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DOT to Award Funding for Research Into Biofuels and Bio-based Lubricants for Locomotives

The US Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FR-RRD-10-010) for two separate grants totalling $700,000 for research into biofuels and bio-based lubricants for locomotive application.

Eligible projects will include dynamic testing of locomotives, rolling stock and other rail equipment, with various biofuel blends as fuel; or bio-based lubricants being utilized in the appropriate equipment components to verify the effectiveness of the fuel or lubricant, in comparison to their equivalent petroleum-based products.

Both studies were authorized by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, 2008, (Division B of Pub. L. 110–432).

Biofuels. For the biofuel study, FRA wishes to consider:

  1. the energy intensity of various biofuel blends compared to diesel fuel;
  2. environmental and energy effects of using various biofuel blends compared to diesel fuel, including emission effects;
  3. the cost of purchasing biofuel blends;
  4. whether sufficient biofuel is readily available;
  5. any public benefits derived from the use of such fuels; and
  6. the effect of biofuel use on locomotive and other vehicle performance and warranty specifications.

Locomotive engine performance and emissions shall be determined through locomotive testing, using various biofuel blends and diesel fuel. This research shall be done so that recommendations can be made for premium locomotive biofuel blends.

Bio-based lubricants. The second study will focus on testing the feasibility of using bio-based lubricants in locomotive, rolling stock and other equipment. This study is to consist of the following:

  1. an analysis of the potential use of soy-based grease and soy-based hydraulic fluids to perform according to railroad industry standards;
  2. an analysis of the potential use of other readily biodegradable lubricants to perform according to railroad industry standards;
  3. a comparison of the health and safety of petroleum-based lubricants with bio-based lubricants, which shall include an analysis of fire safety;
  4. a comparison of the environmental impact of petroleum-based lubricants with bio-based lubricants, which shall include the rate and effects of biodegradability;
  5. a comparison of the performance of the bio-based lubricant in comparison to petroleum-based lubricants; and
  6. a study of the effects of the bio-based lubricants on railroad equipment components in comparison to petroleum-based lubricants.

FRA will accept applications for these grant opportunities until 7 June 2010.

Comments

sheckyvegas

Yup, saw this coming years ago. Electric can't handle the volume necessary for bulk transport. It had to go to biofuels.

Henry Gibson

Electricity can obviously handle the bulk rail travel in France, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark Etc.. With the near future advent of the mass produced Durathon battery from General Electric in the US, hybrid electric locomotive are possible. These locomotives can also be electro diesel hybrids which means that they can be operated without diesel where the tracks are electrified.

The high volume mass production of Durathon cells will allow a powerful variant of the electrodiesel, a locomotive that will operate on no diesel and no electric track supply for several miles, so that electrification of a rail line never needs to be continuous, and gaps of even several miles can be acceptable on railways considered to be totaly electrified.

Most of the remaining mainline railroads in the US can be electrified with quite long non electrified sections at quite low cost for the third rail systems with no catenaries and no very high voltages. Many diesel electric locomotive now built can be quickly converted to be able to pick up some or all of its energy from a third rail, and the third rail high voltage grid connected simple transformer rectifier may not even be energized until there is with the locomotive. Or the fully charged stationary battery is not connected to the third rail until the locomotive is able to draw power. The largest possible flywheel connected to the engine will allow the attached generator as well as the engine to go from full power production to zero production or half production without much speed change or effort. The third rail need only deliver part of the power needed for the locomotives operation.

In the future all diesel powered rail vehicles should be hybrid and most of them can be electrohybrid with Durathon cells.

In fact General Electric should offer a battery electric locomotive that can operate for over a hundred miles independent of diesel or electric supply when alone or a few tens of miles at most when pulling a load. This locomotive would be equipped to get power from any catenary where it is operating or any third rail, but it can also operate in conjunction with other electric locomotives or electrodiesels or even diesel electrics with a single operator.

Cheap third rail electification systems can then be built where electricity is convenienly available as a few feet or a few miles of missing third rail would be no problem.

Unit trains for coal or ore can be equipped with Durathon Batteries and electric motors on every car for regeneration and braking.

Modern semiconductors allow the easy control of the use of third rail power, and operating third rail electrification systems from high voltage direct current cables over long distances. Thirty kilovolt direct current cables can be buried cheaply underground in every railroad right of way and cheap sodium rather than expensive copper or aluminum can be used in such cables.

Railway yards and stations will require no catenaries and no third rails anywhere within hundreds of yards so the construction of electrification systems is now simple and cheap.

The cost of the use of batteries is paid for by the fact that diesel is now far more expensive than electricity per ton mile or person mile of transport.

It is easy to make these third rail systems slightly more safe and efficient by not supplying power to any segment when trains are not taking power from it. Failed segment electronic switching would not be any inconvenience to a Durathon equipped train, but the failure should be recorded and reported automatically.

A street car system now operating in France with such a system should retrofit its cars with ZEBRA batteries for this reason and others.

Durathon equipped locomotives can be built on the frames of locomotives that were retired because of diesel engine wear, and such locomotives can provide hybrid capability to any train. They can also be equipped with flywheels for higher peak power than is available from the battery for braking and acceleration.

A Durathon equipped retired locomotive variant can have only a small battery and is also intended to run only a few miles at low speed independently of a train. Full power to the wheel motors is only available trough an electrical connection to adjacent locomotives, but it is equipped with vacuum insulated liquid natural gas (methane) tanks; it also has a small methane burning engine and Stirling refigerator for keeping the LNG as cold as is economically possible and to burn off the gas when necessary. Such a combination locomotive tanker can be used with other almost completely standard diesel electric locomotives and supply methane gas into the air supplies of such locomotives to replace up to 90 percent of the diesel energy needed to operate the engine. These locomotives do not have to be highly modified and will always be able to run on diesel alone when methane is not available. Compressed natural gas tank cars can also supply methane gas.

Methane is the most conveniently produced biofuel. Automobiles can be operated on methane for most of their uses. Automobiles that have a twenty mile range on methane and can be charged at home would save much imported oil and CO2 release. Such cars can be built cheaply by regular car makers at not much additional cost. The inventing of the use of ionic liquids for high pressure gas compressors will make home compressors cheap to operate and sell. A forty mile capacity methane tank can be divided without much weight increase, if any, into small tanks in unused locations. They can even be used in a way to increase the strength of the frame of the automobile. The connecting tubes can be very small diameter steel. The failure of a small tank is a much smaller issue than the failure of a large tank as not much energy is released quickly. Wire wound tanks limit most failures to simple slow leaks and are lighter weight.

You can make your own methane at home and compress it there as well; you can even liquify it. A small home unit for making methanol from natural gas would be worth a NOBEL prize and a lot of money.

All automobiles can be made to run on diesel which is eventually cheaper to make than gasoline. Converters that convert diesel to gaseous fuel for spark engines can be built into a small corner of an automobile or truck and can be quite efficient. They can also convert any waste food oils so that a regular spark ignition engine can be operated on salad oil or deep frying oil, waste or not. Melted candles and other waxes, including bees wax can be also used. It may take a few minutes to start up such a machine, but if you need to be running down the road, propane or gasoline can be burned at first. The same can be said about charcoal burning automobiles.

Ethane is almost the most perfect low carbon fuel. Propane might be better. It should now be imperative to genetically modify bacteria to create propane out of biomass or perhaps dimethyl ether.

Locomotives should be converted to burning part charcoal and part diesel. Some of the charcoal can be carbon purefied from coal; after the rest of the forests of the world have disappeared into biofuels. ..HG..

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