Operail GE C36-7 locomotive, source: Operail

Estonia develops its first LNG-powered locomotive

Operail GE C36-7 locomotive, source: Operail

Latvian engineering company DiGas will equip a diesel locomotive of Estonian rail freight carrier Operail with a gas turbine. The vehicle will be upgraded by Spring 2020. After that, it will be tested on the Estonian railway network. In late 2020, the LNG-powered locomotive is expected to be introduced into regular service.

The joint project of Operail and DiGas costs a quarter million euros and includes the retrofitting of GE C36-7 diesel locomotive produced by General Electric. To implement the project, DiGas will divide the 17,000-litre fuel tank of the locomotive into two parts. One section will be used for diesel fuel, while another one will be adapted for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). Also, the Latvian company will install the new LNG storage system including sensors to record and analyse the fuel consumption.

Costs and emissions

With the help of an LNG-powered locomotive, Operail intends too reduce the operational costs and emissions. The vehicle of this type usually consumes 30 per cent less fuel, emits 20 per cent less carbon dioxide and 70 per cent less sulphur dioxide. “We are constantly looking for solutions that would be friendlier towards the environment. The first LNG freight locomotive is an excellent example of how the use of new technologies not only makes existing processes more efficient but also helps to preserve the nature around us. Our cost calculations confirm that transporting one tonne of goods on railways for 100 kilometres consumes a quarter of the fuel that transporting it on roads would. The implementation of LNG locomotives will increase that gap further,” said Raul Toomsalu, CEO of Operail.


DiGas is based in Riga, Latvia, and focused on implementing dual-fuel solutions. Last year, the company started a similar project with Latvijas dzelzceļš, the national railway operator in Latvia. It is converting the Czech-made shunting locomotive of ChME3 (ČKD ČME3) type into a hybrid vehicle being able to run using both diesel fuel and LNG. The company has also secured funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to implement its solution. DiGas plans to equip four locomotives with a dual-fuel system.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

3 comments op “Estonia develops its first LNG-powered locomotive”

Robert (Wes) Lisek|24.08.21|11:33

We had a chance to see this loco in person at Operail Tapa Shops, in new LNG colors. The unit was having its wiring being done inside the cab when we were there this summer.

Robert (Wes) Lisek|24.08.21|11:46

Its going to be an interesting piece of equipment to see run on the rails. My hats off to the engineers and techs working on this unit. They had a few ideas that other locomotive manufacturers could learn from.

Robert (Wes) Lisek|24.08.21|11:47

My hats off to the engineers and techs working on this unit. I noticed few improvements on these locomotives that others could learn from.

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