Gaz Métro and Canadian National Railways to help develop natural-gas locomotives along with Westport Innovations
By Lynn Moore, Montreal Gazette April 13, 2011 8:24 AM
MONTREAL - Natural gas locomotives are moving from theory to the drawing board in Canada.
Gaz Métro and Canadian National Railways Co. – both Montreal-based companies –are joining Westport Innovations Inc., of Vancouver, to develop a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology for locomotives.
A first in Canada, the venture will receive $2.3 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a not-for-profit corporation created by the federal government.
The project was announced by Gaz Métro president and CEO Sophie Brochu during a luncheon speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal Tuesday.
The project helps put Quebec ahead of the rest of the country in reducing its dependence on oil as a transportation fuel, Brochu told the business audience.
Gaz Métro is also involved in a venture involving LNG engines for heavy trucks.
Last October, Quebec-based Robert Transport ordered 180 LNG trucks with engines from Westport Innovations.
“Robert Transport considers liquefied natural gas as the fuel of the future,” Brochu said.
In her speech, and later with reporters, Brochu said that economics, environmental concerns and fiscal incentives from government have combined to drive the conversion of engines from gas and diesel to LNG.
That has convinced her natural gas will be a transportation fuel in the future.
Quebec consumes more heavy oil than any other province, she said. And 40 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Electric vehicles are options for personal cars or company fleets but aren’t viable for the long hauls of heavy loads.
Other truck transport firms will surely follow Robert Transport’s lead, and the LNG locomotive could offer a viable alternative for railroads.
LNG trucks are in use in California and Australia, but there are no known instances of LNG locomotives, Brochu said. Fuel accounts for one-fifth of the railway industry’s expense.
The new project aims to demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental viability of LNG engine technology for locomotives.
The initial stages of the project will include design and testing, at the plant and in the field, an LNG system for powering a locomotive.
Gaz Métro Transportation Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gaz Métro, will be responsible for the logistics of fuel supply.
If all goes according to plan, the consortium expects the prototype to be in operation in 2013.
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