The idea of using natural gas as fuel in locomotives is not new. The former Burlington Northern used natural gas locomotives in the 1980s and 1990s. BNSF also tested LNG switch locomotives in Los Angeles until they reached the end of their useful life a few years ago.
Improved economics and technology make the use of natural gas in long-haul service more operationally feasible today. The BNSF pilot will be a first step to consider how the technology could be implemented. However, even though natural gas in long-haul service has enormous potential, several significant regulatory challenges need to be addressed.
“The changed market for natural gas in the United States is a critical part of our decision to explore it as a locomotive fuel and in this pilot we will test natural gas engine technology in railroad service,” Rose added. “We will be working with the equipment manufacturers, the various regulatory agencies and government officials to address the necessary actions to accomplish this.”
Source: BNSF Railway Company.