Trains may soon run on Bio-diesel
Partha Ghosh & Abhilasha in New Delhi
Business Standard, July 15, 2003
has been successfully tested on a Shatabdi Express
In a couple of years you could be travelling
in a train that runs on derivatives of non-edible vegetable
oils. The railways have successfully tested bio-fuel on a Shatabdi
Express between New Delhi and Amritsar, while stationary locomotives
are gearing up to run on the eco-friendly fuel.
Executive Director (mechanical engineering)
of Indian Railways Shakeel Ahmed says the railways have already
tested 5 per cent to 20 per cent blends of bio-diesel fuel on
engine test beds at the Research Design and Standards Organisation,
Though fuel efficiency for the blends is 1 per
cent lower than for high-speed diesel, improved lubrication
more than compensates for the deficiency. Recently, a Shatabdi
was successfully run from Delhi to Amritsar and back on a 5
per cent bio-diesel blend.
Bio-diesel is derived from natural oils, edible
as well as non-edible, which are made of triglycerides. Triglycerides
when reacted chemically with alcohol in the presence of a simple
catalyst result in fatty acid esters, which are very similar
to petroleum-derived diesel. These esters, called bio-diesel,
process higher “cetane”, a measure of willingness
of fuel to ignite when compressed.
“Bio-diesel and its blends have been tested
worldwide and its use has been approved by most reputed engine
manufacturers. The biggest advantage of using bio-diesel is
that no engine modification is required.
The existing diesel engine can run on bio-diesel.
If we pledge to use 10 per cent bio-diesel countrywide, about
4-5 million tonnes of the fuel will be required, which is not
difficult to achieve,” says an official of Indian Oil
Corporation, which developed the fuel for the railways.
The official adds that though worldwide bio-diesel
is derived from soyabean oil, IOC has developed a process to
produce it from non-edible oils like Jatropha and Karanjia because
India does not produce surplus edible vegetable oils.
The railways have signed a memorandum of understanding
with the oil major, as per which 500 hectares of railway land
will be leased to IOC at a token fee of Re 1 per year.
IOC will then lease out the land for cultivation
of Jatropha and will be responsible for seed collection, trans-esterification
and blending. Land in Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jaipur divisions
will be allocated for this purpose. The bio-fuel will be supplied
to the railways at mutually agreed prices. The MoU is for 15
years, which can be extended by mutual consent.
The oil major has already received expressions
of interest from several parties to carry out the plantation.
Since Jatropha trees take two years to bear fruit, we are still
some moons away from bio-fuel becoming a reality, Ahmed says.
But the railways will keep testing its trains on the fuel from
time to time.
from the pilot project with Indian Oil, the railways have launched
a massive drive to undertake the plantation of Jatropha tree
on its surplus land. This will have help to reduce encroachments
on railway land.