OptiFuel Systems, LLC (OptiFuel), a South Carolina-based developer of dual-fuel natural gas high horsepower solutions, has shipped American designed and manufactured locomotive engine systems utilizing diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) to Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad (IHB) for integration into the first two of thirty-one CNG Tier 4 switcher locomotives for IHB’s CNG Repower Program. The dual-fuel natural gas system includes OptiFuel-designed on-board CNG storage units and a trackside CNG refueling station manufactured by ANGI Energy Systems.
The IHB, the largest terminal switching railroad in North America, is the first railroad in the U.S. to convert its fleet to clean burning natural gas, the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel, as its primary fuel source. IHB contracted the system design, assembly and integration of the entire natural gas fuel system to OptiFuel, and the overall locomotive design, assembly, and integration to R.J. Corman Railpower Locomotives, LLC.
Michael Nicoletti, Director of Mechanical Operations, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, said, “The CNG Repower Program represents a substantial investment to change our locomotive fleet to CNG and eliminate harmful emissions. The locomotives are a part of a greater effort by the IHB to convert up to 31 of its locomotives to be powered primarily by CNG. At the end of the program in 2020, 70% of IHB’s fleet will be converted to utilizing CNG as its primary fuel source.”
“OptiFuel is pleased to be a first mover and developer of technology applying environmentally compliant dual-fuel systems to the railroad switching industry”, commented Scott Myers, President of OptiFuel Systems, LLC. “OptiFuel’s technology will provide needed solutions and support to the Class I, II and III railroads as they seek ways to mediate the recognized adverse environmental impacts of their ageing switcher fleets.”
Myers observed that as of September 2016, there were over 1000 rail yards in the U.S. located in densely populated, urban areas classified as particulate matter and ozone EPA defined “non-attainment” areas. Over 119 million people (nearly 40% of the U.S. population) living in these non-attainment areas are experiencing acute and chronic adverse health outcomes, including exacerbation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In U.S. rail yards, there are over 8,000 very old, diesel powered switcher locomotives, 95% of which produce Pre-Tier 0 (non-regulated, pre-1973) emissions. These Pre-Tier 0 pollutants create high levels of ozone, air toxics, greenhouse gases, fine particulate matter, and other diesel exhaust compounds classified as carcinogenic to humans.
According to Myers, replacing switcher locomotives with CNG-energised units has a high emission and dollar impact and therefore priority over replacing old Class 8 trucks. “Each of these Pre-Tier 0 switcher locomotives put out emissions equal to 72 new Tier 4, Class 8 diesel trucks. It is 4 times more efficient to replace Pre-Tier 0 switcher locomotives with new Tier 4 CNG switcher locomotives than to replace old Class 8 trucks with new Tier 4 Class 8 trucks.”
He says now that affordable technology exists, all the states and associated railroads have the option to replace their Pre-Tier 0 freight switchers with new Tier 4 CNG freight switchers with commensurate fuel cost savings while expanding the country’s use of domesticated natural gas. The expected incremental cost to repower older switcher locomotives and/or build new switcher locomotives with CNG will be around 15% to 20% before fuel cost savings.
Twenty-one of the IHB locomotives feature a 1,500 hp twin engine design that will use two OptiFuel-designed 750 hp, dual fuel engines that meet or exceed all federally mandated Tier 4 emissions reduction categories. As compared to IHB’s current locomotive fleet, particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) will be reduced by 94.7% and 85.3%, respectively. In addition, the Automatic Engine Start-Stop (AESS) system will shut down idling locomotives to further reduce by 25% to 50% fuel and oil consumption, lower emissions, and mitigate noise and engine wear.
The modular CNG onboard storage system on each locomotive was engineered and manufactured by Mainstay Fuel Technologies, Inc. of Greenville, SC, under a subcontract with with OptiFuel. The design incorporates important features and elements of Mainstay’s established CNG fuel systems that are used in Class 8 truck markets. The design, which includes eleven 5,000 psi Hexagon Lincoln, DOT-approved Type IV cylinders, was engineered to handle switcher locomotive operational loads and meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recommendations and requirements. Based on the current IHB duty cycle, the onboard system storage of 700 DGE will handle 7 to 10 days of operation before refueling is required. The standard diesel tanks on the locomotives are not reduced in size, allowing 100% diesel operation if needed.
The Trackside CNG Refueling Station equipment was manufactured by ANGI Energy Systems, under a subcontract to OptiFuel. As a premier packager and manufacturer of CNG equipment for CNG trucking, transit and bulk storage market, ANGI took the OptiFuel system requirements and created and manufactured a low-risk, proven, modular CNG station that can refuel two locomotives every 15 to 30 minutes in the basic configuration and four locomotives every 15 to 30 minutes in a growth configuration. During the system design process, the team developed CNG dispensers, locomotive to refueling equipment communications, locomotive RF tagging, and system safety approaches and requirements, based on standard “best practices” used in the rail industry.
“All of the CNG components are designed to be modular, scalable, reliable and affordable for use in a locomotive configuration. In addition, over the next 12 to 18 months, OptiFuel will be expanding its line of EPA-certified Tier 4 dual-fuel engines for the rail market from 600 hp to 3,000 hp and a line of Near Zero NOx/PM (proposed Tier 5) natural gas solutions from 900 to 3,300 hp for rail OEMs. These engines will support single-engine or multiple-engine locomotive configurations and different modular onboard CNG storage sizes. We expect that the incremental cost to repower older switcher locomotives and/or build new switcher locomotives with CNG and dual fuel will be around 10% to 15% based on the IHB program. However, we think that the savings in fuel economy, increased safety, lower risk, and cleaner emissions will make financial sense to the large and small railroads, particularly if a leasing program and an integrated cost effective CNG refueling program is also provided,” said Myers.
The IHB’s CNG Repower Program is supported by federal funds through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program, administered by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). The IHB’s sponsor is the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Also included in OptiFuel’s expanding product line are EPA-certified Tier IV, dual-fuel (natural gas/diesel) solutions from 600 to 5,400 hp for rail and coastal/inland marine OEMs.
ANGI Energy Systems and Mainstay Fuel Technologies are members of NGVAmerica and associate members of NGV Global.
(Source: OptiFuel Systems, LLC)