CHICAGO BNSF Railway Co.
will begin testing a small number of locomotives using
liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel later this
year, chairman and chief executive officer Matthew K. Rose said
March 6 at the IHS CERAWeek 2013 conference in Houston.
"The use of liquefied natural
gas as an alternative fuel is a potential transformational
change for our railroad and for our industry," he said.
"While there are daunting
technical and regulatory challenges still to be faced, this
pilot project is an important first step that will allow BNSF
to evaluate the technical and economic viability of the use of
LNG in through-freight service, potentially reducing fuel costs
and greenhouse gas emissions."
The Class I railroad has been
working with Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co. and
LaGrange, Ill.-based Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. to develop the
engine technology to be used in the pilot.
The railroad has powered
locomotives with natural gas before, in the 1980s and 1990s,
and it tested LNG switch locomotives in Los Angeles until they
reached the end of their useful life a few years ago, the Fort
Worth, Texas-based company said.
However, improved technology and
economic factors make the use of natural gas in long-haul
service more feasible today, the company said. The BNSF pilot
will be a first step to consider how the technology could be
"The changed market for natural
gas in the United States is a critical part of our decision to
explore it as a locomotive fuel," Rose said.
However, Rose added that several significant regulatory
challenges need to be addressed. "We will be working with the
equipment manufacturers, the various regulatory agencies and
government officials to address the necessary actions to
accomplish this," he said.