About two years ago GE made the prudent business decision to move into the new lucrative shale plays in the US. To fund the move they began selling off their massive financial business line that was being hampered by new government regulations that would change their financial business model. So it’s no surprise that GE is now working in the locomotive business too.
With a brother-in-law that successfully works in the national trucking industry for over 20 yrs says it is getting tougher and tougher for the trucking industry due to the lack of CDL truck drivers. The oil & gas industry is always advertising for CDL drivers. So it’s no surprise that Eco imaginative GE is working towards a locomotive fueled by LNG. The rail industry has already benefited by the shale industry as expressed by CSX, NorfolkSouthern and Union Pacific. In Lycoming County (PA) alone the rail traffic has increased by over 800% since 2010. The rail system transports items such as sand as well as pipeline. Wayne Township ( Clinton County, PA) utilizes a short line for their diversified landfill as well as get recognized as the ‘ 10 top bikes rails’. And, if you listen to the GE commercials they often speak about their locomotives, ‘..my mom helps the locomotives become friends with trees’, or ‘.. I’ll be building new efficient locomotives turbines…’. No, I don’t just watch commercials; I own their stock. That’s why I found the Cabot Energy article below so interesting which is a follow-up to the 2015 Natural Gas Utilization Conference in South Pointe. Thank you Cabot for the whole story…..
A look at LNG for locomotives: GE’s NextFuel retrofit kit
The 2015 Natural Gas Utilization Conference this October was packed full of engaging speakers with many different perspectives and new technologies to present to the crowd. During the Emerging Technologies Panel, Graciela Trillanes, Locomotive Product Manager for GE Transportation shared the science & tech behind the use of LNG for locomotives.
LNG – A fuel source for our freight
Why is this such a big deal? The Federal Railroad Administration website states that there are 140,000 miles of freight rail in the United States. Some other fun facts about freight rail:
• Approximately 40% of U.S. freight moves via rail (by length traveled)
• Approximately 16% of U.S. freight by tons moves by rail
• Each person in the U.S. requires the movement of approximately 40 tons of freight each year which includes agriculture, automobiles, equipment, metals, paper and minerals, just to name a few.
Via the Federal Railroad Administration
New opportunities for LNG
We’ve previously discussed opportunities to use liquified natural gas (LNG) in vehicles including a pilot program in the Pittsburgh area for towboats. Ms. Trillanes was able to provide insight into how LNG could be used in our rail systems, including the five major segments required. Her explanation highlights one of the possible benefits of the towboat pilot program: locating an LNG filling station near the rivers would also put it in close proximity to railroad lines in the area.
Please note, all photos below come directly from her presentation and are property of GE Transportation.
Obviously there are several factors to determining if LNG is an economical fuel source for locomotives. The reduced cost of LNG compared to diesel is a driving factor, but operators must also include the cost of operations, training, maintenance and securing a gas supply (or building a filling station).
Another consideration is the replacement rate of diesel by LNG. There are several options when it comes to dual fuel technologies available. Ms. Trillanes explained that GE Transportation had decided the port injection method of using the two fuels as detailed in the chart below.
Currently, GE has three different retrofit kit programs based on the engine technology of the locomotives and they estimate continued testing of the technology in North America throughout 2016.