California Air Resources Board (CARB) chair Mary D. Nichols requested the U.S. EPA (April 14) take action to adopt more stringent emission standards for locomotives, saying that the move is needed to clean up the air in “high-risk” communities in and around the nation’s railyards. In the USA and elsewhere, trials are being conducted of dual-fuel locomotives using diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the push by CARB may further stimulate investment.
John Lovenburg, Environmental Vice President for BNSF Railway said in the company’s 2015 Sustainability Report” “We are also partnering with locomotive manufacturers to test liquefied natural gas powered locomotives that could generate lower emissions.”
CARB says it’s request is to accelerate the movement to zero- or near-zero emission locomotives. Proposed emission standards would cut toxic and smog-causing emissions by 85% for diesel particulate matter (PM) and 66% for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) below current ‘Tier 4’ levels. Reducing locomotive-related emissions and the resulting air toxic hot spots near railyards is a high priority for disadvantaged communities within California and around the nation.
In the formal petition submitted for U.S. EPA Rulemaking to reduce locomotive emissions, Nichols made it clear that recent studies have found that there are significant diesel exposure disparities by race and income among residents living in close proximity to most of the major railyards in California.
Nichols acknowledges that many steps have already been taken to clean up emissions from the nation’s complex freight delivery network. National locomotive emissions and diesel fuel standards, CARB agreements with railroads, California emission standards for drayage trucks and cargo equipment, and private and public investments in cleaner equipment are reducing overall emissions and health risk near major railyards.
To further reduce locomotive emissions, CARB is requesting the development of updated emission standards, including standards for newly manufactured locomotives, and standards for reduced emissions when locomotive engines are remanufactured.
Locomotive Drivers of Change
GE Transportation is one of the drivers of change across the North American rail industry, reducing costs with the introduction of its NextFuelTMNatural Gas Retrofit Kit, its first dual-fuel locomotive kit that provides rail operators with 100 percent diesel flexibility with up to 80 percent natural gas substitution. The gas substitution reduces fuel costs by up to 50 percent and allows for an increase in distances before refueling is required – under normal operating conditions – while maintaining top performance standards and meeting emissions regulations.
“We are hopeful that the development of new technologies and alternative fuels could allow us to continue to reduce fuel expenditures and our carbon footprint and impact on the environment. One technology we are testing is low-emissions liquefied natural gas (LNG) locomotives. This is one of the cleanest-burning locomotive technologies in existence. After a pilot program was initiated in 2013, we’ve continued in 2015 with testing of dual-fuel locomotives running on a blend of diesel and natural gas. LNG fuel tenders are placed in between the dual-fuel locomotives and have doublewall tanks that act like a thermos, allowing the natural gas to stay in liquid form at a constant temperature of minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to use this technology on a larger scale, we’re also studying the development of a natural gas fueling infrastructure.” (Pg 13 Sustainability Report)
HHP Insight noted in 2016 that the Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) began full-system, revenue-service trials of liquefied natural gas fuel, running an LNG-diesel dual-fuel train between Jacksonville and Miami for the first time on June 8 (according to a published report). The railroad has converted two of the GE locomotives to use natural gas fuel and has acquired three LNG tenders. New Fortress Energy notes that FECR “plans to convert its entire mainline locomotive fleet to LNG” and “will be the first North American railroad to operate in regular main line service with LNG.”
Union Pacific said in 2016 it is planning to test LNG as a fuel source for locomotives, evaluating liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a potential locomotive fuel source as part of its commitment to running safe, efficient and environmentally friendly operations.
In Spain, 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.
Indonesia’s oil and gas corporation PT Pertamina (Persero) and railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), both state-owned, are testing Liquefied Natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for rail transportation.
And in Russia, an Agreement of Cooperation signed mid-2016 by Gazprom, Russian Railways, and domestic machine builders Sinara Group and Transmashholding (TMH) signaled a new phase of development for the wider use of natural gas to fuel locomotives.