Iowa Railroad Tests Biodiesel

John Davis

IowaInterstateRailroadSome trains in Iowa are burning locally produced biodiesel to see about the green fuel’s long-term viability in locomotives.

The Omaha World Herald reports that Cedar Rapids-based Iowa Interstate Railroad has been testing a B5 blend from Ames-based Renewable Energy Group and will increase it to B20 over the course of the eight-month test:

“Our company has been looking at biodiesel as an alternative to diesel fuel for some time,” said Dennis Miller, president and CEO of Iowa Interstate.

The locomotive being used in the test is an older one that is part of a “slug” unit used mainly to switch cars in a yard. It operates virtually around the clock.

The engine’s performance is being analyzed to determine the effects of biodiesel fuel on horsepower, fuel economy and engine wear. The tests will continue into the winter to determine how biodiesel affects the locomotive’s performance in cold weather.

Miller said the trial could open the door for more than 600 railroads to add biodiesel as a fuel source.

Right now, no makers of large diesel locomotive engines approve of biodiesel because there’s little data on the effect it has on those types of engines. But if things work out, that will all change by the time this testing is done, and maybe the manufacturers will give the green light to the green fuel.