Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company (IHB) recently leased two SW1500 locomotives from CIT Rail to kick-start it’s locomotive conversion program to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The SW1500 locomotive’s small wheel base makes it a suitable choice for yard operation and local switching where tight curves and switches are the norm. Following the issuing of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “CNG Locomotive Repower” issued Feb 25 2016 , IHB is now evaluating submissions in preparation for conversion of up to 31 locomotives.
In March 2014, IHB announced a short list of potential vendors eligible to receive the RFP concerning the planned conversion of 31 locomotives from diesel to a diesel/CNG fuel. The above-mentioned steps are a continuation of that process.
Altogether, it is proposed that up to 21 SW1500 switcher locomotives will be repowered to CNG-diesel during a 48-60 month schedule and a further 10 GP40-2 units will likewise be converted to dual-fuel operations although the timing of the latter is unstated.
According to the RFP, the IHB will provide a maximum of four locomotives for repowering at any one time. The initial two locomotives will be thoroughly tested before delivery to the IHB, done in close collaboration with IHB. These initial two must be placed successfully into revenue service prior to the successful vendor receiving additional locomotives for repower.
The SW1500s will be repowered as twin-engine locomotives incorporating OptiFuel C18-OF engines – a configuration of the Cat® C18 ACERT™ Industrial Diesel Engine offered in ratings ranging from 429-522 bkW (575-700 bhp) @ 1800-1900 rpm. The engines have apparently already been purchased by IHB, as have 231 Type 4 CNG cylinders from Hexagon Lincoln that will be mounted on the 21 locomotives – 11 cylinders per locomotive.
It is stipulated that the Hexagon Lincoln cylinders must be mounted onto the locomotive, that is, a tender car is not included as an option.
The RFP states the preferred vendor will be responsible for balancing safety and efficiency in storing CNG cylinders on-board the locomotive although it does not prescribe that on-board location. Reference to applicable standards such as NFPA 52 will be required.
OptiFuel is responsible for provision of the CNG fueling apparatus and has apparently selected EcoDual CNG kits. OptiFuel specialises in providing EPA Tier 4 approved, high horsepower, dual-fuel engines and associated storage systems for use in natural gas products in the rail, maritime and on-road markets.