The Estonian state-owned rail company has partnered with the Latvian engineering company DiGas to convert one of Operail's locomotives to dual-fuel operations.
The retrofit will involve evenly dividing the 17k litres-big fuel tank of a General electric C36 locomotive as well as installing the necessary systems that will make it possible to run the machinery on liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The modernisation is scheduled for completion in spring next year, with tests commencing in summer and commercial operations slated for late 2020.
Up-to-date, LNG was used to power shunting locomotives only. According to what Operail said in a press release, an LNG locomotive uses 30% less fuel, and emits 20% and 70% less carbon and sulphur dioxides, respectively, than its diesel counterpart.
"We will invest a quarter million euros and begin the construction of a pilot locomotive so that after the testing period, we could implement the same technology on all of our freight locomotives. The production costs of the first locomotive are higher, but after that, the addition of LNG tanks and systems will be much more affordable," Raul Toomsalu, Chairman of the Management Board, Operail, commented.
He also highlighted, "Our cost calculations confirm that transporting one tonne of goods on railways for 100 kilometres consumes a quarter of the fuel that transporting it on roads would. The implementation of LNG locomotives will increase that gap further."