Southern Railway has begun to reduce its carbon footprint as well as cut down its consumption of fossil fuels by using bio-diesel in the mainline diesel locomotives, which run passenger and freight trains, with blending facilities set up at three locations in Erode and Tiruchy this year.
The zonal railways is currently using B-5, a five per cent bio-diesel blend, from three Railway Consumer Depots (RCD) in Erode diesel shed, Erode station and the Tiruchirapalli Golden Rocks workshop. The first batch of 427 kilo-litres (KL) has been received from a vendor and Southern Railway has identified three more locations in Palakkad, Kannur (both Kerala) and Mangalore junction (Karnataka) where the bio-fuel will be received. The next order for 1,500 KL of bio-diesel has already been placed with vendors, seven of whom have been identified by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the research arm of Indian Railways.
In what will come as a fillip to these operations, a bio-diesel plant at Tondiarpet is likely to be commissioned by Southern Railway in January next year. This facility will produce 35 KL of bio-diesel per day for use in locomotives.
Southern Railway has a holding of 350 diesel locos and consumes an average of 450 KL diesel per day. Currently, bio-diesel is at least Rs 3 cheaper than regular diesel. Using the five per cent bio-diesel blend across the zone would result in savings of Rs 12.5 lakh a day, a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows.
Explaining the modalities, a senior Railway official said that bio-diesel transported through trucks by vendors is received at the RCDs. This is known as B-100 or pure bio-diesel. Using specialised flow-metres, a blend consisting of 95 per cent regular diesel and 5 per cent bio-diesel known as B-5 is prepared, which is then used in all mainline locomotives, which arrive at these locations for re-fuelling and maintenance, the official stated.
Southern Railway is already using bio-diesel in small quantities, produced from the small plant in Perambur Loco Works, for shunting locos in Chennai and a DEMU in Tiruchy.
This is just the trial run and Southern Railway’s ultimate target is to use a 20 per cent bio-diesel blend in the near future, officials said.
“Apart from the substantial savings in the fuel bill, which might vary based on international fuel prices, using bio-diesel will impact the environment in a big way. It has zero sulphur and hence poisonous sulphur dioxide will not released into the atmosphere,” the railway official stated.
The blend does not require any change in the machinery and the engines worked smoothly as well, officials in the mechanical department said.
Currently, the facilities for receiving the bio-diesel have been completely commissioned at both locations in Erode, while the one at Tiruchy will be completed in a few days, officials said.