DiGas, a Latvian dual-fuel natural gas system manufacturer, has entered into a cooperation agreement with an Estonian state-owned international logistics and transportation company Operail to retrofit and pilot the first cargo-carrying LNG mainline freight locomotive in the region. The switch from diesel to LNG increases competitiveness while cutting emissions.
DiGas dual-fuel natural gas technology has been previously extensively tested on shunting locomotives. Installing an LNG system on a freight locomotive is a landmark event in Baltic railway transportation and the railway sector in general. On average, an LNG locomotive provides around 30% in fuel costs savings costs and emits 20% less carbon dioxide and 70% less sulfur dioxide.
“We are constantly looking for solutions that would be friendlier towards the environment. The first LNG freight locomotive is an excellent example of how the use of new technologies not only makes existing processes more efficient, but also helps to preserve the nature around us,” said Raul Toomsalu, Chairman of the Management Board of Operail. “Our cost calculations confirm that transporting one tonne of goods on railways for 100 kilometres consumes a quarter of the fuel that transporting it on roads would. The implementation of LNG locomotives will increase that gap further.”
“We will invest a quarter million euros and begin the construction of a pilot locomotive so that after the testing period, we could implement the same technology on all of our freight locomotives,” said Raul Toomsalu, regarding Operail’s plans. “The production costs of the first locomotive are higher, but after that, the addition of LNG tanks and systems will be much more affordable. We also call upon other transportation and logistics companies to also look for more sustainable solutions.”
The first LNG locomotive should be completed next spring and tested in summer 2020. After obtaining the required approvals from Eesti Raudtee and the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, the locomotive is planned to start operating in freight transportation in late 2020. With this move, Operail and DiGas are expecting a significant increase in the competitiveness of railway transportation over other means of transportation, further expanding the already existing environmental and economic advantages of rail transportation.
An American General Electric C36 diesel locomotive will be the first to undergo reconstruction to LNG operations that involve dividing the 17,000-litre fuel tank in two – half for diesel fuel and half for LNG – and the addition of intelligent gas systems. The engine management system of such an LNG locomotive provides extensive information on locomotive and its engine operations and fuel consumption that will allow further savings and provide an ability to predict more precisely major repairs and maintenance.
DiGas is an engineering company specialized in dual-fuel solutions based in Riga, Latvia. DiGas is currently advancing and piloting its dual-fuel system within the project NYSMART. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 784620.