General Electric (GE) and CSX (CSX) will begin field testing liquid natural gas-fueled locomotives, adding momentum toward a potential transformation in the railroad industry.
In trials set for next year, CSX — the third largest North American railroad by market value — will run trains pulled by compressed LNG-powered locomotives manufactured by GE.
Drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have freed oil and gas deposits in shale fields like the Bakken formation, creating a glut of cheap natural gas that U.S. industry is increasingly adopting.
Using LNG would give railroads a cleaner, lower cost, more abundant fuel, GE Transportation CEO Russell Stokes said in a statement, adding that the impending use of LNG is part of "a new era of energy sources and what's possible for rail transport."
Over the next few months, CSX will develop a test plan and secure regulatory clearance for the tests. GE Transportation will use a retrofit kit to switch its existing Evolution series locomotives to operate on both diesel and LNG.