Clean-diesel technologies to construct California high-speed rail system

As the California High-Speed Rail Authority breaks ground today on the nation’s first high-speed rail system, additional attention is being focused on the fact that some of the world’s most advanced and cleanest diesel equipment will be used to construct the historic project.  

“While there is a debate on the merits of the high speed rail project in general, one thing that is not in debate is the readiness of the most advanced construction machines and equipment to build the project,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “It is fitting that a project of this size will be built with the latest generation of advanced clean-diesel technology. This massive project is being done with the most advanced and sustainable green construction practices, which is why the latest clean diesel engines and equipment that meet the nation’s most stringent environmental standards – known as ‘Tier 4’ – are the technology of choice. No other fuel or technology can match the combination of power, efficiency, performance, and now near-zero emissions of these machines.

“The standards, established by both the California Air Resources Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency, have been in effect since 2014 and will deliver significant air quality benefits to the communities surrounding the project and result in a 90% reduction in particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen, an ozone forming compound.” 

The new-generation Tier 4 clean diesel technology achieves a substantial reduction in emissions of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen from engines deployed on off-road equipment, including construction equipment manufactured beginning in 2014. According to EPA estimates, by 2030, the national benefits of Tier 4 engines will include:

  • Reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 1 million tons or 82%
  • Reduce particle matter (PM2.5) emissions by 90%
  • Reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 99.7%

The 14-year $31 billion high-speed rail project will ultimately span over 800 miles and link Los Angeles and San Francisco, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs, and preserve agri­cultural and protected lands. Construction on parts of the system are already under way along a 29-mile route from Madera to Fresno, with clean-diesel-powered equipment conducting demolition, drilling, and viaduct work; water, sewer, and storm drain relocation; and general excavation. Diesel engines power more than two-thirds of all construction equipment, and power all of the heavy cranes, crawlers, and excavators that will be the workhorses used to build the high-speed rail network.    

In November 2014, the High-Speed Rail Alliance and the EPA recognized clean-diesel technology as a key part of the Green Construction partnership.

“Tier 4 equipment will deliver not only clean air benefits to local communities, but also the potential for significant fuel savings for contractors that translates into greenhouse gas emission reductions,” Schaeffer said. “The Tier 4 rules are the latest milestone on the clean diesel pathway established by the Air Resources Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency.”

Schaeffer noted that manufacturers of clean diesel construction engines, machines and equipment included Caterpillar, Cummins, CNH Industrial, Deere, Isuzu, MTU America, Volvo, and Yanmar.

The Diesel Technology Forum is a nonprofit national organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel, and technology. Forum members are leaders in clean-diesel technology and represent the three key elements of the modern clean-diesel system: advanced engines, vehicles and equipment, and cleaner diesel fuel and emissions-control systems.

 

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