Coalition for sustainable rail to convert world’s first modern steam engine powered with bio-coal

Imagine a fuel with the same energy, density and material handling properties of coal, without the associated carbon footprint, heavy metal or sulfur content. The University of Minnesota's Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), a leader in the efficient processing of cellulosic biomaterial into carbon neutral biocoal, has engineered such a fuel.  ©2012 Coalition for Sustainable RailAt the University of Minnesota, the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) is actively converting a 1937 locomotive, # 3463, into what will be the world’s first carbon-neutral high-speed locomotive. It will not be electric, running instead on steam generated by the burning of biofuel, or torrefied bio-coal.

The fuel will be produced by the University of Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI).

Due to the abundance of sustainable forest in Minnesota and the energy efficiency of the torrefaction process (to subject to intense heat), bio-coal can be produced at reasonable cost. Not as cheap as current domestic coal, price range is lower than the diesel fuel powering all diesel-electric fleet of engines.

Featuring a gas-producer combustion system, improved steam circuit, modernized boiler, low-maintenance running gear and steam-powered electric generator, CSR anticipates # 3463 will be able to pull a passenger train with electric-like performance for less than the cost of diesel-electric locomotives. In order to prove the viability of bio-coal and modern steam technology, CSR plans to test the locomotive at speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour. CSR has named this “Project 130.”

CSR is is working with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI). The locomotive being used was donated to CSR by the Great Overland Station Museum in Topeka, Kan. While it originally ran on coal, it will be adapted to burn bio-coal.

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