CN announced it is testing two mainline diesel-electric locomotives fuelled principally by liquefied natural gas (LNG) in revenue service in Northern Alberta.

Keith Creel, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, reported that CN launched this locomotive test to explore the use of natural gas as a potential alternative to conventional diesel fuel, reflecting CN’s continuing drive to look for ways to improve operating efficiency and advance the company’s sustainability agenda. “Natural gas has a lower carbon content compared with diesel fuel, so that locomotives using natural gas – if the railway technology employing this form of energy ultimately proves viable – would produce significantly fewer carbon dioxide emissions.”

CN retrofitted the diesel engines in two 3,000-horsepower Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) SD40-2 locomotives to run on LNG using conversion kits supplied by Energy Conversions Inc. (ECI) of Tacoma, Wash. ECI says the hybrid fuel locomotive will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 70 per cent over a locomotive duty cycle. The retrofitted locomotives, using 90 per cent LNG, with 10 per cent diesel fuel for ignition, are paired with a LNG fuel tender, or specially equipped and protected tank car, between them. The tender was upgraded by a unit of Chart Industries, Inc., of New Prague, Minn. Natural gas fueling is being provided by Encana Corporation.

The natural gas fuelled locomotives are testing on the 300-mile run north of Edmonton to Fort McMurray. Fueling and maintenance take place in Edmonton.

CN is also working with EMD, Westport Innovations Inc. and Gaz Métro Transport Solutions (GMTS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Gaz Métro, on a longer term project to explore a state-of-the-art natural gas railway engine and a standardized railway tender.

CN will provide two 4,300-horsepower SD70M-2 EMD locomotives for the test program. EMD, in addition to the engine conversion, will supply technical expertise to integrate the natural gas engine, related components and controls into the locomotive, including Westport™ high-pressure direct injection (HPDI) technology and LNG fuel system technologies. GMTS will develop natural gas liquefaction requirements and distribution systems. An innovative LNG tender for this initiative will be jointly developed by the project partners. The CN-led group expects to conduct engine laboratory tests in 2013 and to roll out the prototype main-line locomotives for road tests in 2014

For an overview of LNG developments in the transportation industry, readers may wish to refer to the article “New, more efficient technologies make LNG-powered trucks competitive with diesel”, published in Canadian Sailings of September 19, 2011. The article is easily accessible under “Past Issues” at