France to use the first hydrogen-powered freight train

The hydrogen fuel cell solution for massified rail freight, including renewable hydrogen supply, developed by Alstom and ENGIE, will be used for the first time by Nestlé Waters in Europe.

In the long run, it is predicted that this project will reduce emissions by 10,000 tons of CO2 equivalent annually, or by 90% of its present emissions. This is equal to the annual emissions from more than 30.000 one-way car trips between Paris and Nice.

The development of the new hydrogen solution from a high-powered fuel cell system that can run electric locomotives in non-electrified areas is a significant innovation. On a national and European scale, this method will be able to move commodities over large distances.

From 2025, this freight train will gradually ensure the transportation of VITTEL® natural mineral water between the factory in the Vosges and its various distribution centers in France (i.e. Vittel/Arles 600 km and Vittel/Montreuil-Bellay 760 km). The freight train will be powered by electricity from the rail network and by hydrogen in non-electrified sectors. A line-electric locomotive and a generator wagon with a high-power fuel cell system fuelled by renewable hydrogen will make up the dual-mode solution. They will be connected by an electrical power cable. Without the use of any catenary, the generating wagon will be able to power the locomotive in the future.

“Whenever possible, Nestlé Waters favors rail freight. According to Sophie Dubois, CEO of Nestlé Waters in France, “We are continually searching for effective solutions to lessen the carbon impact of our supply chain.”

“Our railway team made a big investment in this project, which we are quite proud of, to help address the challenges posed by the environment and climate change. According to Sophie Dubois, “This partnership with Alstom and ENGIE will hasten the establishment of a decarbonized/carbon-free supply chain.

a cutting-edge decarbonization technology created by ENGIE and Alstom

As part of a cooperation between Alstom and ENGIE that was announced in April 2022, Nestlé Waters will be the first business to take advantage of the hydrogen fuel cell solution for rail freight that includes a renewable hydrogen supply.

The diesel-powered locomotives that are currently utilized on most lines in France and much of Europe are intended to be replaced by this system.

Alstom’s high-power hydrogen fuel cell system will enable rail freight to run entirely on electricity, including the first and last kilometers, which are infrequently electrified, and will power electric locomotives in non-electrified areas.

With this creative solution, it will be feasible to operate the same electric locomotive for all freight trips, with the catenary providing power on electrified main lines and the hydrogen generator wagon providing power in non-electrified locations.

Performance-wise, the technology will deliver enough hydrogen energy to pull a freight train through non-electronically connected line segments and all the power of a catenary-based mainline electric locomotive.

ENGIE will implement a cutting-edge supply chain to provide renewable hydrogen for this solution.

According to Marc Granger, Chief Strategy Officer of Alstom, “Alstom has been a pioneer in hydrogen trains by developing the first hydrogen train in commercial service worldwide.”

“Our goal is to develop creative solutions for the greening of mass mobility, including rail freight, and to quicken the adoption of hydrogen in the rail industry. We, therefore, anticipate the 2025 first-in-service of a freight locomotive propelled by renewable hydrogen. Further, by providing an end-to-end electric solution, a true alternative to freight transportation, this solution, which is more environmentally friendly and produces less noise than diesel, will enable the development of the modal share of rail freight.

“Nestlé Waters becomes the first prime contractor for our offer and the first prospective user of our solution following the announcement of our agreement with Alstom to supply hydrogen to this new European rail decarbonization solution. This is an important stage in the creation of this project. The transformation of industrial firms toward decreasing their emissions, a dynamic in which ENGIE is actively engaged, depends on hydrogen.

The activities related to thermal generation, hydrogen, and energy supply are overseen by Sébastien Arbola, Executive Vice President of ENGIE.

Rail is strategically included in Nestlé Waters’ carbon reduction program

Nestlé Waters, which has long preferred rail in its logistical techniques to minimize the environmental impact of transport, equivalent to a quarter of its carbon footprint[4], is currently working on a project with Alstom and ENGIE. While rail freight typically accounts for [5]8% to 10% of the volumes moved by French industry, for Nestlé Waters in France, it accounts for roughly 45% of the volumes produced at the Vosges unit.

In order to lower the carbon footprint of its product transport movements in France, Nestlé Waters inked an agreement with the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Agence de la Transition Ecologique – ADEME) in 2018 and joined the FRET21 initiative. The organization announced a new goal in 2020 to cut its CO2 emissions from transportation in France by 13% by the end of 2022. The following specific actions serve as the foundation for this goal:

  • 2018 saw the opening of a railway line that would reduce the annual passage of 27,000 vehicles between its PERRIER® plant and the port of Fos-sur-Mer.
  • A hybrid locomotive called the EURODUAL was introduced in 2019, saving 1,920 tonnes of CO2 equivalent year as compared to a diesel train.
  • By encouraging the transportation of VITTEL® and S.PELLEGRINO® returnable glass bottles by train, the Glass Train project will eliminate the annual transit of 1,000 trucks by 2021.