Biodiesel fuel in locomotives

Ask Trains from the September 2015 issue
RELATED TOPICS: TECHNOLOGY | LOCOMOTIVES
Q Certain states require fueling stations to blend biodiesel into diesel fuel for cars and trucks at different times of the year. Do railroads use biodiesel in their locomotives? – Brett Schmidt, Madison, Wis.

A Class I railroads, regionals, short lines, and commuter agencies have tried biodiesel with a variety of blends from a 10-percent biodiesel-90-percent petroleum diesel, all the way to pure biodiesel, but railroad managers say that they find their supplies to be spotty, especially in winter months.

One eastern Class I railroad manager tells Trains that engine makers require his railroad to cap the biodiesel used in locomotives to 5 percent to keep the engine warranty valid. The manager says biodiesel from different sources affects performance and, in greater concentrations, may damage engine parts. Any part damaged by fuels may also affect a locomotive’s emission certification. – Steve Sweeney
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