As part of its continuing commitment to BE a benchmark of the best environmental practices in North America’s marine industry, the Port of Montreal is putting the finishing touches on the ‘greening’ of its fleet of railway locomotives.

The port’s railway network will soon operate with four energy-efficient multiple-generator – or GenSet – locomotives that the port authority has purchased from R.J. Corman Railpower. The first GenSet locomotive was delivered in October 2010. The second, third and fourth locomotives are expected to arrive this spring.

Each locomotive has a total capacity of 2,000 horsepower. The technology used by R.J. Corman Railpower was developed in Canada by Railpower.

The Port of Montreal is investing a total of $7.2 million in the four locomotives.

The Port of Montreal is one of the few ports in the world to operate its own railway network. In Montreal, unit trains loaded with containers bound mainly for markets in Central Canada and the U.S. Midwest are assembled right beside ships.

GenSet locomotives are more respectful of the environment than older-style locomotives. Instead of the traditional large mono-block engine, they use three smaller minivan-sized engines. A power-regulating device can start up one, two or all three generators, depending on the demands of the job at hand, thereby reducing fuel consumption. Furthermore, when the locomotive remains stationary for more than five minutes, the on-board computer puts the locomotive into standby mode, shutting off all the generators.

Daniel Dagenais, the port authority’s Director of Operations, said the port was committed to finding a more energy-efficient alternative when the time came to upgrade or replace its traditional locomotives.

“Our railway locomotive fleet was starting to show its age,” Mr. Dagenais said. “We were at a crossroads as to whether to proceed with a major overhaul of our locomotives, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per locomotive to keep them operational over the next 15 to 20 years, or to replace them,” Mr. Dagenais said. “When we did our research, from an environmental standpoint and in terms of how much money we could save on fuel costs in the long run, we decided to go with the (GenSet) option.”

Prior to ordering the second, third and fourth GenSet locomotives, the port authority had environmental and engineering consulting firm SNC-Lavalin conduct tests on how the inaugural GenSet performed vis-à-vis the type of much older single-engine locomotives used in the port’s railway fleet.

The results, which can vary depending on operation, showed that the GenSet locomotive reduced fuel consumption by 54 per cent and cut total greenhouse gases by 90 per cent compared to the traditional locomotives.

Among the specific results were reductions of 90 per cent in hydrocarbons; 88 per cent in carbon monoxide; 82 per cent in oxides of nitrogen; 88 per cent in particulate matter; and 47 per cent in sulphur dioxide.

The GenSet locomotives also are much quieter than the traditional locomotives.

“The study clearly shows that we are saving a huge amount of energy because of the manner in which the new locomotives distribute power and because of the way in which they can operate in standby mode,” Mr. Dagenais said.

Dave Maley, vice-president of R.J. Corman, said: “R.J. Corman Railpower looks forward to facilitating additional environmental testing with the three units we will deliver to the Montreal Port Authority in 2012. As a partner of the port authority, it is satisfying to not only provide a unit that exceeds the performance of the unit it replaces but also significantly reduces operating costs while being a good steward of the environment in which it operates.”

Mechanically, the four new GenSet locomotives are identical. The three to be delivered this spring will be snub-nosed, a feature that was not available on the first generation of GenSets. The snub-nose will provide the locomotive operator with greater visibility than the short-nosed locomotive delivered 16 months ago.

The Port of Montreal is currently using five locomotives – one new GenSet and four traditional locomotives – to operate its railway network. Because they are so much more efficient, the four new GenSets will be able to handle the workload of the current fleet. The older locomotives will be sold.