IHB to Convert Locomotives to Natural Gas

The Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad said it is working with OptiFuel Systems and R.J. Corman Railpower Locomotives to convert its entire locomotive fleet to run on compressed natural gas.

The Chicago regional railroad will be the first in the county to convert its fleet to CNG.

IHB will install OptiFuel’s dual-fuel (diesel and CNG) locomotive engine systems in the first two of 31 CNG Tier 4 switcher locomotives for IHB’s CNG Repower Program.

The dual-fuel system includes OptiFuel-designed on-board CNG storage units and a trackside refueling station.

Corman will provide the overall locomotive design, assembly, and integration.

“The CNG Repower Program represents a substantial investment to change our locomotive fleet to CNG and eliminate harmful emissions,” said IHB Director of Mechanical Operations Michael Nicoletti. “The locomotives are a part of a greater effort by the IHB to convert up to 31 of our locomotives to be powered primarily by CNG. At the end of the program in 2020, 70 percent of IHB’s fleet will be converted to utilizing CNG as its primary fuel source. Introducing CNG as a viable fuel into the freight rail industry is a role that the IHB embraces in both its unique challenges and operational and environmental rewards.”

Twenty-one IHB locomotives will have a 1,500-hp twin-engine configuration using two OptiFuel Systems-designed 750-hp, dual fuel engines that meet or exceed all federally mandated Tier 4 emissions reduction categories.

When compared with IHB’s current locomotive fleet, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are expected to be reduced by 94.7 percent and 85.3 percent respectively.

An automatic engine start-stop system will shut down idling locomotives to further reduce fuel and oil consumption, lower emissions, and mitigate noise and engine wear.

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