Operail, an international railway logistics company, which revived the locomotive manufacturing industry in Estonia a few years ago after almost eight decades of hiatus, has introduced the next chapter in the Estonian and Baltic railway sector by constructing the first LNG freight locomotive.
“As a company, we look forward and know that we will be able to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the transport sector by taking goods from road to rail or using alternative energy sources to transport goods,” said Raul Toomsalu, Chairman of Operail’s Management Board. “Construction of the first LNG freight locomotive in the Baltics and the near region will support a pan-European trend towards a greener future this year, which will be a significant year for the entire railway sector.”
The European Commission designated 2021 as the European Year of Rail to promote the use of trains as a sustainable, smart, and safe means of transport. Rail transport will play a very important role in EU’s efforts to become climate-neutral by 2050, as it is one of the most environmentally friendly and energy-efficient modes of transport.
Construction work on the first LNG freight locomotive started in February after the supply difficulties caused by the coronavirus crisis were overcome. According to the new schedule, the construction of the locomotive should be completed in spring. It will then go through a certification process and be ready for regular service after the approvals of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian national railway infrastructure company) and the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority.
The LNG freight locomotive is built on the basis of the American General Electric C36 locomotive, which is currently in service. During the reconstruction process, the locomotive will be equipped with the necessary LNG systems. The existing fuel tank, which can hold almost 18,000 liters of diesel will be divided into three sections for storing LNG: diesel tanks at the edges and LNG tanks in the middle. This means that the locomotive can run both on diesel and LNG fuel in parallel and is able to run on diesel if LNG runs out.
Operail is investing around 250,000 euros in the reconstruction of the first locomotive. “Our goal is to analyse the results after the test period and decide on how many locomotives of the same type to rebuild. In total, we have 30 C36 locomotives in service, and the construction costs of the next locomotives will certainly be lower,” added the head of Operail.