Moove-over standard diesel fuel. Cow-power may soon be providing power to locomotives.
In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on foreign oil, Amtrak and the Oklahoma and Texas Department of Transportation are embarking on a year-long project to test a biodiesel blend in one of its trains.
For the next year, the Heartland Flyer passenger train will make its daily 418 mile round-trip journey between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth using beef-based biodiesel. About 100,000 gallons of diesel are used each year to fuel the Heartland Flyer.
Biodiesel, made out of oil-rich plants or animal fats, is a renewable resource that can be used alone or combined with petroleum diesel in any percentage.
Tallow, obtained from cattle in Texas, will be used to fuel the train. This particular blend will be derived from 80 percent standard diesel and 20 percent tallow from Texas cattle. According to Amtrak, the B20 blend will cut “hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide each by 10 percent, particulates 15 percent, and sulfates 20 percent.”
B20 is the most common blend in the United States. The beef byproduct will be supplied by Texas-based Direct Fuels. Although biodiesel can be more expensive than traditional petroleum-derived diesel, beef tallow is a plentiful commodity that often goes to waste.
The 3,200-horsepower engine will be using the biofuel blend for 12 months. Every 10 days, the engine oil will be tested and analyzed for degradation or dilution. And every month, samplings of both the pure biodiesel and the blend will also be tested. The engine’s gaskets and valves will be analyzed at the end of the trial period.
The announcement was made on Tuesday, at a ceremony at the downtown Santa Fe station in Oklahoma City, as part of this week’s Earth Day events. The project is funded by a US$274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.
And Amtrak is not the only train in the neighborhood testing biodiesel. Norfolk Southern Co. and Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. will also run tests using biodiesel fuel. According to a company press release, eight SD70M-2 locomotives and two MP15 switchers will use blends of biodiesel fuel for nine to 11 months. Fuel consumption, performance and wear will all be analyzed.
So the next time you hear the phrase, “Where’s the beef?” you may just have to answer, “in the train.” For more in-depth information on biodiesel, please visit the What is Biodiesel website.
Learn more about Alternative Fuel on eBoom's Biofuels Energy Learning Page.
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