Biodiesel is readily available and well understood. This manufactured, renewable hydrocarbon is made from any type of trans-fatty acid – i.e. sunflower oil, soy oil or even used fryer oil. Biodiesel is commonly misrepresented as used fryer oil, but is a VERY different fuel. Biodiesel is a direct, drop-in replacement for regular diesel, and rarely requires any modifications to the engine. Biodiesel has a slightly lower BTU ratio than petroleum Diesel. However, Biodiesel carries its own oxygen atoms within the molecule, so the resulting power output is commensurate with Diesel. 

The sustain the Train group has been in contact with several biodiesel suppliers around the Country, and they have abundant fuel available at good prices.

Energy Density17,700 btu/lb
CO2 compared to coal70%
NOx compared to Coal60%
SOx compared to Coal5%
Heavy Metals compared to Coal0%
Fuel Cost increase (compared to coal)300%
  • Locally Available
  • Proven, shovel-ready technology

Here's the scoop

Biodiesel is a real possibility for the Durango Train. However, there are some serious challenges that would need to be dealt with.

The big advantages of Biodiesel:

  • It’s a very clean hydrocarbon – CO2 and H2O are the only major by-products. Very little smoke, no toxins, no heavy metals, some Sox and NoX, but most importantly – no embers coming from the smoke stack to cause another fire like the 416 fire, and no nightly smog to pollute our south side neighborhoods where some of our most vulnerable citizens live.
  • Biodiesel is cheaper than diesel – the Sustain the Train group has been in touch with several domestic biodiesel suppliers, and the delivered cost of biodiesel is actually less than regular diesel.
  • Biodiesel would have local benefits – Once our local area has established a steady supply and infrastructure for biodiesel, other fleets in the area could convert to biodiesel, which would be better financially, and for the environment.
  • Biodiesel is a very energy-dense hydrocarbon – At 17,000-18,000 BTUs per pound, biodiesel has 50% more energy per pound than coal.
  • Biodiesel is carbon-neutral – because biodiesel is made from plants which absorb CO2 while they’re growing, biodiesel is carbon-neutral, meaning biodiesel doesn’t add any new CO2 to the atmosphere when burnt as a fuel.
  • Biodiesel is a very well understood hydrocarbon – biodiesel was actually created and used before petroleum diesel. The first diesel engines were actually designed to run on biodiesel, not petro-diesel. Additionally, because it’s a drop-in replacement for regular petro-diesel, biodiesel has been studies, regulated, monitored and battle tested.
  • Biodiesel is a supported hydrocarbon – there’s a company called NRG in that has the engineering expertise, experience and interest to help DSNGRR. The great folks at Sustainable Rails have had several conversations with various members of our community about our Train, and about the current crises the Train faces to move away from coal and towards a cleaner future. Additionally, local engineers and mechanics have committed to helping the Train in its transition.

However, CNG is not without its challenges:

  • While CNG itself is an incredibly cheap source of fuel, the infrastructure to make that fuel available for the Train is not. The carbon-fiber tanks alone cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Local investors have indicated a willingness to invest in this infrastructure with the train, and State and Federal grants might be available to help with the R&D and infrastructure. However, the up front costs will be the biggest obstacle to adopting CNG as the alternative fuel for the DSNGRR.
  • The engineering and mechanical modifications to a steam engine to burn CNG are ‘non-trivial’. While the engineering is understood, and the parts are readily available, the implementation would be ‘custom’ in every sense of the word. Each engine will be unique, time consuming and expensive.

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