OptiFuel Launches Zero-Emissions RNG Locomotives

By Mike Brezonick20 November 2020

OptiFuel Systems, a South Carolina-based provider of zero-emissions rail, marine and generator products, said it is now taking orders for a new line of natural gas freight locomotives. All of the locomotives, whether new or repowered units, utilize OptiFuel’s proprietary EPA rail certified KOFSG11.9400 engines, which emit no NOx or particulate matter.

The KOFSG11.9400 engines are based on the Cummins ISX12N natural gas engine, an inline, 11.9 L, six-cylinder engine that has  been used in more than 12,000 on-highway trucks since 2016, OptiFuel said, adding that it received the EPA certification for rail applications. The KOFSG11.9400 engines are rated 400 hp and are packaged in pods to meet specific rail applications.

Multiple modular KOFSG11.9400 engine pods can be incorporated into the overall design of the locomotive to provide for 1200, 1600, 2000 or 2400 hp. Each engine pod can be replaced within three hours with a forklift or crane, the company said and customers can choose TMV or Medha modular electronic control packages to provide locomotive controls and high-power traction system electronics.

Powered by RNG, the locomotives offer energy-weighted carbon intensity (CI) value ratings that are 200 to 300% lower than even a 100% battery-electric locomotive powered by renewable energy such as solar or wind, OptiFuel said. With OptiFuel’s multi-engine configuration and instant stop and start capability, the fleet owner can expect to reduce fuel consumption by 20% to 40%, compared to a standard single engine locomotive configuration, the company said.

OptiFuel said it is capable of refurbishing most of the standard switcher and road switcher families (SW, MP, GP, SD, U, B, C, etc.) and lengths from 44 to 68 ft. Depending on frame size, horsepower, size of onboard fuel storage system and other options, the estimated cost for a completely refurbished locomotive is $1.7 to $2.4 million and a new locomotive is from $2 to $2.7 million.

OptiFuel said it is also able to provide kits and assembly support, allowing the customer to provide preferred content in the final assembly of the locomotives. OptiFuel said it also has the ability to work with customers to arrange for leasing options, including dovetailing leases with grant funds, where permissible.

A five-year/10,000-hour warranty is standard for all engine pods, onboard storage systems and locomotive controls. Total semi-annual and annual maintenance hours for each engine pod is 8 to 10 hours, the company said. Just as in onroad use, periods between locomotive engine overhaul are 18,750 to 25,000 hours with overhaul cost of around $20,000 per engine. All parts and supplies for the KOFSG11.9400 engine and overhauls can be purchased at any certified Cummins dealer or from OptiFuel. All CNG storage cylinders have a 20-year lifecycle that may be extended to 30 years, the company said.

OptiFuel said it can also provide a variety of mobile or fixed refueling options depending on the operating conditions of a customer’s fleet. Customers can rent or purchase mobile refueling equipment, or OptiFuel can manage refueling, the company said.

In addition to switcher production, OptiFuel has a U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) grant to demonstrate a zero emission, 4400 hp linehaul locomotive powered with renewable natural gas (RNG). This program will allow pre-production testing at AAR’s Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) and will demonstrate in-service with a regional railroad to validate that OptiFuel’s low-risk, affordable technology can also be applied in the higher horsepower freight and passenger locomotive markets.

“We believe there is a need for locomotives that deliver value and cleaner, more economical solutions simultaneously to railroads, railroad customers, and urban and environmental justice communities,” said Scott Myers, President of OptiFuel. “Beyond Tier 5, EPA certified technology is available today. We think that in the next two years there will be a 50-state Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program that includes rail and an extension of the existing federal Alternative Fuel Credit program to include rail. These programs, just as in trucking and aviation, will provide RNG to the railroads at a near zero cost and providing them the financial incentive to decarbonize their fleets over the next 15 years.”

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