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Most freight trains in the US run on dirty diesel fuelled engines, but it has been recently announced that BNSF railway, the railway company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will begin testing the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
BNSF claim that the motivation came from the fact that LNG emits far fewer greenhouse gases than diesel; although I imagine that being 88% cheaper than diesel also hangs in LNG’s favour.
Matthew Rose, the CEO and chairman of BSNF, stated that “the use of liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel is a potential transformational change for our railroad and for our industry.
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While there are daunting technical and regulatory challenges still to be faced, this pilot project is an important first step that will allow BNSF to evaluate the technical and economic viability of the use of liquefied natural gas in through-freight service, potentially reducing fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, thereby providing environmental and energy security benefits to our nation.”
Before any tests can be made federal regulators must determine the safety of the new LNG fuel tanks, new supply systems would have to be devised in order to deliver the gas to the train depots, and depot workers would have to be trained in using the fuel.
BNSF has benefitted greatly from the boom in domestic oil production, as railways are becoming a more popular option for transporting the crude around the country. BNSF already ships around 10% of all oil produced in the US on a daily basis and Buffet has said that “all indications are that BNSF’s oil shipments will grow substantially in coming years.”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com