Union Pacific will spend $1B to upgrade 600 aging engines.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Union Pacific will spend more than $1 billion over the next three years to upgrade 600 of its aging diesel engines and make them more efficient, but regulators still want them to reduce pollution from their engines. Do more to reduce

The move will accelerate the pace of upgrades already planned to help the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad reduce its carbon emissions by about 210,000 tons per year — that’s 45,000 cars off the road. is equal to taking off from The railroad will go from modernizing 120 locomotives this year to 200 every year over the next three years.

“It’s taking a really old locomotive fleet and using the latest and greatest to get one of the most fuel-efficient locomotives we have,” said Grace Olson, who oversees locomotive engineering for Union Pacific. doing.”

The railroad estimates the program will improve the fuel efficiency of these long-haul locomotives by 18 percent and help them generate peak power more reliably. To accomplish this, the locomotive manufacturer Wabtec will strip the engines, and spend eight weeks overhauling its engines and installing new software and electronic controls.

Improved power would allow the Union Pacific to pull the same amount of freight with fewer engines. This, combined with the railroad’s efforts to significantly increase the length of its trains, will allow Union Pacific to store more of its fleet of 7,400 locomotives. UP has already parked hundreds of locomotives as part of operational changes made over the years.

Wabtec says the UP project is the largest single investment in locomotive modernization in the railroad’s history, although other major freight railroads are making similar improvements to their fleets. Earlier this year, Norfolk Southern announced plans to modernize 330 of its 3,200 locomotives over the next three years to give it more than 950 modern locomotives by the end of 2025. UP will have 1,033 upgraded locomotives after this project.

“It really comes down to taking the asset that’s there and infusing it with technology to optimize it for the next 20 years of its life,” said Gina Trombley, Wabtec’s chief commercial officer.

UP says these locomotive upgrades are an important part of it. Plan By 2030, its greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by 26 percent, compared to 2018 levels, with an increase in the amount of biodiesel and other renewable fuels that would have used up to 20 percent of its fuel consumption. Is. The Railways has also announced plans to purchase 20 Battery powered engines to be tested at its rail yards beginning next year, but UP officials say the technology won’t be ready for widespread use for at least several more years.

UP and other major freight railroads like to tout the fact that they are more efficient than trucks because each train can carry the same amount of freight that it would take hundreds of trucks to deliver. The EPA estimates that railroads account for about 2% of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation while transporting 40% of the raw materials, finished products, and imports that businesses depend on. Locomotives account for almost all. Railway emissions.

Regulators at the California Air Resources Board, which has led the nation with its efforts to control locomotive pollution and lobbied the federal Environmental Protection Agency to tighten its locomotive standards, said the reduction in carbon emissions is encouraging. Coming up, but he’d like to focus more on Union Pacific. On reducing its emissions of particulate matter and nitrous oxide, which have been linked to increased cancer risks and other health problems — especially around rail yards.

Diesel exhaust contains tiny particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, carrying a variety of toxins that have been linked to cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and other ailments.

“What we’re talking about today is more GHG (greenhouse gas) focus, which we think is important, but it’s a secondary effect when we try to reduce freight emissions at ports and rail yards. And talking about the health impacts associated with them for communities,” said Carrie Anderson, who oversees locomotive regulations at the California agency.

Regulators would rather Union Pacific invest in new engines that can meet today’s more stringent environmental regulations and continue to use them for many more years, rather than overhauling engines bought nearly 30 years ago. .

Anderson said California wants freight railroads to upgrade their entire fleet to engines that meet the EPA’s strict Tier 4 standards, which have been linked to a 90 percent reduction in the risk of cancer or the use of such engines. Do non-emissions like UP is testing battery powered engines. . Currently, only 5% of Union Pacific’s locomotives in use in the state meet Tier 4 standards.

Union Pacific said the best these engines, purchased in the 1990s, can do is meet the EPA’s lower Tier 2 standards. The railroad said improvements being made to the engines will help reduce particulate and nitrous oxide emissions, but it did not estimate how much the improvements would be.

Union Pacific is one of the nation’s largest railroads with a network of 32,400 miles (52,000 km) of track in 23 western states.