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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Trial starts for ‘world’s first’ hydrogen dual-fuel piling rig

Hydrogen vehicle conversion company ULEMCo, Cementation Skanska, and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) are working on a project to produce a dual-fuel hydrogen and diesel piling machine.

The zero-carbon hydrogen construction equipment for real-world use (ZECHER) project will provide a proof of concept for converting on-site construction equipment so it can run on hydrogen fuel.

The project is being backed by government funding from phase 1 of the red diesel replacement programme. This is part of the net zero innovation portfolio (NZIP) under the department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS).

The trial is being carried out on a Soilmec SR30 rotary and continuous flight augering (CFA) piling rig at Cementation Skanska’s plant and fabrication facility at Bentley Works, south Yorkshire. Cementation Skanska claim that the rig will be the first of its kind in the world if the trial is successful. With its Cummins QSB6.7 engine, the Soilmec machine is a medium-sized rig which can typically use 100L of diesel per day and produce 262kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. More widely, the UK construction sector uses around 1bn.L of fuel annually, generating about 2.7m tonnes of CO2. Decarbonising such machines as part of the broader decarbonisation of the sector is regarded by the BRE as critical to delivering the UK’s targets for net zero.

ZECHER will use the trial’s findings to explore the opportunities for using hydrogen to power a range of heavy-duty, non-road machinery used in the early stages of large construction projects. The project will examine the range of equipment used at a construction site, create detailed energy use and duty cycle data, and investigate the requirements for addressing the challenges of providing hydrogen at scale across the country.

Given the high volumes involved, conversion to hydrogen dual-fuel could enable costs for green hydrogen to fall below that of white diesel.

ULEMCo managing director Amanda Lyne said: “ZECHER plans to show that conversion to dual-fuel will save up to 50% CO2 in this duty cycle, and we expect that it will provide additional emissions benefits such as reduction in NOx and particulates.” “The machines used in construction are owned and used for many years, so demonstrating a decarbonisation solution that utilises these existing assets is not only cost-effective but also important for sustainability.”

Cementation Skanska managing director Terry Muckian said: “We are exploring a range of innovations that will support us in decarbonising our operations, with a target of achieving net zero carbon by 2045.”

Cementation Skanska has already committed to converting all its large-scale plant to hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) from the start of 2022.

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