VTG unveils Europe’s first LNG tank car

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Hamburg, Germany-based VTG Aktiengesellschaft, a European railcar lessor and rail logistics company, has debuted what it says is the first rail tank car for transporting LNG (liquefied natural gas) in Europe.

The new tank car, designed jointly by VTG and Czech Republic-based Chart Ferox, a division of global natural gas distribution systems supplier Chart Industries, is being marketed under the brand name “LNG by Rail.” VTG debuted the car during the Transport Logistics trade show in Munich, Germany, on May 5, 2015.

VTG has developed and built two prototypes for transporting LNG by rail. Chart Ferox built the tank. It is fitted with special insulation, which allows the cryogenic (–162° C) LNG to remain in the tank car for up to six weeks. A vacuum has been created for the gas for this purpose between the inner tank and the surrounding outer tank, as well as special suspension and bearing technology for the inner tank. Extensive vibration calculations and tests needed to be performed by the VTG and the Chart Ferox designers.

Eisenbahn-Bundesamt (German Federal Railway Authority, Germany’s equivalent of the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration) issued operational authorization for the car in mid-April of this year, making series production possible. To receive authorization, all the tests required by Europe’s Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) regulations, in accordance with current railway technical regulations for this type of car, were carried out in advance.

“Traditionally, natural gas is transported in gaseous form through pipelines,” noted VTG CEO Dr. Heiko Fischer. “In contrast, owing to it having 600 times less volume, cryogenic LNG can be transported by ship, truck and tank containers at a temperature of minus 162 degrees Celsius. Using rail as an environmentally friendly mode of transport for LNG has now been added to this as an alternative. By doing so, two LNG tank cars will replace four trucks and five tank containers on the road. VTG envisages enormous potential in Europe for LNG as an energy source. Industries with large energy requirements, but also maritime and other means of transport as well as municipals and regions without connection to a natural gas pipeline are seen as potential customers. To underline this, VTG has signed a cooperation agreement with Brunsbüttel Ports GmbH to confirm their joint commitment to LNG as an environmentally friendly fuel with a bright future. Given the increasing uncertainty concerning the long-term supply of gas to Europe, the LNG tank car represents a solution for alternative and independent gas supply concepts. Within the energy mix, LNG represents a proven energy source in numerous countries.”

Chart Ferox Distribution & Storage Group Chairman Thomas Carey added, “We are expanding and strengthening the Chart product portfolio with this new mode of transport. We are extremely pleased to be a part of this innovative development and crafting this opportunity to make LNG fit for transport by rail.”

On May 6, two days after its new LNG tank car debuted, VTG signed the first leasing contract for the car with Norway-based Skangass AS. The agreement includes long-term leasing of up to 20 LNG cars, which will be able to transport approximately 1,500 cubic meters of LNG per trip. For now, about 30 highway trucks are running on a daily basis to meet the demand for LNG.

“This agreement with VTG is a great opportunity for us to shift a big part of our transport of LNG from road to rail,” said Skangass AS CEO Tor Morten. “It also gives us the chance to meet the increasing demand for LNG in an efficient and eco-friendly way.”

VTG Aktiengesellschaft has a fleet consisting of more than 80,000 railcars. The company offers a full range of services, providing tank cars, intermodal platforms, standard freight cars and sliding-wall cars. In addition to leasing railcars, VTG offers comprehensive multimodal logistics services, mainly around rail and global tank container transportation, through three divisions—Railcar, Rail Logistics and Tank Container Logistics. Customers include companies from almost every industrial sector—chemical, petroleum, automotive, paper and agriculture

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