The majority of the freight trains in the United States only run on diesel fueled engines. Recently, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, owned by Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, will begin to test using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel source.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe tells us that it’s motivation comes strictly from the fact that liquefied natural gas produces much less greenhouse gases than does diesel. Nevertheless, it also happens to be 88% cheaper than diesel fuel, so I’m sure that’s another very favorable aspect of liquefied natural gas.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s CEO and chairman, Matt Rose, stated that “the use of liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel is a potential transformational change for our railroad and for our industry. While there are daunting technical and regulatory challenges still to be faced, this pilot project is an important first step that will allow BNSF to evaluate the technical and economic viability of the use of liquefied natural gas in through freight service, potentially reducing fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, thereby providing environmental and energy security benefits to our nation.”
Prior to undergoing any actual tests, it is up to federal regulators to determine if the new LNG fuel tanks are safe. They will have to come up with new supply systems in order to deliver the liquefied natural gas to the various train depots. They would also need to train depot workers in how to properly use the fuel.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe has experienced a great benefit from the boom in producing oil domestically. Using the railways to transport crude oil around the country is becoming very popular. BNSF currently ships about 10% of all of the oil produced in the United States each day, and Warren Buffett tells us that “all indications are that BNSF’s oil shipments will grow substantially in the coming years.”