africa’s first hydrogen-diesel locomotive

visualisation of the hydrogen dual fuel locomotive CMB.TECH

A pilot project in Namibia to develop a hydrogen-diesel locomotive was selected to receive funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. A consortium of Hyphen Technical, CMB.TECH, Namibian National Railways TransNamib, the University of Namibia and Traxtion will develop Africa’s first dual-fuel hydrogen-diesel locomotive, with a unique hydrogen storage method.

Named HyRail Namibia, the project is expected to be completed in 18 months. The consortium will be led by Hyphen Technical, a company based in Africa which aims to develop the technology for implementing hydrogen as a fuel on rolling stock and other freight vehicles. Two traditional diesel-electric locomotives will be converted to be able to use hydrogen in the internal combustion engines, using hydrogen technology developed over two decades by CMB.TECH. Also, a hydrogen fuel storage car to store fuel for the locomotives will be developed.

“The tandem set of two dual fuel locomotives with an hydrogen storage carriage in between will be the first in the world, and has a great potential to offer low cost logistics, which will bring new opportunities for the country”, said Roy Campe, CTO of CMB.TECH.

The locomotive will be fuelled with Namibian green hydrogen provided by Cleanergy Solutions Namibia, which is developing a green hydrogen production facility near Walvis Bay. The prototypes will be built and adapted at the Traxtion Rail Hub in Rosslyn, South Africa and then moved to Walvis Bay for operation by TransNamib. Maintenance of the locomotives will take place in Namibia by Traxtion, which will also provide training for TransNamib technical staff. Through this project, TransNamib will be the first state-owned railway in Africa to operate hydrogen powered locomotives. The goal of the pilot is to pave the way towards conversion of the entire locomotive fleet in Namibia in the future.

Funding by Germany

In total, the hydrogen locomotive projects will cost 7,6 million euros. It has not been announced how much funding the project will receive. In total, four pilot projects are partly funded from a share of the 30 million euros of grant funding made available by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The German ministry is funding the identification of suitable locations for the production and use cases of green hydrogen in Africa as part of the “Potential Atlas of Green Hydrogen in Africa”. First calculations show that Namibia has optimal conditions for the generation of wind and solar energy and thus also for the production of green hydrogen. Namibia aims to export green hydrogen before 2025.

The four winners of the Namibian green hydrogen pilot projects were announced by Presidential Economic Advisor and Green Hydrogen Commissioner, James Mnyupe at the Namibian Green Hydrogen Conference in Windhoek.

The shift to sustainable rolling stock such as hydrogen and battery trains and refuelling and recharging infrastructure is central at the Rail Infra Forum on 15-16 March 2023 in Berlin. For more information, visit the website.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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