As another sign that the railroad sector is a growing potential transportation market for natural gas, Canadian National Railway (CN) has ordered four liquefied natural gas (LNG) tenders from Vancouver, BC-based Westport Innovations Inc., the first of which are to be delivered later this year. A tender is a car behind the locomotive that carries the fuel.

Westport’s Nicholas Sonntag, executive vice president, said he sees “enormous potential” for using LNG to fuel locomotives, with the tenders serving as the fueling source.

Two years ago CN collaborated with Westport and Gaz Metro Transportation Solutions to test replacing diesel with LNG (see Daily GPI, April 15, 2011). Last fall CN retrofitted two locomotives to run on a mixture of 90% LNG and 10% diesel; the gas is being supplied by Encana Corp. (see Daily GPI, Feb. 1; Oct. 1, 2012). CN also has been working with Caterpiller Inc.’s Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. (EMD), Westport and Gaz Metro on a longer-term project to explore a state-of-the-art natural gas railway engine and a standardized railway tender.

For the past year Westport has been working with Caterpillar Inc. on the “next generation” of locomotives. The first high pressure direct injection locomotive is to be demonstrated next year. Westport is also collaborating with Inoxcva, which manufactures cryogenic transportation equipment.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s locomotive unit, BNSF Railway Co., also is launching a pilot project this year with General Electric and EMD to develop LNG engine technology for its railway system (see Daily GPI, March 8). Diesel now powers a 6,900-plus fleet of locomotives that traverses a network of 32,500 route miles across 28 states and two Canadian provinces.

Westport touted the advantages of its tenders rather than replacing the diesel fuel tanks on existing locomotives as range, intelligent fueling controls, support for two locomotives/tender, and industry standard design. The tenders provide more than 10,000 gallons of LNG capacity, reducing the need for fueling infrastructure and fueling stops, according to Westport.

“Each tender can support two locomotives, reducing the capital investment required to move to LNG,” a spokesperson said.

CN’s Gerry Weber, vice president for supply, fleet and fuel management, said the Westport tenders would be used “immediately with our dual fuel locomotives in mainline service.” The railway intends to continue to explore LNG technology as part of the company’s “sustainability agenda and improvement of environmental emissions.”

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