BNSF, Caterpillar and Chevron to pilot hydrogen locomotive

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Marybeth Luczak, Editor-in-Chief

BNSF, which has tested LNG-powered and battery-electric locomotives, will now operate a unit powered by hydrogen fuel cells on its lines.

BNSF, Caterpillar, Inc. and Chevron USA, Inc. have teamed up on a locomotive pilot to “confirm the feasibility and performance of hydrogen fuel for use as a viable alternative to traditional fuels for line rail transportation.”

The companies, which made the announcement on Dec. 14, signed a memorandum of understanding for the project.

Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, will design and build a prototype hydrogen fuel cell locomotive for line transportation and / or other rail services; Chevron will develop the refueling concept and infrastructure; and BNSF will make its lines available for prototype testing.

BNSF Vice-president of the environment John Lovenbourg

“The proposed demonstration project is subject to negotiation of definitive agreements with customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval,” the companies said. “If established, further details of the demonstration of the hydrogen locomotive, including where the initial pilot will take place and its schedule, will be released at a later date.”

The partnership follows a report from Caterpillar and Chevron on September 9 that they would jointly develop hydrogen demonstration projects in transportation and stationary power applications.

Caterpillar Group, President of Energy and Transportation Joe Creed

“BNSF is delighted to work with Chevron and Progress Rail to drive locomotives powered by hydrogen fuel cells,” said BNSF vice president of environment John Lovenbourg. “This technology could one day be a low carbon solution for the online transportation service, as it has the potential to reduce carbon emissions and remain cost competitive.”

“Working with Chevron and BNSF will allow us to advance hydrogen technology throughout the industry,” said Joe Creed, Caterpillar Group President, Energy and Transportation.

Jeff Gustavson, President of Chevron New Energies

“Our work with Progress Rail and BNSF is an important step towards advancing new use cases of hydrogen in heavy transportation, as we seek to create a commercially viable hydrogen economy,” said Jeff Gustavson, president of Chevron New Energies.

The BNSF also tested locomotives powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas) and battery electric.

In further developments, Union Pacific’s EMD 710 and 645 series locomotives can now operate with a higher biodiesel fuel blend content. The Class I railroad reported on August 19 that Progress Rail had approved the use of a biodiesel blend of up to 20% in its units. Previously, the EMD 710 and 645 were approved to operate at 5%.

Here is more Age of the railway articles on alternative technology locomotives:

PHL will test Progress Rail EMD® Joule

Southern Railway of BC Goes Green with Switch Modernization

Wabtec, GM team on new locomotive power systems

Sera will build a hydrogen switch

BNSF / Wabtec BEL pilot: the results are known and the BNSF / Wabtec BEL pilot in progress

Zero-emission locomotives on US railroads?

Fuel cells and batteries: the future of mobility?

The “H” factor

CP is embarking on a hydrogen locomotive pilot project (with more info here: Railway of the Year 2021: Keith Creel, Canadian Pacific; CP Hydrogen Locomotive Pilot Powered by Ballard; First Look: Locomotive at CP’s zero hydrogen emissions; and CP: Green ‘Gas’ n Go’ Gets Grant.

Hydrogen Strategy for Canada’s Railways

OptiFuel producing natural gas switches

Cummins QSK95 for Freight

Clean Diesel, Hydrogen and Future Options for Cummins Rail – RAIL GROUP ON AIR

New from Cummins: QST30 repowering module

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