BNSF Plans LNG Trials

March 7, 2013 in LNG, Rail by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

Both GE and EMD Locomotives, Says Railroad Chairman

BNSF says it will begin testing “a small number of locomotives” using liquefied natural gas. Both GE and EMD locomotives will be involved, BNSF chairman Matthew Rose said at the IHS CERAWeek conference of high level executives in Houston yesterday. updated March 15

BNSF has tested LNG before - Erik Neandross photo © GNA

BNSF has tested LNG before – Erik Neandross photo © GNA

“The use of liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel is a potential transformational change for our railroad and for our industry,” Rose said, according to a company release.

“While there are daunting technical and regulatory challenges still to be faced, this pilot project is an important first step that will allow BNSF to evaluate the technical and economic viability of the use of liquefied natural gas in through-freight service, potentially reducing fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, thereby providing environmental and energy security benefits to our nation.”

Rose said that “preliminary tests indicated that LNG-powered trains could go farther before refueling than diesel trains and have comparable towing power,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal anticipating the BNSF announcement this week.

CN Is Working on LNG Too

BNSF says it has been working with both GE and EMD, a unit of Caterpillar, to develop the natural gas engine technology that will be used in the pilot.

EMD is also involved with CN (Canadian National Railway), applying high pressure direct injection technology from Vancouver-based Westport Innovations to maximize diesel displacement (HHP Insight, October 14). An initial engine is expected to run as early as this month, and on-trial trials with Gaz Metro to commence in Quebec next year.

BNSF noted yesterday that the former Burlington Northern used natural gas locomotives in the 1980s and 1990s. BNSF says too that it tested LNG switch locomotives in Los Angeles “until they reached the end of their useful life a few years ago.”

“Improved economics and technology make the use of natural gas in long-haul service more operationally feasible today,” states the railroad release. “The BNSF pilot will be a first step to consider how the technology could be implemented.

‘Changed Market for Natural Gas in the U.S.’

“However, even though natural gas in long-haul service has enormous potential, several significant regulatory challenges need to be addressed.”

According to Rose, “The changed market for natural gas in the United States is a critical part of our decision to explore it as a locomotive fuel and in this pilot we will test natural gas engine technology in railroad service.”

“We will be working with the equipment manufacturers, the various regulatory agencies and government officials to address the necessary actions to accomplish this.”

BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe), “the product of nearly 400 different railroad lines that merged or were acquired over the course of 160 years,” is based in Fort Worth. In January, BNSF announced “a capital commitment program of approximately $4.1 billion.”

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Source: BNSF release with HHP Insight follow-up


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