Technical Reports

The Energy and Environmental Impact of Railroad Electrification

  • 01
  • Sep
  • 1977
AUTHOR: Carl G. Swanson
OFFICE: RPD
REPORT NUMBER: MTR-7594
SUBJECT: Environmental Protection
KEYWORDS: Railroad Electrification, Envrionmental Impact, Energy
ABSTRACT: This report describes the potential effects of railroad electrification for high traffic density lines in the United States. Two high traffic density groupings of routes are identified as candidates for electrification. The primary group consists of eleven highly utilized routes with traffic density of at least 40 million gross ton-miles per route mile per year. This grouping makes up 5% of the nation's total route mileage and carries about one-fourth of the total freight traffic. Sixty-six other high density routes are also identified as possible electrification candidates. A network of all candidates would total just under 40,000 miles, or 20% of the U.S. total, and carry two-thirds of the total freight traffic. Energy consumption for the traffic on these candidate routes is estimated for the time frame of 1975 to 1990 in terms of current diesel fuel usage and the alternative electricity requirements. Effects of electricity generation and related changes in fuel usage are estimated for the electrification changeover. Based on 1975 railway traffic levels and utility fuel mixes, high level electrification would shift annual energy consumption from 2.39 billion gallons of diesel fuel to 35,540 gigawatt-hours of electricity primarily generated from 8.46 million tons of coal, 282 million gallons of fuel oil, and 63.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Environmental effects of railroad electrification are described and found to be quite minor when compared to current diesel power operations.

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