Iberdrola to lead Italian railways green hydrogen conversion

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Green hydrogen is set to replace diesel on the 300km central Italian Appenine railway and potentially others.

The Appenine railway, which links Sansepolcro in eastern Tuscany with Sulmona more than 300km to the south, is considered a strategic transport route across the centre of the country.

While parts have been electrified, the diesel locomotives running on the lines have reached their end of life and the switch to green hydrogen as a fuel is calculated as a much less expensive alternative to the traditional electrification.

It also is expected to support development in these areas, which have been impacted over the past decade by earthquakes and subsequent population and economic decline.

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To advance the initiative Iberdrola has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with US engineering multinational AECOM, the sustainable development consultancy Ancitel Energia e Ambiente and green hydrogen project implementer Cinque International.

The MoU also includes an evaluation of the technical viability of converting the Ferrovia dei Due Mare (Two Seas Railway) to green hydrogen, which will connect Fiumincino and Rome airports with San Benedetto del Tronto to the east on the Adriatic sea coast.

“It is an opportunity to put our skills at the service of this ambitious project which, in addition to having a major environmental impact, is also intended to have a significant economic and social impact, supporting areas affected by seismic events in recent years,” says Lorenzo Costantini, country manager for Iberdrola in Italy.

The Sansepolcro-Sulmona hydrogen railway project has already passed through several stages. In 2019, it was submitted to Italy’s Hydrogen Bureau at the Ministry of Economic Development., which was followed in 2020 with the setting up of a technical bureau in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and others.

In December 2020, a process was launched to gather support from local communities in order to eliminate bureaucratic and administrative red tape.

Then in July 2021, the project was preselected for investment by the European Commission with the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance.