Lineas presents first locomotive running on used cooking oil

At North Sea Port Gent, railway operator Lineas presented its new FAME locomotive, which runs on used cooking oil. The FAME locomotive resembles a classic diesel variant but emits 85% less CO2 on unelectrified tracks. FAME stands for Fatty Acid Methyl Ester, and although waste-based FAME is already used in marine engines and simple combustion plants, it has never been used for locomotives.

Lineas, the largest private rail operator in Europe, believes in the potential of used cooking oil as a sustainable fuel for part of its fleet, which consists of some 250 locomotives. “We have 150 diesel trains running in Europe,” says Lineas’ COO Kurt Coffyn. “Our ambition is to convert them all.”

Engine modifications, infrastructure, and oil purchases are not necessarily cheaper than conventional diesel. However, in the long run, the European transport sector will have to pay emissions charges if it does not carry out its activities cleanly.

“In the start-up phase, it is still too expensive,” says Ghent Port CEO Daan Schalck. “But from ’26 or ’27, you will see that turnaround because CO2 will become so expensive that it is better to take the slightly more expensive, sustainable product than the other cheaper product.

Cargill’s biodiesel facility in Ghent /Cargill

Lack of refueling infrastructure

Trains are generally a very environmentally friendly means of transport, given that they run on electricity, except in places where no high-voltage power lines have been drawn, such as in some areas of Flemish ports.

Then FAME can make polluting diesel engines more sustainable, although a lack of refueling infrastructure to supply biofuels hinders their immediate rollout.

Lineas aims to reduce its ‘scope 1′ emissions, the direct emissions it generates, by 42% by 2030, including biofuel. For example, FAME’s waste product is much more sustainable than rapeseed-based biofuel.

In addition, North Sea Port also wants to increase the share of freight transport by rail from 10 to 15%.

Lineas is currently in the final testing phase and is expected to run until June. The tests, set up together with the agro-industrial group Cargill, which has been located in the port of Ghent since 2022 with its first-ever waste-based biodiesel production plant, are essential to thoroughly testing the locomotives’ performance and reliability.

Drop in rail freight

In October, it was reported that Lineas was in dire financial shape and that bankruptcy was looming for the company without an additional injection of at least 50 million euros.

In February, the investment fund Argos Wityu and the Federal Holding and Investment Company (FPIM/SFPI) announced that they would recapitalize the railway company. They wanted to inject 30 million euros of fresh capital and convert another 30 million euros of debt into capital.

Figures from Belgian rail network operator Infrabel showed that rail freight volumes in Belgium dropped 15% to 53,5 million tons, the lowest level in seven years. Mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) wants to double them by 2030.


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