Locomotive Fuel Conservation Programme

KiwiRail moves 18 million tonnes of freight annually. Its rail freight service uses about 50 million litres of diesel a year and its fuel bill is its second-biggest operational cost to the company behind labour.

The logistics company launched a fuel-saving initiative to reduce consumption by 10 per cent amongst its locomotives. The conservation programme focuses on operational procedures, staff behaviour and new technology.

KiwiRail has attempted fuel conservation in the past, but the reliance on individual behaviour has made it difficult to sustain improvements long-term. The freight business runs 340,000 trains a year, driven by 355 engineers.

The company’s first action was to clearly specify locomotive allocations for trains. This was to match locomotive horsepower to a task, and eliminate waste through unnecessary power running.

For example, a train may run with multiple locomotives for its journey, but only carry load on one leg. In that case, one locomotive would be sufficient to power the un-loaded legs.

The company also deployed a Driver Advice System (DAS) in its diesel locomotives. The system uses basic principles of physics to develop a real-time driving scenario for routes, taking into account factors such as locomotive power, train weight and length, terrain and timetable.

If the driver follows the DAS scenario as closely as practical, fuel savings would range between 5 and 10 per cent annually. Additionally, the DAS profile is also compared against actual performance in order to identify the cause of the difference and develop future solutions.

All of KiwiRail’s locomotive engineers have been trained on the DAS system. This is complicated by the fact that the company runs four different types of locomotives and that most engineers have been driving a certain way for a long time.

The company sought to involve rail unions and representatives to gain support for the technology, and encourage changes to engineers’ driving style.

KiwiRail believes that changing the driving style will also reduce locomotive maintenance requirements and track wear-and-tear. This would ultimately reduce maintenance costs for the company.

KiwiRail employed a fuel saving coordinator to monitor and measure the DAS going forward. This is to keep accountability within the freight arm and to maintain focus on the energy conservation target. The coordinator reports regularly on the use of DAS and compliance with it.

The fuel conservation programme achieved a 6 per cent fuel saving in the first year of partial operation, equating to 3.24 million litres of diesel and an 8,812 tonne reduction in emissions. Full implementation, due to be completed during 2016, is expected to deliver close to the 10 per cent target.

The Large Energy User Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by EECA Business