ACT Expo 2018

OptiFuel for IHB’s CNG Locomotives

April 25, 2017 in CNG, Companies, milestones, Rail by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

Hexagon for Type IVs, ANGI for Fueling Stations
Among the Key Partners for a Pioneering Project
For Natural Gas-Powered Rail in the Chicago Area

OptiFuel Systems is this week publicizing its role in a pioneering project for compressed natural gas-fueled switcher locomotives operated in and around Chicago by the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad.

The IHB locomotives will feature an OptiFuel Systems-designed onboard CNG storage module with eleven 5,000-psi, DOT-approved Type IV fuel cylinders by Hexagon Lincoln.

Beaufort, S.C.-based OptiFuel has shipped the equipment for the first two of 21 CNG Tier 4 switcher locomotives for IHB’s CNG Repower initiative. The locomotives will have twin OptiFuel-designed, 750-horsepower CNG-diesel dual fuel engines.

They could be the first of many nationwide, OptiFuel says.

The IHB CNG Repower program was first publicized, with somewhat different players, nearly four years ago (HHP Insight, October 28, 2013), as a $59.15 million project backed by CMAQ, the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality effort.

LNG Was Rejected Early On

It moved closer to its final shape last year with OptiFuel and Kentucky’s R.J. Corman Railpower Locomotives (HHPI, March 29 and June 2, 2016).

IHB says it’s the largest switch carrier in the U.S. According to OptiFuel, IHB has 35 miles of mainline and 350 miles of yard and siding tracks.

IHB initially considered LNG/liquefied natural has fuel, but given the limited range requirements of its locomotives, opted early on in the program for CNG.

OptiFuel and R.J. Corman Railpower

IHB contracted the system design, assembly and integration of the entire natural gas fuel system to OptiFuel, and the overall locomotive design, assembly, and integration to R.J. Corman Railpower Locomotives, OptiFuel says.

OptiFuel credits South Carolina’s Mainstay Fuel Technologies with design of the locomotives’ onboard modular CNG storage systems, which it says “incorporates important features and elements of Mainstay’s established fuel systems that are used in Class 8 truck markets.”

The OptiFuel-comissioned, Mainstay-designed, Hexagon Lincoln-cylindered CNG storage system on its way.

The Mainstay design includes eleven 5,000-psi DOT-approved Type IV CNG fuel cylinders by Hexagon Lincoln. The modules were engineered to handle switcher locomotive operational loads and meet FRA/Federal Railroad Administration recommendations and requirements.

“Based on the current IHB duty cycle, the onboard system storage of 700 DGE [diesel gallon equivalents] will handle seven to 10 days of operation before refueling is required,” OptiFuel says. The locomotives’ standard diesel tanks remain in place, allowing 100% diesel operation if needed.

ANGI for CNG Fueling

Also developed under subcontract to OptiFuel is a trackside CNG fueling facility by ANGI Energy. ANGI “created and manufactured a low-risk, proven, modular CNG station that can refuel two locomotives every 15 to 30 minutes in the basic configuration and four locomotives every 15 to 30 minutes in a growth configuration,” OptiFuel says.

ANGI is using Ariel compressors.

“The team developed CNG dispensers, locomotive to refueling equipment communications, locomotive RF tagging, and system safety approaches and safety approaches and requirements, based on standard ‘best practices’ used in the rail industry.”

‘Needed Solutions’

“OptiFuel’s technology will provide needed solutions and support to the Class I, II and III railroads as they seek ways to mediate the recognized adverse environmental impacts of their aging switcher fleets,” OptiFuel president Scott Myers says in an announcement to be released later this week.

“As of September 2016, there are over 1000 railyards in the U.S. located in densely populated, urban areas classified as particulate matter and ozone EPA defined ‘nonattainment’ areas. Over 119 million people (nearly 40% of the U.S. population) living in these nonattainment areas are experiencing acute and chronic adverse health outcomes.”

‘First Mover’

“OptiFuel is pleased to be a first mover and developer of technology applying environmentally compliant dual fuel systems to the railroad switching industry,” Myers said.

These two Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad locomotives are the first of 21 EMD-built SW1500 units to be converted to CNG-diesel dual fuel operation by OptiFuel and R.J. Corman Railpower. ‘They are currently being built and scheduled to return to IHB in mid-June,’ says IHB mechanical operations director Mike Nicoletti. Hexagon Lincoln is supplying 5,000-psi CNG fuel cylinders.

“The CNG Repower program represents a substantial investment to change our locomotive fleet to CNG and eliminate harmful emissions,”

IHB mechanical operations director Mike Nicoletti says in the OptiFuel announcement.

‘Unique Challenges & Operational & Environmental Rewards’

“The locomotives are a part of a greater effort by the IHB to convert up to 31 of its locomotives to be powered primarily by CNG. At the end of the program in 2020, 70% of IHB’s fleet will be converted to utilizing CNG as its primary fuel source,” Nicoletti says. “Introducing CNG as a viable fuel into the freight rail industry is a role that the IHB embraces in both its unique challenges and operational and environmental rewards.”

“In U.S. railyards,” OptiFuel says, “there are over 8,000 very old, diesel powered switcher locomotives, 95% of which produce Pre-Tier 0 (non-regulated, pre-1973) emissions… From a purely emission and dollar funding savings standpoint, it is four times more efficient to replace old switcher locomotives than old Class 8 diesel trucks.”

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Source: OptiFuel Systems with Fleets & Fuels follow-up


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