Railway to Test Montana Biodiesel

Cindy Zimmerman

A switch engine in Havre, Montana is making the switch to 20 percent biodiesel for a year-long experiment to see how it works on trains in the Treasure State.

On July 17, BNSF Railway celebrated the official start of the project where Montana State University-Northern’s Bio-Energy Center will test biodiesel produced by Earl Fisher Biofuels in one of two BNSF Railway switch engines used at the Havre Depot. The testing will take place during the four seasons of Montana weather from extreme cold to intense heat. During the year long program one switch train will continue to use diesel to act as a control and the other will run on a mix of 20 percent biodiesel, which BNSF requires be made with Montana-grown oil seeds. With BNSF now a steady client, Earl Fisher Biofuels will have year-round demand for biodiesel and for the crops — such as camelina, canola and safflower seeds — that produce it.

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) was on hand for the kick off event, pictured here between Greg Kegel, dean of MSU-Northern’s College of Technical Sciences (left) and Beau Price of BNSF (right) with a jar of biodiesel. The MSU Northern Bio Energy Center will be the site of the Agricultural Biofuel Summit on October 19-20, facilitated by Ethanol Producers And Consumers (EPAC) made possible through a Growth Through Agriculture grant. EPAC provided the photo and information for this story.