Skip to comments.Railway says fuel savings inspired LNG test
Posted on 03/07/2013 9:12:05 AM PST by thackney
he nations largest railway decided to test out liquefied natural gas as a fuel for locomotives because the cost savings appeared too great to ignore, its CEO said Wednesday.
It comes down to the spread relationship between LNG and diesel, said BNSF CEO Matt Rose, speaking at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference at the Hilton Americs-Houston in downtown. Once you get that in your head you can make that decision pretty quickly.
BNSF has been studying the possibility of natural gas for locomotives for 18 months, focusing on the opportunity for saving on fuel. The company burns 1.3 billion gallons of diesel per year.
Shell, which announced plans Tuesday to build small-scale LNG plants targeted at U.S. truck, marine and railway uses, says the switch can save companies about 30 percent in fuel costs.
BNSF will be testing six modified locomotives, three from Caterpillar and three made by GE.
But refueling infrastructure will remain a hurdle for the systems adoption, as well regulatory hurdles, since using LNG on a locomotive will require a return to a relic of a bygone era: tender cars.
Cars full of gas will trail the locomotives to provide fuel, much like tender cars used for steam engines.
The potential shift to natural gas could be just as significant as the prior revolution in train propulsion that brought about the rise of diesel, Rose said.
This is a really big idea but its truly laced with all sorts of challenges, he said.
BNSF plans to test and evaluate the locomotives this year, and then to make a decision in 2014 about whether it will begin to switch its fleet of more than 6,900 locomotives to natural gas.
Fort Worth-based BNSF, which has more than 41,000 employees and more than 32,500 miles of track, is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
The company is a major player in the oil industry, transporting more than 571,000 barrels of oil per day in February and expecting to grow that rate to more than 700,000 barrels per day by the end of this year.
It is active in most shale plays.
BNSF first tested natural gas as a fuel for locomotives on a small stretch of contained track in the 1980s.
The company is making a new push to test liquefied natural gas after Canadian National Railway, which began a trial with natural gas in September.
Once everything gets converted, the maintenance savings would be astronomical.
Fuel Savings alone will me Billons of dollars per year.
me = be
With all the recently discovered/recoverable shale gas, it’s about time!!
Assuming the cost differential between the two fuels doesn’t decrease dramatically, then even the conversion and maintenance costs would not erase the savings.
In fact, locomotives being powered by CNG makes more sense to me than millions of automobiles.
Yeah, buddy! Imagine what the price of diesel could do with an extra 1.3 billion gallons released back to the marketplace.
Just to keep us in reality, it would take many years to convert all of their locomotives to LNG, and that 1.3 billion gallons represents ~2% of the US diesel/fuel oil market.
Still a good thing, but this alone isn’t going to send prices falling far and fast. But every bit helps.
LNG works better for something like a train over CNG. Also works good for long-haul trucking and fleet serviced vehicles like garbage trucks and UPS, etc.
Replacing 1.3 billions gallons of diesel fuel with natural gas reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 5 million tons a year. And that’s just from this one company.
So if an environmentalist asks “What can I personally do to help stop global warming?” say “support fracking!”
I don't know what that means. Translation?
How much of the savings would be neutralized by the explosion of one LNG tender car in the wrong place?
Diesel = 8500 cal/l, while LNG = around 4500 cal/l.
That means that you’ll need almost twice the LNG to generate the same energy as with Diesel.
So when you talk about price, right now LNG is so low that buying twice the energy is still cost advantageous.
What’s likely to happen is that locomotives will go truly hybrid - LNG AND Diesel. When the price point on LNG gets to the point where it makes more sense to use Diesel, they will.
BNSF is looking to differentiate the supply chain in order to create price competition between sources.
Fish and foul, not fish or foul.
Since LNG first has to be vaporized, then the methane diluted to 15% concentration before it can be ignited, there is no way to explode and LNG tanker.
The price spread.
Diesel is now approaching $4/gal. The cost of an equivalent amount of energy from natural gas is less than $2.
I think weight is a bigger consideration to a train over volume. That is what takes the energy to accelerate and lift over hills.
1 million BTU = 12.1 gallons LNG = 42.4 lbs LNG
1 million BTU = 7.2 gallons diesel = 51.5 lbs diesel
Diesel - less volume to carry but more weight vs LNG.
A gallon of diesel fuel cost an average of $3.97 last year, according to federal statistics. The equivalent amount of energy in natural gas cost 48 cents at industrial prices.
Berkshire’s BNSF Railway to Test Switch to Natural Gas
To get around the subscription requirement for some Wall Street Journal articles, you can search for the title and click the link from the search engine.
First link at the above search.
Does the diesel price ($3.97) include road taxes, which wouldn't apply to railroads? Thought about that after I'd posted.
The $3.97 is the average for highway grade price, so it would include the tax.
If I read Chapter 1 Fuel Taxes Page 7 of the following correctly, that tax applies to trains as well.
Publication 510, Excise Taxes
That only address the federal 24.4¢/gal tax. The state rules may differ for their fuel excise tax.
Odd. One would think that diesel fuel for locomotives would be treated like farm diesel. I wonder what the justification is. Or if they even bothered to come up with one...
Or if they even bothered to come up with one...
Im assuming that the conversion is of a diesel engine from straight diesel fuel to lean-mixture natural gas ignited by pilot charge of diesel oil. While thats highly economical based on the low price of natural gas, it also is a very efficient process thermodynamically. And since the combustion of carbureted air is smoother than the combustion of injected fuel oil, I suppose there is the potential for maintenance savings because of the lack of diesel knock. Are there other maintenance savings?
Then throw government/EPA regulation in on the diesel fuel and do the math.
I know asphalt plants here that switched to natural gas from burning fuel oil saved enough in maintenance costs in the first year or so to negate the cost of the conversion. That's external combustion, but their burners lasted way longer and didn't need constant upkeep.
But if there was an accident and the tanker developed a crack it might incinerate an entire town.
No way. Methane is significantly lighter than air. If you had a leak, the LNG first has to warm up to boil off as vapor. By the time it mixed to 85% air / 15% methane, it is up in the air.