BNSF, Caterpillar, Chevron to Pilot Hydrogen-Powered Locomotive

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

BNSF, Caterpillar, Inc. and Chevron U.S.A., Inc. have teamed on a locomotive pilot to “confirm the feasibility and performance of hydrogen fuel for use as a viable alternative to traditional fuels for line-haul rail.”

The companies, which made the announcement on Dec. 14, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the project.

Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, will design and build a prototype hydrogen fuel cell-powered locomotive for line-haul and/or other rail service; Chevron will develop the fueling concept and infrastructure; and BNSF will make available its lines for prototype testing.

“The proposed demonstration project is subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements with customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval,” the companies said. “If established, additional details about the hydrogen locomotive demonstration, including where the initial pilot will take place and its timing, will be released at a later date.”

The partnership follows Caterpillar and Chevron’s Sept. 9 report that they would jointly develop hydrogen demonstration projects in both transportation and stationary power applications.

“BNSF is pleased to collaborate with Chevron and Progress Rail in piloting locomotives powered by hydrogen fuel cells,” BNSF Vice President of Environmental John Lovenburg said. “This technology could one day be a lower-carbon solution for line-haul service, as it has the potential to reduce carbon emissions and remain cost competitive.”

“Working with Chevron and BNSF will allow us to advance hydrogen technology across the industry,” Caterpillar Group President of Energy and Transportation Joe Creed said.

“Our work with Progress Rail and BNSF is an important step toward advancing new use cases for hydrogen in heavy-duty transport, as we seek to create a commercially viable hydrogen economy,” Chevron New Energies President Jeff Gustavson said. 

BNSF has also tested LNG (liquified natural gas)-fueled and battery-electric locomotives.

In other developments, Union Pacific’s EMD 710 and 645 series locomotives can now run with a higher biodiesel fuel blend content. The Class I railroad reported on Aug. 19 that Progress Rail approved using up to 20% biodiesel blend in its units. Previously, the EMD 710s and 645s were approved to operate at 5%.

Following are more Railway Age articles on alternate technology-powered locomotives:

PHL to Test Progress Rail EMD® Joule

Southern Railway of BC Going ‘Green’ With Switcher Retrofit

Wabtec, GM Team on New Locomotive Power Systems

SERA To Build Hydrogen-Powered Switcher

BNSF/Wabtec BEL Pilot: The Results Are In and BNSF/Wabtec BEL Pilot Under Way

Zero-Emission Locomotives on U.S. Railways?

Fuel Cells and Batteries: The Future of Mobility?

The ‘H’ Factor

CP Embarks on Hydrogen Locomotive Pilot (With more information here: 2021 Railroader of the Year: Keith Creel, Canadian Pacific; CP Hydrogen Locomotive Pilot Powered by Ballard; First Look: CP’s Hydrogen Zero Emissions Locomotive; and CP: Green ‘Gas ’n Go’ Gets Grant.

Hydrogen Strategy for Canada’s Railways

OptiFuel Producing Natural Gas Switchers

Cummins QSK95 for Freight

Clean Diesel Options, Hydrogen, and the Future Of Cummins Rail – RAIL GROUP ON AIR

New From Cummins: QST30 Repower Module

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