SERA Unveils Hydrogen Switcher Livery

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Sierra Northern Railway (SERA) has unveiled the look of its zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) powered switching locomotive, development of which is made possible by a $4 million California Energy Commission grant to fund design, integration and demonstration. SERA says the locomotive “will prove the potential of HFC technology to reduce transportation air pollutant and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

SERA is retiring an older, EPA Tier 0 diesel locomotive and replacing it with the HFC unit. The project involves integration of an advanced hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen storage, advanced battery, and systems control technologies “to provide an alternative to less environmentally friendly diesel-powered locomotives,” the railroad noted. “When built and demonstrated it will benefit the community with the improvement of local air quality, a reduction in GHG emissions, noise and odor, helping California to achieve the State’s environmental goals. SERA will provide additional information to the industry about its solution in the coming years as it builds, demonstrates, and validates the technology as it prepares to establish a platform for widespread commercialization in the immediate future.”

SERA is the project’s technical lead, partnering with GTI Energy as the formal applicant to the California Energy Commission. Other technical partners are Railpower Tech LLC, Optifuel Systems LLC, UC Riverside Center For Environmental Research and Technology, Velocity Strategies, Valley Vision, Ballard Power Systems, WHA International, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District and The Low-Carbon Resources Initiative (LCRI). SoCalGas awarded a $500,000 grant in July 2021 for this project.

“We are pleased to present this new look for the Sierra Northern Railway Zero Emission Hydrogen Switching Locomotive as we continue to refine our design and prepare to build and test the locomotive,” said SERA President Kennan H. Beard III. “This new look combines the future of hydrogen, dark blue, with California’s green future, dark and light green with Sierra’s strong tradition of switching locomotives for the goods movement sector. We are more convinced today than ever that this locomotive will help ensure the switching locomotive industry will have a zero-emission solution in the near future.”

Sierra Northern Railway is the freight division of privately owned Sierra Railroad Company, which is also the principal owner of Sierra Energy Corporation. The energy subsidiary has developed FastOx®, a proprietary waste-to-clean-hydrogen gasification technology. SERA currently operates approximately 75 miles of track in Northern California and 30 miles in Southern California through the heart of a number of the Golden State’s prime industrial areas, serving a wide variety of customers, interchanging with BNSF and Union Pacific.

GTI Energy describes itself as “a leading research and training organization that works to scale impactful solutions that shape energy transitions by leveraging gases, liquids, infrastructure, and efficiency. We embrace systems thinking, open learning, and collaboration to develop, scale, and deploy the technologies needed for low-carbon, low-cost energy systems.”

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