By 2016, Indian Railways may usher in an era of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)-based Locomotives. In about two months, it is likely to float an international tender in this regard. Russian companies have already evinced interest in the project.
This is the first time the Railways is looking beyond traditional fuels such as diesel, electricity, bio-diesel and coal. “We had floated a tender in this regard, but it had to be cancelled because of technical issues. We are floating a fresh global tender in one or two months. The initial costs are expected to be very high; the engineering design has been done,” said Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar.
Currently, the Railways has about 5,000 diesel, 4,500 electric and 40-odd steam locomotives.
“The basics are ready and technology is available. Once the bids are finalised, the first LNG-based train will run within six months, probably by late-2016. Russia has already shown keenness to cooperate with us in this regard. Our locomotives are going for a major overhaul with this initiative,” Kumar said.
According to reports, major rail carriers in the US are working with some of the world’s largest locomotive makers such as General Electric and Caterpillar to develop natural gas-powered models. The networks of major railway networks such as those in China, Europe and the US are electrified. Experts say locomotive manufacturers such as Alstom and Bombardier are conducting research in this area.
“Gas-run locomotives are of interest because of efficiency, reliability, cost and carbon footprints,” said Abhay Agarwal, partner, EY.
After the Centre introduced the dual pricing mechanism on January 17, 2013, diesel prices rose. This put pressure on the defence services and the Railways, both bulk consumers. Other bulk consumers such as state transport departments shifted to retail outlets. Indian Railways has also installed a new fuel-saving device, the auxiliary power unit (APU), in 12 diesel locomotives. This will help save about Rs 20 lakh per locomotive annually. In time, the railways plan to equip all new diesel locomotives with APUs.
A NEW ERA
- This is the first time the Railways is looking beyond traditional fuels such as diesel, electricity, bio-diesel and coal
- Russian companies have already evinced interest in the project
- Currently, the Railways has about 5,000 diesel, 4,500 electric and 40 odd steam locomotives