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Transitioning NRC’s Locomotives, Shift From Diesel To LNG-CNG

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The Technical Committee, Federal Ministry of Transport and Nigeria Railway Corporation engaged in retrofitting NRC’s diesel locomotives to accommodate the use of LNG-CNG.

The Minister of Transportation, Sen. Said Alkali has catalyzed an immediate technical evaluation of the proposal to transition to LNG-CNG, a more cost-effective and readily available energy source within the country.

This move is part of efforts to seek sustainable energy solutions for the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC)’s locomotives, particularly in light of the escalating costs associated with diesel.

Alkali reaffirmed the commitment of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration to furnish Nigerians with efficient, affordable and sustainable transportation, particularly given the recent cessation of fuel subsidies. The alternative of LNG-CNG was tabled for joint deliberation by the transport ministry and NRC, courtesy of the De-Sadel Consortium, on March 12, 2024, at the ministry’s headquarters.

Expressing optimism that the technical committee’s assessment could expedite the transition from diesel to gas, Alkali issued a directive for the immediate establishment of a seven-member technical committee tasked with delivering comprehensive outcomes within 7 to 14 days, aimed at facilitating the successful implementation of a dual-fuel locomotive retrofit. This endeavor holds the promise of fostering more efficient, effective and potentially cheaper rail services for Nigerians, thereby augmenting government revenue derived from railway operations.

“It is the aspiration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to establish an efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation network for the populace of this great nation and I firmly believe this endeavor will significantly reduce transportation costs,” Alkali asserted.

He deemed reasonable the proposal put forth by the De-Sadel Company to retrofit their existing LNG-CNG kits onto NRC’s locomotives at no cost to the government, with provisions for the company to replace any locomotive damaged during the process.

Alkali, displaying willingness to immediately embark on retrofitting an NRC locomotive through the De-Sadel Consortium, tasked the permanent secretary, Olufemi Oloruntola with assembling a collaborative team comprising mechanical engineers from the ministry, NRC and De-Sadel Consortium to commence preparations for a test run. He advocated for a progressive transition from diesel-gas usage, initially at a 50-50 ratio, eventually transitioning to 30-70 and ultimately to 0-100.

“A committee will be promptly constituted following this interactive session, and they are to commence deliberations at the ministry’s headquarters. Their objective will be to advise and potentially have a gas-powered locomotive prepared for a test run within the shortest possible timeframe,” directed the minister.

The promptly inaugurated technical committee swiftly undertook the task of evaluations, culminating in a verdict affirming the feasibility of retrofitting following a visit to NRC’s workshop at Idu, Abuja, to inspect the locomotive models in use. This visit took place on the March 13, 2024.

In an earlier presentation outlining their proposal, the managing director of De-Sadel Consortium, Sam Uko, elucidated that the company specialises in retrofitting diesel engines to LNG-CNG models. Given the context of the NRC’s train services, Uko emphasised the aptness of implementing this new technology on its trains, positing that such adoption would curtail operational costs and prolong the engines’ lifespan, thereby freeing up funds for other sectors.

The managing director disclosed that the company has already installed 50 gas-powered locomotives, poised for deployment at the request of the ministry/NRC for test running. Uko further guaranteed that in addition to supplying locomotives, the company boasts a cadre of tested and certified technical personnel available to execute the retrofitting of NRC’s diesel locomotives into gas-fueled variants, alongside training NRC’s engineers. He reassured that the company would provide the corporation with a five-year gas supply, alleviating concerns regarding gas scarcity for locomotive operations.

Uko clarified that the retrofitting strategy for dual-fuel locomotives should not be construed as engine conversion or modification.

In addition to the retrofitting proposal, De-Sadel Consortium put forth a plan to implement security installations along rail corridors nationwide. This system would entail real-time monitoring of train wagons and rail lines to deter vandalism and attacks. Uko asserted that such technology would significantly enhance rail service security, facilitating 24/7 train operations and subsequently boosting NRC’s turnover from gas usage while enhancing overall security measures.

The transition from diesel to LNG-CNG represents a pivotal step towards realising sustainable and cost-effective rail transport in Nigeria, underscored by collaborative efforts between the government, NRC, and private entities like the De-Sadel Consortium.

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