Operail has converted a GE C36 locomotive to diesel and LNG dual-fuel operation (Photo: Raul Mee/Operail).

ESTONIA: Operail has unveiled a General Electric C36 main line freight locomotive which it has converted to dual-fuel operation using natural gas as well as diesel.

‘It will help us reduce our fuel costs by 30%, and the machine emits 20% less carbon dioxide and as much as 70% less sulphur oxide into the air’, said Mihhail Sinani, Managing Director of the Tapa depot where the conversion of the US-built loco was carried out.

Operail began working on the project with Latvian dual-fuel technology company DiGas in late 2019, but the conversion was delayed by supply difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 18 000 litre fuel tank has been divided into three sections, with diesel at each end and LNG in the middle. This allows the locomotive to run on a mix of diesel and LNG, or on diesel only.

Testing and certification will now be undertaken before the locomotive is put into service in autumn this year.

‘We will add sensors which will allow us to measure the quantity of emissions and carry out a more detailed analysis of environmental impacts’ said Sinani on July 12. ‘This will be followed by the preparation of the documents required for the certification of the new locomotive type, tests and test drives on our local infrastructure as well as on the public railway.’

Operail Chairman Raul Toomsalu said the LNG locomotive was one of the operator’s projects to make rail transport ‘which is already environment-friendly, even more sustainable’.

‘We expect to see positive result in terms of reduced emissions after the performance of the necessary tests and analyses’, he said, adding that ‘we are planning to gradually transfer our other heavy freight locomotives to LNG as well’.