Estonia’s Operail to put its first LNG locomotive into use this year

Estonia’s Operail plans to launch its first LNG-powered freight locomotive this year as the project has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country’s freight operator announced the project in 2019 entering into a deal with Latvian engineering firm DiGas.

The project will see the conversion of one of Operail’s US-built General Electric C36 diesel-powered locomotives to dual-fuel LNG propulsion.

Howevher, the situation with Covid forced the duo to change initial plans for launching planned for 2020.

Operail announced in a statement on Wednesday the start of conversion works saying that it expects these to complete in spring.

Following completion, the locomotive will then go through a certification process and governmnetal approvals prior to enterning service, the Estonian firm said.

“Construction of the first LNG freight locomotive in the Baltics and the near region will support a pan-European trend towards a greener future this year, which will be a significant year for the entire railway sector,” Raul Toomsalu, chairman of Operail’s management board, said.

Furthermore, Operail will invest around 250,000 euros ($299,000) in this pilot project.

“Our goal is to analyse the results after the test period and decide on how many locomotives of the same type to rebuild. In total, we have 30 C36 locomotives in service, and the construction costs of the next locomotives will certainly be lower,” Toomsalu said.

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