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Westport launches LNG tender product for locomotives; Canadian National Railway orders four

Earlier CN testing of LNG using a tank-car (non-Westport)-based tender with two converted test locomotives. Click to enlarge.

Westport Innovations Inc. launched a liquefied natural gas (LNG) locomotive tender product solution with an order for four tenders from Canadian National Railway (CN); CN is currently testing two Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives converted for operation on natural gas. (Earlier post.) The first tender to supply fuel to an adjacent natural-gas powered locomotive will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Westport is collaborating with INOXCVA, a leading manufacturer of cryogenic transportation equipment, on these tenders. Westport and INOXCVA have entered into an agreement for cryogenic systems to be able to rapidly meet the near-term demand in the rail industry.

CN implemented its natural gas test program in 2012. Testing with LNG will continue in 2013 and CN will also advance the technology for using it in high horsepower locomotives. BNSF railway will also begin testing a small number of locomotives using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel later this year.

In a presentation at HHP Summit 2012 (“Natural Gas for High Horsepower Applications”), Normand Pellerin, Assistant Vice President, Environment and Sustainability, Canadian National Railway, noted that the design of a natural gas tender for rail applications has many consideration, including: the volume of tank (range); output power; system mass; cost; controllability, fuel flow and distribution on-board; fuel safety; collision/rupture safety; exhaust fire / explosion; gas / cryo link between loco and tender; contamination of fuel at refuel; gradient effects on fuel flow (fuel slosh); icing up of fuel lines; readiness levels of technology; failure of tender coupling; thermal cycling; fatigue life; vibration (at cold); adequate grounding; static build-up; method of transferring; type, size, location of compressors pumps; location and size of heat exchanger, pressure regulator; cooling components; complexity of systems; time to fill, ( less than 30 minutes ); sizing of the fuel system; gas supply pressure available; and number of nozzles—among others.

Pellerin noted that a 72-foot LNG tank car-based tender with 25.5 kgal of LNG could support a range of about 2,200 miles (3,540 km), with two locos per tender; a 53-foot intermodal unit-based tender (12.5 kgal) could offer similar range with 1 loco per tender. Westport’s tender will offer more than 10 kgal capacity.

The Westport LNG Tender leverages our substantial expertise in LNG storage, cryogenic systems, and natural gas fuel delivery for mobile applications to create a product that will immediately help railroads to validate the value of LNG in their operations today, with a built-in upgrade pathway to the next-generation locomotives coming over the next few years.

—Nicholas Sonntag, Executive Vice-President at Westport

Putting the LNG on a Westport LNG Tender, rather than simply replacing the diesel fuel tanks on existing locomotives, offers a number of advantages, Westport says:

  • More than 10,000 gallons LNG capacity—provides longer range than a diesel locomotive, reducing the need for LNG refueling infrastructure and refueling stops

  • Intelligent fueling controls will allow tenders to supply fuel to natural gas locomotives from virtually any manufacturer, reducing operational complexity and investment in different proprietary fuel supply solutions.

  • Each tender can support two locomotives, reducing the capital investment required to move to LNG.

  • Utilizes an industry standard vehicle design and 40' LNG ISO tank, which minimizes cost and will allow production volumes to be rapidly increased as the industry migrates to LNG.

CN is testing natural gas locomotives and Westport’s experience in providing LNG solutions for transportation makes it the natural partner for us. These tenders will be used immediately with our dual fuel locomotives in mainline service, allowing CN to continue to explore this technology as a means to advance the company’s sustainability agenda and improve environmental emissions.

—Gerry Weber, CN Vice-President Supply, Fleet and Fuel Management

Westport has also been collaborating with Caterpillar Inc. since June 2012 to co-develop natural gas technology for Caterpillar products, including the next generation of locomotives. The first high pressure direct injection (HPDI) locomotive will be demonstrated in 2014 through a consortium program funded by Sustainable Technology Development Canada in partnership with Canadian National Railway, Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD, a subsidiary of Progress Rail Services, a Caterpillar company), and Gaz Metro.

Caterpillar and Westport are combining technologies and expertise, including Westport HPDI technology and Caterpillar’s off-road engine and machine product technology, to develop these new natural gas products. Commercial production of HPDI locomotives by EMD is expected in 2017.



The long range is a big deal.  If one LNG terminal allows out-and-return service for hundreds of miles of radius, and one midpoint terminal allows trans-continental range, that's pretty much all that's required for a very rapid conversion of the fleet.  That and a bi-fuel retrofit system which can be installed quickly could make the RRs more or less petroleum-free in short order.

The Dresser-Rand micro-LNG plants look to be perfect as part of a "starter kit".  100k GPD is 4 dual-locomotive trains-worth, or 8 single-loco trains-worth.


A few years ago, I would have predicted that some of the major freight lines would be electrified as a result of the high cost of diesel fuel but now I think we will see expanded use of LNG long before we see any major electrification. The Westport dual injection system allows the engine to run as a true diesel with anywhere from 0 to about 95% of the power coming from natural gas.


LNG conversions don't require lots of new infrastructure under hundreds of taxing authorities, so we can expect them to be more attractive to the bean counters.

Henry Gibson

Add a garden hosepipe to a LNG tanker and it can allow any locomotive to run on part LNG and save a lot of money. A CNG tanker or set of tankers can work the same. Just push the hosepipe into the air intake and open a valve slightly. A Stirling company in the Netherlands can make a unit to make the LNG or to keep it cold. ..HG..

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