DiGas and Operail to construct the first LNG freight locomotive in the Baltics


DiGas, a Latvian dual-fuel natural gas system manufacturer, has entered into a cooperation agreement with an Estonian state-owned international logistics and transportation company Operail to retrofit and pilot the first cargo-carrying LNG mainline freight locomotive in the region.

DiGas dual-fuel natural gas technology has been previously extensively tested on shunting locomotives. Installing an LNG system on a freight locomotive is a landmark event in Baltic railway transportation and the railway sector in general. On average, an LNG locomotive provides around 30% in fuel costs savings costs and emits 20% less carbon dioxide and 70% less sulfur dioxide.

Chairman of the Management Board of Operail Raul Toomsalu said that Operail will co-invest 250,000 EUR in the pilot locomotive that is expected to start operating in freight transportation in late 2020 and revealed an intention to convert all their freight locomotives to LNG if the pilot project is successful. With this move, Operail and DiGas are expecting a significant increase in the competitiveness of railway transportation over other means of transportation further expanding the already existing environmental and economic advantages of rail transportation. American General Electric C36 diesel locomotive will be the first to undergo reconstruction to LNG operations that involve dividing the 17,000-litre fuel tank in two – half for diesel fuel and half for LNG – and the addition of intelligent gas systems. The engine management system of such an LNG locomotive provides extensive information on locomotive and its engine operations and fuel consumption that will allow further savings and provide an ability to predict more precisely major repairs and maintenance.

DiGas is currently advancing and piloting its dual-fuel system within the project NYSMART. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 784620.