World's first biogas train fueled by cows

The world's first train to run on biogas, a renewable energy source made up of organic waste from cows, has been inaugurated in Sweden and can run for 600 kilometers at a maximum speed of 130 kilometers an hour.

The world's first train to run on biogas, a renewable energy source made up of organic waste from cows, has been inaugurated in Sweden according to AFP and BBC News. This train will make a daily trip between Linköping, just south of Stockholm, and Västervik, 80 kilometers away on the Baltic coast. It can seat 60 passengers in a single car and could run for 600 kilometers at a maximum speed of 130 kilometers an hour. Svensk Biogas, which developed the train for a cost of 10 million kronor (the equivalent of €1.05 million or US $1.26 million), replaced the diesel engines of an old Fiat locomotive by two Volvo gas engines.

Here is a picture of this single car powered by cows (Credit: Svensk Biogas).

The Svensk Biogas train

And here you can see the first happy travelers ready to jump on the train (Credit: Svensk Biogas).

The biogas train before departure

You'll find several other -- very large -- pictures in this photo gallery. All photos have been taken by Kalle Rimling.

The first trip went on time according to AFP.

"The train left on time, at 2:32 pm (1242 GMT) and everything is going well," said Peter Unden, head of marketing at Svensk Biogas, the company that owns the train.

And is this train good for the environment?

Replacing the engine has made the train more environmentally friendly, since the combustion of biogas, like other biofuels, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Svensk Biogas chief Carl Lilliehöök told AFP last June when the train was inaugurated.

However, BBC News says that the train costs a little more to operate than regular trains.

Yes, [Lilliehöök] says, the train between Linkoping and Vastervik will cost 20% more to run on methane than on the usual diesel. But the oil price is going up and up, and in any case, Swedes care about being able to pick our mushrooms and their fruit.

You can find more information about this biogas train in this brochure (PDF format, 2 pages, 150 KB), which contains a brief description of biogas and its usage as an engine fuel.

Biogas is formed by the decomposition of micro-bacteria in organic material in an oxygen-free environment, a natural process that occurs in swamps, and marshes, for example. In biogas plants, this takes place under controlled conditions in a digestion chamber. The gases formed in this process, mostly methane and carbon dioxide are collected. For use as an engine fuel, the methane content has to be boosted to around 97 %, which is done by removing most of the carbon dioxide.

The new biogas engines are far cleaner than the old diesel engines. For example, the emissions of CO carbon monoxide represent 0.01 G/kWh for the biogas engines, which compares with 0.60 G/kWh for the diesel ones.

Svensk Biogas has also published other documents about the use of biogas, Biogas for a sustainable society (PDF format, 2 pages, 324 KB) and Biogas, a clean energy (PDF format, 2 pages, 1.35 MB)

Sources: AFP, October 24, 2005; Tim Franks, BBC News, October 24, 2005; and various web sites

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