Montana Grant Funds Train’s Biodiesel Test

John Davis

A $125,000 grant will help fund a project that studies biodiesel in train engines.

Biodiesel Magazine reports
the Montana Department of Environmental Quality award for Opportunity Link, a Havre, Mont.-based economic development agency, includes the evaluation of B20 in a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway engine:

“We are supportive of environmental initiatives to identify alternative fuel sources and opportunities to reduce emissions,” said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.

According to Opportunity Link’s Executive Director Barbara Stiffarm, two of BNSF’s switcher engines will be used in the evaluation. “BNSF actually…went through the engines and make them as identical as they could,” she said. This included replacing the engine cylinders and flushing out the fueling system. One of the two switcher engines will run a B20 blend of biodiesel, the other will be fueled with standard diesel. The engines will be periodically inspected to determine the effects on engine wear and tear.

The evaluation portion of the project is slated to run for one year. Staff at Montana State University Northern’s Bioenergy Center will test the B20 fuel, track how much is used, how it’s mixed, Stiffarm said. “At the end of each 90 day period, they will completely dismantle those engines and send them to their research and development [department] and have their engineers go through and check the filters and check the cylinders for any differences. Hopefully we are going to show that the biofuel is actually serving as a lubricant and is easier on the engines.”

If the test is successful, it could be quite lucrative in the biodiesel market. BNSF uses 70,000 to 80,000 gallons of diesel each day at each of its filling stations. The B20 will be tested in temps ranging from 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to nearly minus 70 in the winter.