How it started

The MHyBus project was born as a follow up of a sequence of actions put into place by the regional Government of Emilia-Romagna, DG Mobility and Transport, intending to explore the possibilities and potentialities of the use of the gaseous blend of hydrogen and methane (compressed natural gas - CNG) – namely: hydro-methane - as a mean to reduce the urban pollution and CO2 emissions due to public transport. A positive precondition is the existence, for over 20 years now, of a noteworthy regional fleet of public vehicles fed with compressed natural gas, particularly in the province of Ravenna.

The first of these actions was an agreement, in 2006, between the Regional Government of Emilia-Romagna, ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Environment, and ASTER, that has given the way to the feasibility study for the utilisation of the methane-hydrogen blend as alternative fuel for the buses circulating in urban and suburban areas.

The study, based on the data related to the public transport sector in the region, performs a comparison between the environmental impact caused by the existing public vehicle fleet and that caused by the same fleet after the (hypothetical) conversion of all natural gas fuelled vehicles to hydro-methane fuel. The conclusions of the study suggested to choose the conversion to hydro-methane for its positive environmental effects and the production of hydrogen gas through the technology of steam reforming.

Following this first theoretical approach, an agreement between ATM Ravenna, the local public transport agency of the Province of Ravenna, and ENEA led, at the beginning of 2009, to carry out road tests on private circuit in order to evaluate the best percentage blend in terms of efficiency of the engine and pollutant emissions of a bus for urban transport.

The project MHyBus - based on the partnership formed by Region Emilia-Romagna, ASTER, ENEA, START Romagna and SOL - aims at taking a further steps and obtaining the authorisation necessary for one hydro-methane fuelled bus to circulate on public roads. This would represent a “foot-in-the-door” strategy to open up the possibility of replicating the experience to the entire fleet currently fed on compressed natural gas.