Union Pacific to spend $1B to improve 600 older locomotives

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Union Pacific will spend greater than $1 billion to improve 600 of its previous diesel locomotives over the following three years and make them extra environment friendly, however regulators nonetheless need it to do extra to chop air pollution from its engines.

The transfer will speed up the tempo of upgrades UP already deliberate to make and assist the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad reduce roughly 210,000 tons of carbon emissions every year — the equal of taking 45,000 vehicles off the street. The railroad will go from modernizing 120 locomotives this 12 months to modernizing 200 a 12 months in every of the following three years.

“It’s actually taking the older locomotive fleet and making use of the newest and biggest to get one of the crucial gas environment friendly locomotives we will have,” stated Grace Olsen, who oversees locomotive engineering for Union Pacific.

The railroad estimates that this program will enhance the gas effectivity of those long-haul locomotives by as much as 18% and assist them produce peak energy extra reliably. To perform that, locomotive producer Wabtec will strip down the locomotives, and spend eight weeks overhauling their engines and putting in new software program and digital controls.

The improved energy will let Union Pacific pull the identical quantity of freight with fewer locomotives. That, mixed with the railroad’s efforts to considerably enhance the size of its trains, will enable Union Pacific to maintain extra of its fleet of seven,400 locomotives in storage. UP has already parked a whole lot of locomotives as a part of the operational modifications it has revamped the previous a number of years.

Wabtec says this UP undertaking is the most important single funding in modernizing locomotives in railroad historical past though different main freight railroads are making comparable enhancements to their fleets. Earlier this 12 months, Norfolk Southern introduced vegetation to modernize 330 of its 3,200 locomotives over the following three years to offer it greater than 950 modernized locomotives by the top of 2025. UP could have 1,033 upgraded locomotives after its undertaking.

“It comes down to essentially taking an asset that’s there and actually infusing it with expertise in order that for the following 20 years of its life, it’s optimized,” stated Gina Trombley, Wabtec’s Chief Industrial Officer.

UP says these locomotive upgrades are an necessary a part of its plan to cut back its greenhouse fuel emissions by 26% by 2030, in contrast with 2018 ranges, together with growing the quantity of biodiesel and different renewable fuels it makes use of to twenty% of its gas consumption. The railroad has additionally introduced plans to purchase 20 battery-powered locomotives to check out in its railyards starting subsequent 12 months, however UP officers say that expertise will not be prepared for widespread use for no less than a number of extra years.

UP and the opposite main freight railroads prefer to tout the truth that they’re extra environment friendly than vans as a result of every practice can haul the quantity of freight that it will take a whole lot of vans to ship. The EPA estimates that railroads account for about 2% of the greenhouse fuel emissions from transportation whereas hauling 40% of the uncooked supplies, completed merchandise and imported items that companies depend on. Locomotives account for practically all of railroads’ emissions.

Regulators with the California Air Assets Board who’ve led the nation with their efforts to control locomotive air pollution and lobbied the federal Environmental Safety Company to tighten its locomotive requirements stated the discount in carbon emissions is welcome, however they wish to see Union Pacific focus extra on lowering its particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions, that are related to elevated most cancers dangers and different well being issues — notably round railyards.

Diesel exhaust incorporates tiny particles that may penetrate deep into the lungs, carrying a wide range of toxins which have been linked to most cancers, lung illness, coronary heart assaults and different illnesses.

“What we’re speaking about as we speak is extra GHG (greenhouse fuel) centered, which we take a look at as necessary, but it surely’s a secondary influence once we’re speaking about lowering freight emissions at ports and railyards and their related well being impacts for communities,” stated Cari Anderson, who oversees locomotive rules on the California company.

Regulators would fairly see Union Pacific spend money on new locomotives that may meet as we speak’s extra stringent environmental rules as an alternative of overhauling locomotives that have been bought roughly 30 years in the past and persevering with to make use of them for years extra.

Anderson stated California desires freight railroads to improve their total fleets to locomotives that may meet the EPA’s robust Tier 4 normal as a result of that’s related to a 90% discount in most cancers danger or use locomotives with no emissions just like the battery-powered ones that UP is testing. Presently, solely about 5% of Union Pacific’s locomotives used within the state meet the Tier 4 normal.

Union Pacific stated the perfect these locomotives bought within the Nineties can do is meet the EPA’s decrease Tier 2 normal. The railroad stated the enhancements being made to those locomotives ought to assist cut back a number of the particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions, but it surely did not have an estimate of how a lot these will enhance.

Union Pacific is among the nation’s largest railroads with a community of 32,400 miles (52,000 kilometers) of observe in 23 Western states.

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