CSR and NRRI Forge Ahead with Biofuel Research, Matching Grant Announced

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail and its research collaborators at the Natural Resources Research Institute are forging ahead with their biofuel initiatives, including pursuit of a wood-based substitute for use in coal-fired steam locomotives. Following a retooling of its large torrefaction reactor, NRRI recently hosted an event announcing the commissioning of the reactor.

NRRI initially began commissioning the reactor in Fall 2016, providing CSR some of the very first torrefied biomass made in the machine. Following those initial trials, the torrefaction reactor was taken out of service for modification and additional testing. One year later, the reactor and a new densification machine are again ready to generate fuels for testing.

 The densified fuel made for CSR that was used in the second Zoo trials last fall were quite friable. NRRI has since devised a more advanced way to densify the material.

The densified fuel made for CSR that was used in the second Zoo trials last fall were quite friable. NRRI has since devised a more advanced way to densify the material.

 The new densification unit creates very uniform, half-pill-shaped pellets that burn very much like coal. When burning, this fuel reacts much the same way as coal.

The new densification unit creates very uniform, half-pill-shaped pellets that burn very much like coal. When burning, this fuel reacts much the same way as coal.

A key portion of the retooling has been the installation of a more advanced densification unit that is able to create pellets with a uniform, and highly compressed profile. This will allow the fuel to burn more like coal and minimize spark emissions, especially when used in a railroad environment.

To test this theory, CSR is heading back to the Milwaukee County Zoo late this Fall to undertake another round of fuel experiments. This testing will serve to verify the viability of this new fuel in anticipation of standard gauge tests at the Everett Railroad in the New Year.

In support trials in Milwaukee and at the Everett Railroad, an anonymous rail industry sponsor has offered a matching grant to CSR. They have offered to match every dollar CSR raises (up-to $10,000) between now and December 15, 2017, dollar-for-dollar.

This is a great opportunity to support CSR's research and help develop a technology to keep historic steam locomotives on the rails for years to come. Every bit helps - $50 buys new thermocouples, $200 buys sensor wiring, and $2,000 pays to ship seven tons of fuel from Minnesota to Pennsylvania.