We will do it when gas gets to 7.00-8.00 a gallon in the meantime were looking at LNG gas.
For the past several months, I have been fruitlessly asking railroad industry news sources why railroads are not using LNG in their fuel options. This is the first time I have seen any mention of a railroad at least exploring its use. The shipping industry is designing LNG powered ships and solving the problems related to low temp/high pressure storage and accompanying dangers/risks of this fuel and other industries are also developing means to take advantage of LNG's low price and cleaner burn. Thanks for asking the question which at least gave a first hint at possible use of LNG fuel on railroads.
One real part of this, oddly enough, is that using LNG is fairly straightforward. There are a lot of dual-fuel engines for pipeline pumping, for instance, in the right size range, and the fueling is still manageable at locomotive. There were some real issues for scaling up for something big enough to run a container ship on.
Someone who used to show up here works on conversions for hi-rail vehicles, and, of course, BNSF converted an EMD to LNG.
The intitive would also have to come from the power companies as well......With new wind farms popping up all over the place they need the transmission capasity.
After going to the CSX shareholders meeting wendsday I dont expect a lot of new thinking from those guys...Board member .Lampere -"Running a railroad is hard enough you want us to get into the transmission buisness as well??"
Electrification is the ultimate long term solution, period. Whether you want to use LNG, wind power, diesel, coal, hydroelectric dams, or Gerry Callison's magic high octane snake oil, receiving energy from the power grid reduces the engineering problem to a simple matter of plugging in.
Power line co-location is the key first step in making this happen. Because a train is not a balanced electrical load (it does not draw from the three phases evenly), an electrified railroad will need to access a relatively high powered connection to the high voltage electrical grid very 25 to 40 miles. Such a connection, at a minimum of 138 to 161 kV, is not especially cheap to come by.
Luckily, co-location allows the railroad industry TO HAVE SOMEONE ELSE PAY THEM TO TAKE THIS FIRST STEP FOR THEM. And this is not a matter of getting into a new business. This is ultimately a real estate business venture, railroads have been in the real estate business even prior to the times when land grants developed the "old west." Transmission owners, whether they are wind farm owners like Invenergy, more vertically integrated utilities like Xcel, or transmission owners like International Transmission Corporation, handle the business side of transmission- and the railroad gets paid for use of its property.
Sure, there are some electrical nuances the industry will want to pay attention to. They should avoid High Voltage Direct Current transmission, because it will require expensive power converters if they ever want to access it to power a catenary system. DC is typically used on extremely long lines, such as those transporting hydroelectric power from northern Oregon to southern California. The industry should also be wary of lines above 345 kV, as they will also be prohibitively expensive (though not as much as DC) to access for traction power. While interaction with track circuits certainly must be paid attention to, this is not necessarily the issue that one might think. The most common powerline-induced problems with track circuit occur when an unbalanced distribution line induces a current in the rails that activates a motion sensing highway crossing circuit. Power lines of this level are balanced to a point where this failure mode will not occur.
The bottom line is that the electric utility industry is in dire need of new lines. The railroad industry should take advantage of this, and thus make a profit while someone else installs the infrastructure that they will need to electrify.
Burlington Northern has been exploring natural gas (both liquid and compressed) for decades, never finding a cost advantage to it. Early experiments involved hauling a tank car of the stuff behind locomotives, necessary because it took more volume than diesel. The cost of the tank car canceled the saving of using that fuel source.
I believe both BNSF and UP (and perhaps Pacific Harbor Lines?) have used CNG or LNG (I forget which) in the LA area, out of deference to air pollution.
BNSF has been looking seriously at electrification for some time as well. That's a gigantic expense, and although it saves money in operating costs, it's a big upfront cost. Think millions per mile, and there are a lot of miles between LA and Chicago.
When utilities decide they need more transmission capacity, watch for them to strike a deal with railroads in which they will get use of rights of way for their transmission lines and the railroad will get electricity at no or reduced cost. Conductorchris has it just about right. When the economics work you'll see railroads using alternative fuels. Somehow, I have more confidence in any of the Class 1 railroads knowing how to manage their fuel supply than I do some of the people at these blogs and forums.
Things might be different if the railroads didn't have to pay the cost of their capital (ie, government or utility money . . .). As it is, they not only have to have the cash in the first place and justify that it will bring a reasonable return, they also have to account for risk. Look at how much the railroad map has changed over the last 50 years. If you are making a 50 year investment, you better be sure you aren't wasting your money.
I don't think railroads mind having to earn their cost of capital. They just wish the people they compete against would do the same. Barge operators rely on the federal government to build, maintain, and operate the locks and dams they use as well as keeping the channels deep enough. Truckers, as we all know, don't cme close to paying their allocable share of the cost of building and maintaining highways. Utilities have to earn their cost of capital, but they are effectively monopolies and the state utility commissions allow them to set rates that will provide the return they need. It's the railroad that has to earn its cost of capital and that can be challenged on the rates it sets. Bah, humbug!
The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 forced utilities to divest of there streetcars and interurbans. The interurbans were indirectly subisdized by ratepayers. The Untlies used eminate domain of railroads to build there grid over the interurban tracks. Near my house in ohio there is the ABC line which the tracks were removed in the 1940s but the power line has been upgraded a number of times.
The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 was repealed about 3 years ago so that utlitlitys couled own railroads and vice versa. With untilities deregulation the transmission part could be divested from the generating part. We have seen independent CO-Gen plants and the fiasco of Enron from this.Despite all the bitching and moaning from the power companies about railroad rates none has gone as far to buy or build there own railroad.
A lot of land could be opened up if the power companies and railroads would co-op for instance the Niagara Falls to Albany Power Line preety much parrels the New York Central Tracks and the NYS Thruway
Co-locating power lines on railroad right of ways is merely an extension of the exact same business that the railroad industry has been in since land grants financed the railroads built across the old west- real estate. Individual companies whose business is in electrical transmission will raise the capital, build the project, and market the capacity. All the railroad needs to do is to collect rent. The key for the rail industry will be to ensure that the lines being built are suitable for future electrification needs.
Electrified railroads need to access high voltage service at regular intervals- as in a minimum of 138 kV every 25 to 40 miles. This is due to the fact that a train draws electricity in an unbalanced fashion (the grid delivers power in three phases). This imbalance is compensated for by drawing traction power from a connection that has much greater capacity than what the train will use, essentially watering the garden with a fire hose.
The problem is that if the wrong voltage is used, the connection that is needed every 25 to 40 miles will become unreasonably expensive. At higher voltages (765 kV, 500 kV), the required components become quite expensive. High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) has also been proposed, and this would be even worse. Rather than a simple transformer, this would require expensive solid state power converters. HVDC is typically used in extremely long distance applications where no intermediate connections are required- such as moving hydro power from northern Oregon to southern California.
Railroads would do well to focus around 345 kV. This is a high enough voltage to meet the needs of long distance electrical transmission, but not so high the traction power substations would be prohibitively expensive.
Ultimately, the need for new lines is here among us today. This is a golden opportunity for the railroad industry to turn its long term capital needs into an effortless, immediate profit.
Sub Stations- Thats where things get expensive. I believe that there is a at least 5 substations just for the 15 mile Cleveland Red Line. The Northeast Corridor seems to be way overbuilt. No one is proposing that RRs draw power from the same wires that are being used to tranmit power long distance. The long distance power lines are on top while the local wires for the RR are on the bottom. As far as collecting rent part of the contract would be credits for hauling the coal to generate the power in the first place.----In the reverse we could rebuild railroads where there is power lines
Minimizing the need for substations is certainly an important part of electrification. I don't know whether the 5 substations for 15 miles figure is correct, but it sounds reasonable. Still, you have to remember that electrifying a rapid transit system like Cleveland's is very different from electrifying a heavy haul freight line.
A typical rapid transit system uses direct current at lower voltages (Cleveland uses 600 volts DC). This is because DC delivers more power than AC (DC does not see inductive losses), so it can operate at lower voltages and thus lower clearances. Lower clearances are important when you are dealing with long subway tunnels and putting up catenary in urban areas where visual considerations come into larger play. Although it is justified for these applications, one drawback of lower voltage is the need for more frequent substations.
When you are looking at a long distance line with heavy power demands, as you would see in freight electrification, higher voltage becomes advantageous. Higher voltage allows for less frequent substations and greater power delivery (even more so than with DC). However, these higher voltage systems need to be AC, because this allows the voltage to more easily be stepped down on the locomotive to a level that the traction motors and drives and use. Most new higher voltage systems being installed today are 25 kV AC systems with auto transformers (auto transformer systems are a neat trick that drastically increase power delivery potential at a given voltage).
Indeed, nobody is proposing that the train draws power from the same transmission lines that are being used to carry power over long distances. However, the 25 kV AC catenary system that the industry would most likely use will need to access those transmission level voltages (138 to 345 kV) every 25 to 40 miles.
Having lived and played under high voltage power lines one has to wonder what the health risks of these things...
Direct patograph on wire may be replaced by a inductive system where the train draws current from a field..some of this has been tried on streetcar systems
Perhaps that explains your inability to present a cogent argument or to spell or otherwise use the English language as it was intended.
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