Renfe (Spain’s national rail network), Gas Natural Fenosa and Enagás, in collaboration with Institut Cerdà (a private engineering innovator in Barcelona), ARMF (a specialised railways restoration workshop) and classification society Bureau Veritas are preparing first traction tests in Europe of a train powered by liquefied natural gas. It may also be the first in the world to test LNG on a passenger train.
The innovation project will examine the feasibility of retrofitting diesel rail vehicles for operation with LNG engines and tanks and associated technical, legal, economic and environmental analysis for the Spanish and European rail network.
The project, coordinated by Institut Cerdà and joined by ARMF as a rail integrator and Bureau Veritas as a company specialized in inspection and certification, is part of the Strategy for boosting the Vehicle with Alternative Energies (VEA) in Spain 2014-2020, in Line with the object and scope of Directive 2014/94 on the implementation of an infrastructure for alternative fuels in Europe.
The agreement foresees the development of the pilot test with a LNG engine in a self-propelled diesel train of the Feve diesel park (2600) in a stretch of about 20 kilometers between the stations of Trubia and Baiña with extension to Figaredo, in Asturias. The diesel engine of one of the two paired automotive units will be replaced by one that will consume natural gas for its propulsion and the LNG storage tanks and associated auxiliary elements will be installed. By this means it will be possible to contrast results for both diesel and gas technology.
From this road test, conclusions will be drawn on 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.
Possible advantages of LNG as an alternative fuel
The advantages that the use of natural gas can have as a rail fuel are due to several factors. It can contribute to lowering 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 open options for possible new environmental requirements in the railway sector.
From the economic point of view, it can contribute to reduced operating costs by a better overall price scenario with respect to petroleum-based fuels, reduce energy dependence from this source and offer an alternative to the investment in electrification of non-electrified sections.
Finally, Spain has long experience in LNG management and its logistics is being considered within the framework of action developed by the Ministries of Industry and Development under the Community directives, factors that can guarantee security of supply for this market potential.
Renfe, Gas Natural Fenosa and Enagás are also evaluating the possibility of presenting a second phase of this project to the European Commission’s call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. The proposal fits with the CEF mandate aimed at supporting, financing and subsidization of Innovative Projects in terms of environmental improvement of the transport systems of European railway corridors.
In early 2013, CEPSA (Compañía Española de Petróleos, S.A.U. — a Spanish multinational oil and gas company), Enagas and Gas Natural Fenosa commissioned the Institut Cerdà to evaluate the technical, legal and economical implementation of LNG as a rail traction fuel. The study identified some technical and legal barriers, all potentially surmountable, and confirmed the economic viability of the initiative. The last quarter of 2013 began a second phase of the establishment of a working group with representation from the gas, rail and technology, with the aim of defining a pilot project to implement railway traction with LNG the Spanish network and test their viability real.
In March 2014 began the third phase, focused on the realization of the pilot. In July 2015, a consortium of companies signed a cooperation agreement for the implementation of the pilot. The consortium was formed by Enagas, Gas Natural Fenosa, Renfe, ARMF, Bureau Veritas and Institut Cerdà. The project also gained the support of HAM (cryogenic tanks), Cummins (LNG engine) and CIDAUT NERTATEC (emission monitoring), Adif (administrator of railway infrastructure) and the State Railway Safety Agency.
(Sources: Enagás, Renfe, Institut Cerdà)
Notes & Related Articles
Gas Natural Fenosa works on sustainable mobility solutions based on natural gas in maritime and land transport. In the terrestrial field it already has about 30 refueling stations in Spain and collaborates in several European projects (Garnet, Bestways and LNG Blue Corridors) to create a network of LNG and CNG supply points to supply the vehicles on Europe’s main transportation routes. In the maritime sector, it participates in several initiatives that promote the use of natural gas, among which the agreement with Balearia stands out for the installation of an engine that uses natural gas in the Abel Matutes ferry, which covers the Barcelona-Palma de Mallorca route. In addition, it participates in the Core LNG Gas Hive project, in which LNG is used as a tractor element in the container haulage cranes of the Port of Barcelona.
Enagás, Spain’s gas grid operator, is coordinating the European project CORE LNGas hive, which aims to boost the use of LNG in the transport sector, especially in the maritime sector. Currently, the company is developing different projects in this regard, such as the adaptation of its regasification plants to offer LNG bunker services to ships or the study of new small-scale LNG logistics solutions.