Union Pacific to spend $1B to upgrade 600 older locomotives

Jul 26, 2022, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:51 pm
In this photo provided by Wabtec, a completed modernized Union Pacific locomotive is prepped for de...

In this photo provided by Wabtec, a completed modernized Union Pacific locomotive is prepped for delivery at Wabtec's Fort Worth plant in Fort Worth, Texas, in October 2021. Union Pacific will spend more than $1 billion to upgrade 600 of its old diesel locomotives over the next three years and make them more efficient, but regulators still want it to do more to cut pollution from its engines. (Jay Sifler/Wabtec via AP)

(Jay Sifler/Wabtec via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Union Pacific will spend more than $1 billion to upgrade 600 of its old diesel locomotives over the next three years and make them more efficient, but regulators still want it to do more to cut pollution from its engines.

The move will accelerate the pace of upgrades UP already planned to make and help the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad cut roughly 210,000 tons of carbon emissions each year — the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road. The railroad will go from modernizing 120 locomotives this year to modernizing 200 a year in each of the next three years.

“It’s really taking the older locomotive fleet and applying the latest and greatest to get one of the most fuel efficient locomotives we can have,” said Grace Olsen, who oversees locomotive engineering for Union Pacific.

The railroad estimates that this program will improve the fuel efficiency of these long-haul locomotives by up to 18% and help them produce peak power more reliably. To accomplish that, locomotive manufacturer Wabtec will strip down the locomotives, and spend eight weeks overhauling their engines and installing new software and electronic controls.

The improved power will let Union Pacific pull the same amount of freight with fewer locomotives. That, combined with the railroad’s efforts to significantly boost the length of its trains, will allow Union Pacific to keep more of its fleet of 7,400 locomotives in storage. UP has already parked hundreds of locomotives as part of the operational changes it has made over the past several years.

Wabtec says this UP project is the biggest single investment in modernizing locomotives in railroad history although other major freight railroads are making similar improvements to their fleets. Earlier this year, Norfolk Southern announced plants to modernize 330 of its 3,200 locomotives over the next three years to give it more than 950 modernized locomotives by the end of 2025. UP will have 1,033 upgraded locomotives after its project.

“It comes down to really taking an asset that’s there and really infusing it with technology so that for the next 20 years of its life, it’s optimized,” said Gina Trombley, Wabtec’s Chief Commercial Officer.

UP says these locomotive upgrades are an important part of its plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2030, compared with 2018 levels, along with increasing the amount of biodiesel and other renewable fuels it uses to 20% of its fuel consumption. The railroad has also announced plans to buy 20 battery-powered locomotives to test out in its railyards beginning next year, but UP officials say that technology won’t be ready for widespread use for at least several more years.

UP and the other major freight railroads like to tout the fact that they are more efficient than trucks because each train can haul the amount of freight that it would take hundreds of trucks to deliver. The EPA estimates that railroads account for about 2% of the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation while hauling 40% of the raw materials, finished products and imported goods that businesses rely on. Locomotives account for nearly all of railroads’ emissions.

Regulators with the California Air Resources Board who have led the nation with their efforts to regulate locomotive pollution and lobbied the federal Environmental Protection Agency to tighten its locomotive standards said the reduction in carbon emissions is welcome, but they would like to see Union Pacific focus more on reducing its particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions, which are associated with increased cancer risks and other health problems — particularly around railyards.

Diesel exhaust contains tiny particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, carrying a variety of toxins that have been linked to cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and other ailments.

“What we’re talking about today is more GHG (greenhouse gas) focused, which we look at as important, but it’s a secondary impact when we’re talking about reducing freight emissions at ports and railyards and their associated health impacts for communities,” said Cari Anderson, who oversees locomotive regulations at the California agency.

Regulators would rather see Union Pacific invest in new locomotives that can meet today’s more stringent environmental regulations instead of overhauling locomotives that were purchased roughly 30 years ago and continuing to use them for years more.

Anderson said California wants freight railroads to upgrade their entire fleets to locomotives that can meet the EPA’s tough Tier 4 standard because that is associated with a 90% reduction in cancer risk or use locomotives with no emissions like the battery-powered ones that UP is testing. Currently, only about 5% of Union Pacific’s locomotives used in the state meet the Tier 4 standard.

Union Pacific said the best these locomotives purchased in the 1990s can do is meet the EPA’s lower Tier 2 standard. The railroad said the improvements being made to these locomotives should help reduce some of the particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions, but it didn’t have an estimate of how much those will improve.

Union Pacific is one of the nation’s largest railroads with a network of 32,400 miles (52,000 kilometers) of track in 23 Western states.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Police: Suspect in slayings of 4 in Ohio arrested in Kansas

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — A suspect wanted in Ohio in the shooting deaths of four people, including a teenage girl, has been arrested in Kansas, authorities said. Police in Montgomery County’s Butler Township said late Saturday night that 39-year-old Stephen Marlow was taken into custody by local police in Lawrence, Kansas. Chief John Porter said […]
7 hours ago
Indian policemen detain a Kashmiri Shiite Muslim for participating in a religious procession during...
Associated Press

Police break up Muslim gathering in Kashmir, dozens detained

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Police on Sunday detained dozens of people in Indian-controlled Kashmir as they dispersed Shiite Muslims who attempted to participate in processions marking the Muslim month of Muharram. Scores of Muslims defied severe security restrictions in parts of the main city of Srinagar and took to streets chanting religious slogans. The restrictions […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Cars and trucks for export are parked at a port in Yantai in eastern China's Shandong Provin...
Associated Press

China July exports rise, with trade surplus at record-high

BEIJING (AP) — China’s export growth continued to rise in July, sending trade surplus to a record high, according to government data. China’s exports grew 18% to $333 billion compared to the same period last year, and were up from 17.9% in June, according to data from China’s customs. Imports, however, remained soft, growing 2.3% […]
7 hours ago
Valeri Langston is seen at a rally for Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes at...
Associated Press

Dems rally around abortion. Are they reaching Black voters?

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Facing critical races for governor and U.S. Senate, Democratic hopefuls in Wisconsin are hoping that their support for abortion rights in the face of a Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade can overcome the headwinds of a midterm election long expected to favor Republicans. But there’s one key group their […]
7 hours ago
Shoppers shop at a grocery store in Glenview, Ill., Monday, July 4, 2022.  U.S. demand for grocery ...
Associated Press

Demand for grocery delivery cools as food costs rise

Karen Raschke, a retired attorney in New York, started getting her groceries delivered early in the pandemic. Each delivery cost $30 in fees and tips, but it was worth it to avoid the store. Then earlier this spring, Raschke learned her rent was increasing by $617 per month. Delivery was one of the first things […]
7 hours ago
Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz, checks into evidence the weapon used in the MSD shooting during...
Associated Press

Parkland shooter’s prosecutor had bloody facts on his side

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The prosecutor seeking to sentence Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz to death let the facts speak for themselves as he presented his case: terrifying witness accounts; heartrending statements from parents and spouses; chilling surveillance videos; gruesome autopsy and crime scene photos; and, as a capstone, Thursday’s jury walk-through of the […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Union Pacific to spend $1B to upgrade 600 older locomotives