The first traction tests in Europe of a train powered by liquefied natural gas are underway in Spain. The tests, conducted on the line between Mieres and Figaredo, will analyze the potential environmental and economic advantages that natural gas can provide in rail transport using non-electrified lines. in atendance for the launch were Spain’s Minister of Development, Íñigo de la Serna, and Minister of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda, Álvaro Nadal.
The objective of the project, led by Renfe together with Gas Natural Fenosa and Enagás, and in collaboration with Bureau Veritas, is to verify the viability of a solution with potential environmental and economic advantages for the traffic currently using diesel fuel in Spain.
The project is part of the decarbonisation and energy efficiency plan in which Renfe and ADIF work and within the strategy to promote the Vehicle with Alternative Energies (VEA) in Spain 2014-2020, in line with the object and scope of application of the European Parliament’s Directive 2014/94 on the implementation of an infrastructure for alternative fuels. ADIF is a Spanish state-owned company under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, charged with the management of most of the country’s railway infrastructure. The decarbonisation and energy efficiency plan for rail transport, the most sustainable in absolute terms, is key to improving the overall transport system in Spain from the environmental and energy point of view.
This project is also in line with the objectives of the future Law of Climate Change and Energy Transition prepared by the Government. The aforementioned law will mark the way to achieve the international commitments acquired on climate change and energy efficiently. In the fulfillment of emission reduction objectives, rail plays a fundamental role.
According to data from the Ministry of Energy, the railroad consumes practically half of all the electricity used in the transport sector in Spain (45.8% against 20.1% of the road). In addition to continuing with the electrification of the railway, it is convenient to bet on alternatives. And natural gas is the alternative fuel with better conditions to carry out a safe and efficient transition in the short term, for reasons of availability, price and stability.
Modified LNG locomotive testing
The railway traction innovation project will analyze the feasibility of adapting railway vehicles for operation with LNG engines and tanks and the corresponding technical, legal, economic and environmental implications for the Spanish and European rail network.
The tests with the GNL engine are programmed in a self-propelled train of the Feve diesel park (2600) in a stretch of about 20 kilometers between the Trubia station and the Baiña station with extension to Figaredo, in Asturias. The diesel engine of one of the two paired automotive units has been replaced by another one that consumes natural gas for its propulsion and the tanks in which the LNG will be stored together with the necessary auxiliary elements have been installed.
Circulations will allow contrasting the results obtained, both for diesel and gas technology, since a tractor unit is maintained with each type of fuel in the same train. From these tests conclusions will be drawn about the technical requirements of space, weight, refrigeration, and autonomy for the traction of natural gas, in addition to other considerations and comparative variables in emissions and operating economy.
The project contemplates the incorporation of LNG engines to a series of trains in the Cercanias de Asturias to provide service on the Cercanías line (Baíña-Collanzo).
Advantages as alternative fuel
Natural gas offers several advantages as a railway fuel. It can help reduce environmental pollution by reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides, particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO), noise pollution and greenhouse gases, as well as opening options in the face of possible new environmental demands in the railway sector. The studies for the rail sector foresee, in comparison with diesel, a reduction of between 20% and 30% in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2); between 70% and 90% in carbon oxide (CO) emissions; 99% in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 90% in particulate matter.
From the economic point of view, it can contribute to reduced operating costs due to a better general price scenario with respect to petroleum fuels, reduce the energy dependence of this source and offer an alternative to investment in electrification of non-electrified sections.
Source: Renfe Operadora
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