Union Pacific Puts $20m Towards Reducing Diesel Emissions

by | Aug 15, 2012

Union Pacific Railroad is investing $20 million to test new technology designed to reduce diesel emissions from freight locomotives.

A series of 25 experimental locomotives will be based in two Union Pacific rail yards in California as part of the test. The intermediate line-haul units have an operating range of about 200 miles, and will be used exclusively in California.

The investment represents Union Pacific’s latest effort to further reduce emissions and move closer to the EPA’s Tier 4 locomotive emissions standards for new locomotives, due to come into effect in 2015.

One locomotive will test the combined use of exhaust gas recirculation, diesel oxidation catalysts, and diesel particulate filtering. In testing the combined benefits of these three technologies on one freight locomotive, this Union Pacific unit is the closest an electro-motive diesel locomotive has come to achieving the Tier 4 standard, Union Pacific says.

The locomotive’s move toward Tier 4 will include a 45 percent reduction in the oxides of nitrogen emissions compared to the current Tier 2 standard, and an 85 percent reduction in particulate matter emissions, based on the company’s preliminary analysis. Union Pacific and the California Air Resources Board will jointly analyze the emissions reductions capability of this locomotive over the next 18 months.

Testing on all 25 locomotives is scheduled to last through 2014.

Since 2000, Union Pacific says it has invested about $6.56 billion to purchase locomotives that meet the EPA’s updated emissions guidelines and an additional $200 million to upgrade older locomotives in the fleet to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency. In total in that time, the company has acquired 3,800 new, fuel-efficient locomotives. These purchases allow Union Pacific to retire older, less-efficient locomotives, thus improving overall fleet fuel economy and reducing Union Pacific’s emissions rate, the company says.

Over the past decade, rival rail freight company CSX has invested over $1.75 billion in new locomotives and technology that help to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, according to the company’s 2011 sustainability report.

In early 2012 CSX put its 30th ultra-low emissions GenSet locomotive into operation. These locomotives, which are quieter and more fuel-efficient than traditional locomotives, use two or three smaller EPA-certified, clean diesel generators instead of a single large diesel engine. The engines activate automatically as needed, which helps improve fuel efficiency by up to 25 percent, the company says.

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