Estonia’s Operail testing its first LNG-powered locomotive

Estonia’s Operail is testing its first LNG-powered freight locomotive on the Tapa-Kohtla-Tapa route after the firm received all the necessary approvals.

In July last year, Operail launched what it says is the first LNG-powered locomotive in the Baltics and the neighboring region.

The project had been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the firm previously planned to complete the locomotive in 2020.

According to Operail, the project included converting one of the company’s US-built General Electric C36 diesel-powered locomotives to dual-fuel LNG propulsion. It took five months to complete the conversion at Operail’s Tapa depot, including adding LNG tanks.

Operail said in an update this week that in February it had received all necessary certificates to run the new LNG-powered locomotive on public railway.

Following the approval, the locomotive had started test rides on the Tapa-Kohtla-Tapa route.

“During the very first weeks, the locomotive will run on diesel to measure all parameters and fine tune the engine. After that we will start test rides with LNG to measure fuel ecenomy and environmental benefit,” Operail said.

Also, the LNG-powered locomotive currently runs with “another locomotive that can help in case something happens, but the LNG has done very well so far,” Operail said.

Estonia currently has no large LNG import facilities but energy company Alexela is looking to install a chartered floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) by the end of this year at its planned terminal in Paldiski.

Alexela recently joined forces with compatriot Infortar to develop the FSRU-based LNG import terminal.

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