The Indian Railways is set to go green by rolling out engines fuelled by environment friendly and cost-effective liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Though in the preliminary stage, the railways — which currently uses coal, diesel and electricity as fuels — gradually plans to switch over to the globally recognised natural gas powered locomotives.
The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) -the Lucknow research wing of the Railways — is working on development of a prototype of an LNG-powered locomotive, as part of its efforts to adopt environment-friendly and costeffective alternative fuels.
“Once the prototype is proven on the field, the Railways plans to build another 20 LNG-based locomotives on the same concept,” said AK Mathur, spokesperson, RDSO.
It would take another 2-3 years for putting the locomotives for commercial usage, after passing all the safety tests, he added.
With the introduction of this technology, the Railways expects a 50% reduction in operating costs of locomotives. In addition, there would be an elimination of smoke from the locomotives and significant reductions in other regulated and unregulated emissions.
“Once the Railways switches over completely to natural gas as fuel for its diesel locomotives, it would amount to only 2.2 % of India’s annual natural gas consumption of 81 million tonnes and therefore commercially feasible,” said a railway official.
At present, Indian Railways uses coal, diesel and electricity as fuels for running its fleet of locomotives. Prices of both these fuels have been rising rapidly due to increasing prices of crude oil and imported coal, devaluation of the rupee and such factors that, apart from environment concerns, has prompted the public carrier to think of an alternate fuel.
Already, a short distance diesel electrical multiple unit (DEMU) has been converted into a compressed natural gas (CNG) driven locomotive in Shakoor Basti in Delhi. The concept would be soon replicated in 40 other trains.
“CNG is used for short distances while LNG would be applicable for long distance trains as well,” added the official. LNG is a natural gas (predominantly methane) that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Indian Railways is one of the first railway transport systems in the world to plan LNG-run locomotives for long distances.