Use of B20 to power Amtrak's daily Heartland Flyer train results in no more wear on locomotive than traditional diesel fuels, no reduction in performance or reliability, company says

CHICAGO , October 31, 2011 (press release) – No ill effects on locomotive used in Oklahoma and Texas

Amtrak found the use of a renewable biodiesel fuel blend to power the daily Amtrak Heartland Flyer train resulted in no more wear on the locomotive than traditional diesel fuels and no reduction in performance or reliability.

The research paper, presented last week at a railroad environmental conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found the use of a biodiesel blend known as B20 (20% pure biofuel and 80% diesel) also operated below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits for this class of locomotive.

“The trial design included one year of testing, evaluating the engine and gasket wear, determining the quality of air emissions and regularly monitoring the quality of the biodiesel fuel,” said Roy Deitchman, Amtrak Vice President, Environmental, Health and Safety. “The results of the trial indicate the in-service locomotive was very reliable with the B20 blend, engine wear was limited, air emissions were below EPA limits for this generation of passenger locomotive and the biofuel supply met industry standards.”

The General Electric P32-8 locomotive carried an Amtrak decal indicating the use of B20 fuel and other special markings to make certain only the biodiesel fuel was used in 3,200- horsepower, 12-cylinder engine built in 1991 and compliant with EPA’s “Tier 0” standard.

Amtrak received a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to carry out the research project in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (Okla. DOT) on the daily train operated by Amtrak with state support from both Oklahoma and Texas.

The biodiesel blend was provided by a Texas-based vendor and the trial received support on fuel and engine component evaluation from Chevron Oronite. The engine manufacturer provided input on warranty matters and some of the testing was carried out at the General Electric facility in Erie, Penn.

The trial was included in TIME magazine’s list of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010” with a whimsical cartoon pointing out the biodiesel blend included beef byproduct. Operating daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, the Heartland Flyer was the first on the list of transportation inventions and only one of TIME’s transportation innovations to be publically available.
“Routine use of biodiesel fuel at Amtrak is contingent on many factors, including cost versus traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and availability,” Deitchman said. “But it is clear no significant engine performance issues found during the trial and we were able to replace nearly 35,000 gallons of diesel with a renewable fuel that was locally produced.”

About the Heartland Flyer

The Amtrak Heartland Flyer was inaugurated June 14, 1999, with federal funds received by Okla. DOT that were designed to initiate service in areas without Amtrak trains. Texas joined the partnership with Oklahoma and Amtrak in 2006. Ridership in the 12 months ending September 30 was 84,039, up nearly three percent from the previous year.

Amtrak operates the Heartland Flyer under state-funded contracts to provide service, with regularly scheduled stops in Oklahoma City, Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley and Ardmore, Oklahoma and in Gainesville and Fort Worth, Texas. For additional information, visit

About Amtrak®:

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