SNCF hits 3.5 million kilometres travelled on biodiesel

The B100 plant-based biodiesel is made from locally grown rapeseed. 2021, SNCF

Trains on the Paris-Granville line in Normandy have recently hit a milestone of 3,5 million kilometres covered on B100, a biofuel entirely made from French rapeseed, instead of running on diesel. This makes the tests that SNCF has been running in the area a success, the operator recently announced.

Over the past 18 months, the 15 Regiolis trains in service on the Paris-Granville line have covered 3.5 million kilometres fueled with B100 since April 2021. This first in France has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 per cent, avoiding the emission of 11,000 tonnes of CO2, according to SNCF. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of about 1,200 French nationals. Indeed, the use of diesel is behind 61 per cent of the CO2 emissions by SNCF regional trains. The B100 also reduces nitrogen oxide and particle emissions by up to 50 per cent on the most modern engines.

The B100 also has an advantage in not requiring modification to the engines of trains running on diesel. The only difference, when it comes to refuelling, is that the tanks are filled with B100 and not diesel. Thus, the work of the SNCF warehouse staff, in charge of refuelling the Régiolis TERs when they return to the depot, remains identical. The B100 is transported from the Grande-Couronne site in Normandy in vehicles that run on Oleo100, stored in a dedicated tank in Granville.

A promising start

French law authorised the use of B100 by rail in 2018. In 2019, after promising initial trials, the SNCF and the Normandy region green-lit the project, financed by the Normandy region. The first in-service trials on the Paris-Granville line started in April 2021 and lasted for three months. The Normandy Regional Council’s plenary assembly then approved biofuel’s continued use on 5 July 2022. The use of B100 is therefore being continued on the Normandy line, and discussions are ongoing to extend its use to other lines, as “the results have proved conclusive,” according to SNCF Voyageurs.


This “PlaneTER” project aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The development of the use of B100 by the SNCF is part of its plan to reduce CO2 emissions from regional trains. Indeed, diesel still accounts for 26 per cent of the energy consumed by SNCF TER trains. This approach to reducing environmental impact, known as “PlaneTER”, also involves the development of new innovative trains, such as hybrid, hydrogen and battery-powered trains, to get away from diesel.

Rapeseed is grown in France on more than 15,000 square kilometres, which amounts to five per cent of the national agricultural surface area. This plant, rich in oil and protein, is used for the production of animal feed, vegetable oil and biofuels. SAIPOL, a subsidiary of the Avril group, produces B100 under the brand name Oleo 100, made from French rapeseed, which is also fully processed in France. In the Normandy region, the Saipol plant in Grand-Couronne processes nearly one million tonnes of rapeseed and other oilseeds per year.

Want to hear more about shifting from diesel to sustainable rolling stock? Join the Rail Infra Forum on March 14-15 in Rotterdam or online, which makes the link between rolling stock such as hydrogen and battery rolling stock and using biofuel and the necessary infrastructure. Find the programme and speaker overview on the website.

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Author: Emma Dailey

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