Skip to comments.Natural Gas Locomotives May Prove Cheaper, Cleaner
Posted on 01/27/2014 5:08:39 AM PST by thackney
The diesel-burning locomotive, the workhorse of American railroads since World War II, will soon begin burning natural gas a potentially historic shift that could cut fuel costs, reduce pollution and strengthen the advantage railroads hold over trucks in long-haul shipping.
Rail companies want to take advantage of booming natural gas production that has cut the price of the fuel by as much as 50 percent. So they are preparing to experiment with redesigned engines capable of burning both diesel and liquefied natural gas.
Natural gas "may revolutionize the industry much like the transition from steam to diesel," said Jessica Taylor, a spokeswoman for General Electric's locomotive division, one of several companies that will test new natural gas equipment later this year.
Any changes are sure to happen slowly. A full-scale shift to natural gas would require expensive new infrastructure across the nation's 140,000-mile freight-rail system, including scores of fueling stations.
The change has been made possible by hydraulic fracturing drilling techniques, which have allowed U.S. drillers to tap into vast deposits of natural gas. The boom has created such abundance that prices dropped to an average of $3.73 per million British thermal units last year less than one-third of their 2008 peak.
Over the past couple of years, cheap gas has inspired many utilities to turn away from coal, a move that hurt railroads' profits. And natural gas is becoming more widely used in transportation. More than 100,000 buses, trucks and other vehicles already run on it, although that figure represents only about 3 percent of the transportation sector.
The savings could be considerable. The nation's biggest freight railroad, Union Pacific, spent more than $3.6 billion on fuel in 2012, about a quarter of total expenses.
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Why liquified? Compressed NG works well and there is plenty of room for storage even on an adjacent car.
Because CNG requires not only more space, but heavier cars to contain the pressure. More mass required to be moved to provide the same fuel.
More info at:
Natural gas fuels:
CNG and LNG
Volumetric (Vehicle range) reasons. Compressed natural gas is still 1000 times the volume of it’s liquid counterpart.
In Russia you may easily convert any vehicle using internal combustion to either natgas or propane for $200-1500. There is an industry since 1980s. I think 9 in 10 commercial vehicles are natgas powered there.
Meanwhile out here in rural USA we are stuck using propane(and getting skinned alive).
Since the engine only drives a generator, this may be a splendid idea. I wonder what the range of such a setup (one engine and one tank car) would be.
It doesn’t require much modification to allow a diesel to run mostly on natural gas. You just can’t run only on nat gas without a spark plug.
Putting the LNG on a Westport LNG Tender, rather than simply replacing the diesel fuel tanks on existing locomotives, offers a number of advantages:
More than 10,000 gallons LNG capacityprovides longer range than a diesel locomotive, reducing the need for LNG refuelling infrastructure and refuelling stops
Intelligent fueling controls will allow tenders to supply fuel to natural gas locomotives from virtually any manufacturer, reducing operational complexity and investment in different proprietary fuel supply solutions
Each tender can support two locomotives, reducing the capital investment required to move to LNG
Utilizes an industry standard vehicle design and 40’ LNG ISO tank, which minimizes cost and will allow production volumes to be rapidly increased as the industry migrates to LNG
Typically for freight locomotives, the preferred natural gas medium is liquid natural gas (LNG). Due to its density, five times more LNG can be stored in the same size container than compressed natural gas (CNG), saving valuable space and making refueling less frequent.
Keystone will reduce rail demand by about 20%! (NOT) Sorry Mr. Buffett!
Of course it depends on how much compression, but it is going to be more like 2~5 times, not 1,000 for typical transportation-type storage tanks.
I think that will be LNG, not CNG on the ships.
Shell to Build LNG Fuel Plants in U.S., Canada
Same reply as the other thread for the readers of this thread
I think that will be LNG, not CNG on the ships.
Shell to Build LNG Fuel Plants in U.S., Canada
Sorry, I mixed up threads. Too many open windows...
And then new locomotives can replace the heavy reciprocating engine with a lighter turbine, and save even more fuel.
I am not quite understanding this,having just read an article about how natural gas is expected to be increasing in cost. Being just a consumer heating with natural gas,maybe this cost increase was directed at us?? Or maybe the article I read was completely wrong?
burning both diesel and liquefied natural gas...
Now with bigger explosions when the train derails!
Following up on C_A’s question, what would it take for rural propane suppliers to switch over to offering LNG?
A couple of Great Lakes iron ore freighters are being converted to LNG. And of course LNG carrying ships have used LNG as a fuel for their engines.
And everyone thought that these unit crude oil trains were rolling bombs?
These fuel tenders of LNG will be right next to the power... no “cover cars” as all railroads require for other Hazmat.
I invite everyone to search the web for the term “BLEVE”.
Maybe so, but that only works for carbureted engines. All locomotives in the US are diesels. It's far more complicated to burn natural gas in a diesel engine. For one, simply injecting natural gas instead of diesel fuel, produces much soot. That's right, soot. Diesel fuel disperses quite evenly in a cylinder. Gas vapors do not. This produces uneven burning, and hence soot. I'll dare to bet that there are no production conversions from liquid diesel fueled engines to natural gas fueled engines, other than an engine replacement.
I disagree completely. Diesel engines run at much higher compression ratios than carbureted engines (22:1 vs. 10:1). Changing compression ratios requires major engine changes, including among other things, crankshafts, pistons, and camshafts.
Locomotives need weight in order to provide traction to start and accelerate the train. They would need to add ballast to compensate for a lighter engine. They already have sandboxes to distribute sand to the tracks in order to enhance friction. This is not good to use regularly since it wears out the tracks and tires. (I know, I know, railroads don't use tires. Actually, though, they do. It's just that the tires are made of steel.)
Regular v8 KamAZ diesel.
These guys can put it on Dodge RAM too.
If you live in rural America your problems are not important or do not exist to the power structure, NOBODY is talking about the “propane problem”. It is a big deal in my life, and millions of others that use propane. We are being literary skinned and nobody in the MSM or anyone else talks about it. But bless it if somebody doesn’t get their EBT card on time, that is national news and a “travesty”.
Can you say BOOM!
We don’t have to convert EVERYTHING! Some things work well just the way they are. Sometimes just tinkering around the edges is enough.
I used to have a propane heated house and I understand your pain. I think your best options (other than moving) are supplemental wood fueled heating, and getting a 1000 gal tank and filling in summer and avoiding all cold weather fills.
Most of the early changes will be retrofitting existing engines with additional fuel system. It will be far cheaper than new engines.
I don’t know if the vibration of the locomotive will work out to an economic solution with a turbine in the long term.
I believe that even a doubling of natural gas prices (from recent increases) when purchasing in industrial sized volumes, would be significantly cheaper than diesel.
yet another boon pickens scam?
LNG will not burn or explode. It first has to be warmed to a vapor, then mixed approximate 10 to 1 with air before it will ignite. By then the majority has risen up far above the ignition sources. LNG is a very safe fuel, when used outdoors.
LNG is not going to be a good source for a residential customer. It must stay refrigerated at all time to -260°F.
In a system that NEVER stops consuming significant volumes, autorefrigeration takes place as the boil off consumes heat in the tank.
But this would not be the case for residential user. You need a ratio of consumption to tank volume that consumes the tank in hours, possible a few days, not several months.
LNG will not ignite. See above post for more info.
The price of natural gas conversion here, likely contains a built-in premium to cover future liability suits.
Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion
Info I really did not want to hear, but that’s what I gets for asking the guy who knows.
Propane is like poor cell signals, one of those bitter-sweet worthwhile prices to pay for Country Living.
Guess I’ll just have to keep plugging for a local CNG filler-er-up station for my F150.
The only things I would worry about is that full tenders being pulled to remote rail yards might be a prime target for bad folks. There might also be full tenders sitting in remote yards too.
As if there were no propane trucks -- or other CNG and LNG trucks -- on the nation's highways...
Google: lng explosions
Click on images.....
Looks like one big accident waiting to happen.
Here is a tanker in Boston harbor
It might have been more accurate for me to say “replace the inefficient reciprocating diesel with a turbine...”
While the turbine might be more complex, I have to think it would be cleaner and less maintenance-intensive than the diesels are today. They might have to add extra iron to the locomotive frame, but that actually might help, since they don’t have a big lump of iron in the form of the engine block perched way up high anymore; they can shift the weight distribution more effectively. There would be more room for braking radiators and the like.
Doesn’t most of that vibration come from the diesel engine? Besides, if a turbine can survive in an Abrams, it should have no problem in a locomotive.