COLUMN-Next energy revolution will be on roads and railroads: Kemp

Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:00am EDT
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(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)

By John Kemp

LONDON Aug 12 (Reuters) - From modest beginnings in the Barnett shale beneath the city of Fort Worth, unnoticed by most energy analysts, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing spread across North America and transformed all aspects of the energy landscape in under 10 years.

Now the most important question for energy analysts is what technology will revolutionize the system next.

One of the most promising candidates has been taking shape along America's highways and at a specialist rail testing centre in Colorado.

Locomotives powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been tested for BNSF Railway at a private facility as the company takes the next step in a pilot programme that could eventually transform the railroad industry and lead to the next phase of the North American energy revolution.

The first phase of testing, involving stationary tests on private property, has been conducted at the Transportation Technology Centre in Pueblo, Colorado, using engines converted by Electro-Motive Diesel and General Electric and some LNG tenders inherited from previous trials two decades ago.

But BNSF will test LNG engine-and-tender sets in revenue-earning service on a limited number of tracks by the end of this year, according to the company. These dual-fuel engines are designed to burn diesel mixed with up to 90 percent gas.

People have been forecasting for several years that gas will become the transport fuel of the future; now experiments by BNSF are starting to make it a reality.   Continued...