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.
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.
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