Eastman Moves All Locomotives to Biodiesel

In what is a first in Tennessee and likely in the southeastern U.S., Eastman Chemical Company is moving all of its onsite locomotives to B20. This is not a pilot program, nor a testing phase. The company plans to operate the locomotives on a biodiesel blend from here on out.

Through the leadership of Eastman’s Staff Engineer Darren Curtis in the transportation department, this transition is so far a smooth one. “We moved the rail system to B10 in early July and expect to be on B20 by the end of August. We don’t anticipate any problems based on three things: our previous experience with biodiesel blends, our experience thus far with B10 in the locomotives, and Genesee & Wyoming’s testing of biodiesel,” Curtis said .

Rail Link, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI), owns the locomotives and performs in-plant switching at Eastman's Kingsport facility. However, Eastman provides the fueling for the locomotives. Curtis noted, “Every company out there with diesels has to make its own decision about choosing to use biodiesel. For us, looking at the smaller and the bigger picture, it was worth it. But that was made easier for us with regard to the locomotives because GWI had already done extensive testing on their locomotives with biodiesel and determined that B20 was an acceptable blend to use. As a result, GWI proposed making the switch. They were more than pleased when we informed them that we would be starting with a B10 blend and eventually moving to B20. GWI and Rail Link are very proactive when it comes to doing what's right for the environment and the American economy.”

Five locomotives are used to move a substantial amount of product and material around the plant in Kingsport, thus the rail system is a critical part of Eastman's operations. At any one point in time, there are approximately 1,000 rail cars on site at Eastman's Kingsport facility. Given the fact that this is a 24/7 railroad operation, there are an average of 12,000 rail cars moved within the plant each month.

It is estimated that consistent use of B20 (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent petroleum diesel) will amount to approximately 225,000 gallons of B20 consumed each year. Added to the other equipment that uses biodiesel at Eastman's facility, this will likely put the Kingsport facility's annual consumption of B20 over the 600,000 gallon mark. (The remainder of the diesel equipment at Eastman, roughly 350 total pieces 200 heavy-duty vehicles and another 150 pieces of equipment have been running anywhere between B10 and B30 since March 2005.) This move completes the transition of moving all of Eastman's diesel equipment to a biodiesel blend.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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