An affiliate of German power company Uniper SE said it has successfully completed tests to move liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail in specialized tank cars, bringing the mode of transporting the fuel one step closer to wider use across the world.

Rail logistics company Vtg AG carried out initial trials on behalf of Uniper’s Liqvis GmbH. Vtg moved the super-chilled fuel cross country, from Brunsbüttel Ports on the Elbe river to a Uniper power plant 500 miles away in Ingolstadt, without issue. 

Liqvis, which operates LNG filling stations in Germany, is working to expand its transportation refueling network. It wants to move more LNG by rail to its distribution centers and is exploring further utilizing the technology.

“The ability to move larger volumes in a single batch by rail reduces transport emissions while taking heavy traffic off the roads,” Uniper said.

LNG is mostly moved by ship and truck, but it also has been transported by rail in recent years in small quantities in Germany, Japan, Portugal, Spain and the United States. The fuel has largely been moved in smaller containers certified under the ISO, or International Organization for Standardization.   

VTG has developed a rail car with a thermally insulated tank to keep the gas at a constant temperature during filling and transportation. 

In the United States, the widespread transport of LNG by rail was not authorized until last year, when the Department of Transportation (DOT) finalized rules allowing for bulk transport in specialized rail cars. The DOT-113C120W cryogenic tank cars are thicker and are more resistant to puncturing. 

A task force is exploring the safety of moving the fuel by rail across the United States. There have been no major incidents reported overseas, but the task force has cautioned that more research is needed as larger quantities are moved in specialized tank cars.