COLUMN-On roads and rails, natural gas threatens diesel's dominance: Kemp

Fri Nov 1, 2013 8:35am EDT
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By John Kemp

LONDON Nov 1 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad captured headlines earlier this year when it announced it would start trialling trains powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

But even a pilot programme is still some way off. BNSF must still convince U.S. rail regulators trains powered by highly combustible natural gas can be operated safely.

North of the border, however, Canadian National Railways (CN) has been successfully running an LNG-powered train on the 480-kilometre line between Edmonton and Fort McMurray in the oil sands region of Alberta since September 2012.

CN's train has a specially strengthened LNG tender, manufactured by Chart Industries in Minnesota, placed between two locomotives. The engines run on a blend of around 90 percent LNG and 10 percent diesel, which provides the ignition.

In June, CN ordered four more LNG tenders from Wesport Innovations to expand the testing programme. The first of these new tenders will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The Westport tenders will each be able to hold over 10,000 gallons of LNG, providing a longer range than an ordinary diesel locomotive and reducing the need for refuelling stops.   Continued...