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Union Pacific Railroad investing $20M to test emissions-reducing locomotive technology in California; moving toward Tier 4 compliance with combination of EGR, DOC and DPF

Union Pacific Railroad is investing $20 million to test new technology designed to reduce diesel emissions from freight locomotives in California. A series of 25 experimental locomotives will be based in two Union Pacific rail yards in California as part of a test of emissions-reducing technologies.

One locomotive in this series of 25 will be based in Roseville to test the combined use of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), and diesel particulate filtering (DPF). In testing the combined benefits of these three technologies on one freight locomotive, this Union Pacific unit is the closest an Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) locomotive has come to achieving US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 locomotive standards.

This move toward Tier 4 is made up of a 45% reduction in NOx emissions compared to the current Tier 2 standard and an 85% reduction in particulate matter emissions based on preliminary analysis. Union Pacific and the California Air Resources Board will jointly analyze the emissions reductions capability of this locomotive over the next 18 months.

In March 2008, EPA finalized a three part program significantly to reduce emissions from diesel locomotives of all types: line-haul, switch, and passenger rail. (Earlier post.) The rule established long-term, Tier 4 standards for newly-built engines based on the application of high-efficiency catalytic aftertreatment technology, beginning in 2015. The final rule will cut PM emissions from these engines by as much as 90% and NOx emissions by as much as 80% when fully implemented. The proposed standards would also yield sizeable reductions in emissions of HC, CO, and other air toxics.

These standards are enabled by the availability of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel with sulfur content capped at 15 parts per million (ppm), which will be available by 2012.

In 2008, EPA estimated the social cost of the new program (rail and marine) will be approximately $740 million in 2030. EPA expects the impact of these costs on society are expected to be minimal, with the prices of rail and marine transportation services in 2030 estimated to increase by about 0.6% for locomotive transportation services.

Union Pacific’s $20-million investment marks its latest effort to further reduce emissions and move closer to the Tier 4 requirements. All of the experimental locomotives are intermediate line-haul units, with an operating range of approximately 200 miles (322 km), and will be used exclusively in California.

Nine of the experimental units to be fitted with EGR technology are based in the Colton, Calif., area and will be tested through operations in the southern California region.

The remaining 15 experimental units will work out of Roseville for operations in northern California. These locomotives have the capability to be retrofitted with EGR and other emissions reduction technologies as testing progresses. The Proposition 1B – Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program is partially funding this set of locomotives.

Testing on all 25 locomotives is scheduled to last through 2014.

In partnering with EMD to develop these experimental locomotives, Union Pacific continues working to upgrade and improve the fuel-efficiency of its locomotive fleet. Union Pacific says it has invested approximately $6.56 billion since 2000 to purchase locomotives that meet the EPA’s updated emissions guidelines and an additional $200 million to upgrade older locomotives in the fleet to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency—representing nearly 3,800 new, more fuel-efficient locomotives in all.

These purchases allow Union Pacific to retire older, less-efficient locomotives, thus improving overall fleet fuel economy and reducing Union Pacific’s emissions rate.



I believe that UP is the largest non-military user of diesel fuel in the US. At some point it should be economic for them to electrify their most heavily used trackage starting with the section from Ogden, UT to Omaha, NB. I know that in the early 80's they built a section of test catenary near Farmington, UT where they occasionally have high winds but it was taken down a few years later. I assume that this was in response to the high cost of fuel in the early 80's.

They also could run LNG with a small amount of diesel for pilot ignition.


It's about time.


While China and EU are going full steam ahead with very high speed electric trains we are going to study how to reduce polluting emissions from our dirty diesel units? We have fallen 30+ years behind already but claiming that we are still the best? Our eyes and ears must be wide shut?


IR losses grow as the distance from the generating site increases. Virtually all the extensive RR mileage which would benefit from electrcity has been installed, already.

Meanwhile Green zealots have reduced the electric generating capacity of California to only 70% of demand, way below daily needs.

California survives only by purchasing and importing elctricity from all the neighboring and even non-neighboring States, and also even third world Mexico, at very premium prices. Typically these States generate that electricity with only their very obsolescent and least clean, and least efficient generators, ordinarily reserved for use a few days per year, only in peak demand situations.

These State PUCs allow this, as those profits holds down in-State electric rates. But the safety margins are disappearing, everywhere. If only a simgle exporting State's PUC says no more, the entire situation teeters and collapses in California, as there is insufficient margin anywhere anymore, in the West, to pick up the reduced supply available for export to California.

These States accept the increased pollution spewed by these obsolescent generatos as their State's own Air Quality has acheived EPA Compliance even with these "old smokers" in operation.

Another fly in the ointment can happen though. The Obozo genius-idiots at EPA have now proposed to limit PM 2.5 in desert States and include blowing dust and natural occurring sandtorms to be manmade toxic pollution.

There is nothing that can be done about that, short of paving the deserts, and suddenly several States previous Air Quality Compliance might be revoked. If that happens, the in-State PUCs may and probably will rule the use of these obsolescent generators out, and the California Grid collapses.

Now you gentlemen want to impose a great new demand by electrifying the California trackage, not presently electrified? Daft. Truly Daft!

Please rejoin the real world; and make/allow California build enough new, reliable, electric generation to meet its own demand. A nativre demand, that your fellow zany California Green zealots prevent from happening.

In the meantime, let us celebrate the fact that the day of locomotive Tier IV emission regulations are drawing nearer; and can be met with developed and suitable technology. Soon the RR locomotives, will almost be as clean as today's automobile ICEs.



Full steam ahead is an interesting term as China was still manufacturing steam engines until the early 90's and only recently quit using steam on the main lines for freight. They and some of the EU use US (or Canadian) made GE and EMD diesel locomotives for freight. Also, our freight railroads are the envy of the world. Still, I would like to see the US electrify some of the main freight lines.

HarveyD don't seem to get it. USA stopped to produce locomotives and subway vehicles years ago or about the same time it stopped producing TV, Radio, Telephone, PCs, Laptops, Tablets etc etc.

China is currently producing all of those and building 100 times more e-rails than USA + Canada. Yes, China has jumped from steamers to ultra high speed e-trains while we stayed with 30 years old diesel units. The same could very well happen with cars. Ten years from now, China may have 10X to 20X the number of electrified vehicles than USA and Canada.

sd don't seem to get it. Most of the world's diesel electric FREIGHT locomotives are built by 2 companies, EMD which is now owned by Caterpillar and GE. The same is true for aircraft. Most of the world's aircraft comes either Boeing (US) or Airbus (EU) with Boeing having the largest share. There are 3 major aircraft engine makers, GE (US), Pratt & Whitney (US), and Rolls Royce (GB) A lot of the low cost and low tech manufacturing went overseas but much of the high tech and high value manufacturing is still done in the US. The high value chips for computers come from Intel (US) and AMD (US). US manufacturing is not only not dead it is actually growing but will never employ the number of workers it once did because of automation.

Personally, I work for a start-up company with a high tech product in a specialized segment of the ag business. We will be manufacturing in the US using US made steel, US made electronics, US made hydraulics, etc. We hope and expect to sell world wide.


sd...US Rails Golden age happened almost 100 years ago. Since then, cargo trucks, buses and planes have taken over. However, I must admit that USA, with 24,000 locomotives; (3% less than 10 years old, 28% are 10-20 years, 50% are 20-35 years and the rest are 35+ years ago) has the world largest fleet. China is catching up with 21K (including 83 steamers) and Russia still has about 20K, India about 15K etc.

USA's fleet is going down while China's is increasing rapidly and will probably surpass USA's by year end or by 2013/2014.

There are about 15 major locomotive manufacturers and only two are still American. It is difficult to get exact yearly production figures because many major parts (engines, e-motors-generator, wheels, etc) are made elsewhere and many manufacturers are really final assemblers, and not always in their own country. EU is still very active but that business is progressively moving to Asia.


HarveyD...The golden age of railroad employment may have been 100 years ago but the golden age of freight railroads is now in terms of ton miles hauled and revenue. This article started off about UP. Anyway, I own 400 shares of UP stock which is doing quite well, thank you. I also have shares in several other railroads and had shares in BNSF until Warren Buffett decided to buy all of it. I don't think he did this because he thought that they were a bunch of losers. You need to stand by the UP tracks in Nebraska where they recently had to add a third track to accommodate the traffic and watch 10,000 plus ton trains roll by at 60 mph every 15 minutes or so.

But it is still a free country so you can believe whatever fantasy you want.


sd...I'm all in favor of modern e-rails instead of trucks, buses and air planes. It is by far more efficient and consumes less fuel per tonne/Km or ton/miles if you wish.. Going full steam ahead is just an expression but China is certainly moving forward much faster than we are with modern up-to-date e-rail and e-locomotives, e-buses, e-trucks, e-cars, e-bikes etc.

Warren Buffet has realized it and is investing there. He is also investing heavily into local railroads because with the rise of liquid fuel price, transport efficiency will soon be important and favor railroads.

Our trucking industries will fight back and their lobbies will try to make us believe that railroads as dangerous etc. That's what we have become.


Harvey D,

I grow weary of your ceaseless desire to kiss the Chinese or many other Socilaist asses. They do not have the font of all wisdom.

You sound like Mr. Duranty writing about the glorius Soviet Uunion when he proclaimed to his NYT readers "I have seen the Future and it works" even as Stalin was creating a mass famine to starve the Ukrainian peasants into submission and collectivization that killed 10-20 million, for no good reason discernable today.

We should celebrate the reawakening of China from its 700 year stasis, begun in the Ming Dynasty. It is bringing lots of Han peoples out of ignorance and poverty into western levels of life and health.

RRs may be fine at moving goods relatively long distances with fairly economical and efficient methods, but moving goods from A to B is more complex, than merely moving from A' to B' which are railheads near but not at A or B, the real source and destination desired.

regarding passenger trains, they are hopelessly inefficient at moving humans though, except in commutes in dense cities environments, such as relatively unique New York. Even htere massive and continuing subsidies are needed to just continue.

Rail locomotives are capital goods with a life expectency of 40+ years. China is merely joining the world, not surpassing it. All these relatively newer locomotives you quote, are not the most modern, efficient, emissions clean, and moreover, will not be replaced for scores of years.

Meanwhile in industrailly mature America, the "best" locomotives are now diesel-electric-hybrids, equiped with Tier IV levels of cleanliness capability. America's locomotive fleet will replace its wornout locomotives on a normal replacement cycle, sooner with such, then will China.

Mr. sd has tried to show you that, but you are blinded by your love for all things 19th century, from technology to political economy, apparently.

HarveyD must realize that China (India and Brazil next?) has progressed at a much higher rate (3X to 4X) than USA and EU for many years, regardless of their political system. Is it possible that our political system has become so corrupted that the nation cannot compete as it used to do? Our eyes and ears must be wide shut. What happened in 2006/2007 is not finished, it may be just the beginning of a long downward spin created by an under controlled US economy.

Many things have gone wrong in freedom land. When less than 3% earn more than the other 97% and pay only 13% income taxes (or none at all) while the low wage earners pay 33%... yes, many things have gone drastically wrong.

Don't be surprised when people with $$B move their manufacturing facilities to China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Eastern Europe etc where future markets are and where wages are much lower, to increase their profit margin. They don't care about the 97% left behind because they have found other rising markets to replace the falling ones.

I do not know whose eyes are wide shut but total debts are increasing much faster than real net wealth for the majority.


I forgot...we brag a lot about how much we have done to reduce GHG but Canada and USA are still the world top per capita polluters with 20 to 25 tones/year each. USA's is a bit less than Canada's because it is importing 60+% of the crude oil consumed (Canada is a net exporter) and has moved a very high percentage of its manufacturing facilities to Asia, Mexico and South America. Imported goods distributors like Walmart pollute less than the factories producing those goods.

HarveyD may help to read 'Twilight of the Elites' by Chris Hayes to find out how USA has now become an Aristocracy of Elites/Billionaires. The rise of extreme inequality and the increasing wealth gap between the 1% and the 99% is scary. The national debt for the (99%) voter is now $130,000 each and rising very fast. The (1%) voter do not mind because their wealth is often 1000+ times that amount and they are on the receiving end. The 99% owe them $130,000 each and have to pay them interest.

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