Why railroads are taking a fresh look at natural gas

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Why railroads are taking a fresh look at natural gas
John Kemp
Saturday, August 16, 2014
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NEW YORK: Gas-fuelled locomotives are not a new idea. Plymouth Locomotive Company built the first propane-fuelled rail engine as early as 1936.


The industry has experimented with natural gas-fuelled trains on a small scale for the past 80 years without ever moving beyond the prototype stage.


“Some members of the regulatory, engine supply and fuel supply communities believe railroads have an opportunity to use natural gas as a locomotive fuel to help meet emissions and performance goals,” Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF), Union Pacific (UPRR) and the Association of American Railroads wrote in a joint report in November 2007.


“Except for some potential niche applications, the railroads disagree,” they told the California Air Resources Board (“An evaluation of natural-gas fuelled locomotives”).


But less than six years later, BNSF and the other major operators are sounding far more enthusiastic.

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