Monday, May 10, 2010

Amtrak pilot program tests beef-based biofuel

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Amtrak has launched a biofuel pilot program on its Heartland Flyer, linking Fort Worth, Tex., and Oklahoma City, adding beef-based components to diesel fuel. Amtrak is conducting a 12-month test, supported by a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, in its efforts to evaluate alternative fuel mixes.

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The Heartland Flyer, financially supported by the states of Texas and Oklahoma, will use Genesis P42 locomotives from GE Transportation, modified to handle a 20% biodiesel fuel mix. The Genesis locomotives will be monitored and evaluated for wear and tear on movable engine parts, emissions, and horsepower ratings.

Amtrak says the Heartland Flyer offers good testing conditions. “It’s a self-contained route that doesn’t require exchanging engines,” said Amtrak’s spokesman Marc Magliari. “We chose beef simply because it is available in the market where we’re running the test.”

Magliari acknowledged that biodiesel fuel is more costly than traditional diesel fuel, but noted the price differential is less than before, narrowing in the past two years to within 5 cents a gallon.