December 20, 2011

Westport drives shift in thinking at Science World

How can you make a carrot into fuel for a car? Visitors to Science World will soon have a chance to find out, thanks to a new partnership with Westport.

Westport CEO David Demers, Science
World CEO Bryan Tisdall, and Dr. Phillip Hill
with a Westport Engine
Westport is providing support for a new exhibit called “Transportation Story” at Science World. Visitors will get a chance to view rarely-displayed Westport technology, and get to meet our scientists and researchers during interactive programs. On Saturday, December 17, members of the Westport team were onsite to lead interactive experiments, and teach fun facts like how garden vegetables can become natural gas.

Investing in science education is important to Westport. As a leader in innovation and technology, we have a responsibility to foster curiosity and interest in science, particularly in Vancouver where we’re headquartered.

Two Westporters enjoying Science World's
Eureka Gallery exhibit on pulleys.
Canada, like the rest of the world, is facing a huge energy challenge. The next generation will undoubtedly feel its effects. By encouraging kids to take a greater interest in science and technology, we hope to help build a home-grown pool of new thinkers and innovators in alternative energy.

British Columbia is quickly gaining recognition for its growing technology sector, yet there’s a gap between the number of workers needed in the high-tech sector, and the number coming out of our universities. At Westport we hope that our team of engineers and scientists will show people that using science, one can make a meaningful contribution to society.

Programming and exhibits like the ones at Science World give people a chance to think about how our actions and choices affect the world, including our transportation. Through education about renewable energy sources like natural gas, we have an opportunity to demonstrate how contributing to and adopting new discoveries and innovations can lead to a cleaner future.

December 1, 2011

Westport is working on the railroads

Already recognized in the transportation industry for its success in natural gas engines for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles, Westport Innovations is making further inroads into high horsepower by teaming up with Progress Rail Services’ subsidiary, Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), a diesel-electric locomotive manufacturer, in its demonstration program with Canadian National Railway (CN) and Gaz Metro.

Westport and Progress Rail (EMD) staff

The project will demonstrate the effectiveness of Westport high-pressure direct injection (HPDI) technology for rail transportation using natural gas as fuel. EMD’s participation, announced today, is an important endorsement for Westport’s strategy and EMD’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment, whether through low-emission freight repowers and new diesel locomotives, or alternative fuel efficiency projects such as the demonstration program with Westport and CN. 

The aim is to develop a CN locomotive powered by an EMD engine equipped with a Westport HPDI fuel system pulling trains in Quebec and refuelled by Gaz Metro. 

So, why the sudden increase in attention from rail about shifting tracks to natural gas? Have you seen the announcement from Shell outlining its intention to engage with rail original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)? What is becoming clear from the goods movement industry are the competing forces between rail and trucking. i.e. if the trucking industry decides to shift their primary fuel to natural gas / liquefied natural gas (LNG) and thus helping reduce their operating cost—rail must follow. As a competing solution to trucking, even a small shift in the ‘balance of power’ from rail to trucking can be economically damaging.

Westport, happy to help either industry progress the use of natural gas engines, is working with three of the top four global engine manufacturers and seven of the top ten vehicle manufacturers. A locomotive can burn up to 400,000 gallons of fuel per year. If the locomotive industry is able is able to save $1.00 per diesel gallon equivalent or perhaps $1.50 per gallon, the economic implications are startling.

Long term success of natural gas mainline rail operations in North America will require a tender car coupled to the locomotive for refuelling. As part of the initiative, Westport will be developing the critical components for a tender car and testing that part of the system at Gaz Metro’s facility in Montreal.  

With this new project, Westport is building on its growing high horsepower capabilities. Earlier this year, an agreement with Caterpillar launched an evaluation of HPDI for their large engines which are used in mine trucks, boats and other industrial applications.

According to the United Nations Statistics Division, railroads around the world burn nine billion gallons of diesel fuel annually, largely in transporting freight. The development of natural gas fuelled locomotives will dramatically reduce the cost of transporting the world’s primary resources and manufactured goods because of the low cost of LNG compared with diesel fuel. HPDI rail engines burning natural gas also have the potential to reduce emissions considerably, an important goal as emissions regulations become more strict. 

The use of natural gas reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 27%. Converting a single locomotive to liquid natural gas fuel is the equivalent of converting 20 long-haul tractor-trailer trucks to LNG in its GHG reduction.

This project has been made possible through a $2.3 million funding commitment from the federal non-profit corporation Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), which will allow Westport to continue research and development of new green technology.