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Norfolk Southern, CSX tout progress on sustainability

Railroads’ goals include reducing locomotives’ GHG emissions, limiting train idling

Recent reports from CSX and Norfolk Southern detail their efforts toward reaching a range of sustainability goals. Here’s what they said:

Norfolk Southern lists GHG emission reduction and recycling achievements

NS (NYSE: NSC) is making progress toward its reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, according to its 2022 sustainability report, which describes the company’s activities in 2021. The railroad is seeking to reduce scope 1 and scope 2 GHG emissions intensity by 42% by 2034.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, scope 1 emissions are those that occur from sources controlled or owned by an organization, such as locomotives’ fuel combustion, whereas scope 2 emissions are indirect and occur at the organization’s facilities. They pertain to emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, as well as heating and cooling.

Among the efforts NS has undertaken to lower emissions are:

  • Modernizing more than 100 locomotives each year since 2016. NS aims to have modernized 950 locomotives by 2025.
  • Outfitting 93% of its active locomotive fleet, or 1,550 road locomotives, with energy-management technologies.
  • Adding distributed power systems to 120 more locomotives. Distributed power means that locomotives are located in the middle and at the end of trains, as opposed to just the front of the train, which reduces the physical forces on the train, according to Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP).
  • Using data to identify and eliminate over 2,000 hours of idling per day. This conserves more than 2.6 million gallons of fuel annually, NS said.
  • Using biofuel blends to reduce carbon intensity.

NS also said it has improved locomotive fuel efficiency by 7% since 2019.

NS said that in 2021 it diverted more than half of its waste from landfills; reclaimed over 1.6 million gallons of used oil; tracked and managed more than 4,500 waste and recycling events from service providers; recycled 100% of the rail it replaced, with 70% of NS’ new rail manufactured from recycled material; and recycled 100% of old cross ties and 100% of steel. 

Other sustainability-related initiatives in 2021 and 2022 are releasing a next-generation carbon calculator that helps users determine a shipment’s carbon footprint and a partnership with U.S. Steel and railcar manufacturer Greenbrier (NYSE: GBX) to produce a more sustainable gondola rail car.

NS operates 19,300 route miles across 22 states and the District of Columbia.

CSX: Cutting emissions through operational adjustments, technology, alternative power

CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) “has been diligently working” to reduce GHG emissions intensity by 37.3% by 2030, using 2014 as an emissions baseline, according to its sustainability report released last month.

From 2014 through 2021, CSX has reduced emissions intensity by 15.6% — 42% of the way toward the 2030 goal.

CSX improved fuel efficiency by 15.34% between 2014 and 2021. Other initiatives include evaluating new locomotive fuel conservation technologies and developing operational efficiencies, CSX said. CSX is also testing hybrid locomotives and the use of biofuels such as B20 and potentially liquefied natural gas in its operations.

CSX is working on a concept that would use compressed natural gas to supply a generator that in turn would supply power for locomotives. Meanwhile, a “Meet Pass Planner” program aims to increase train fluidity via reducing train meet-and-pass delays while optimizing train routing and performance, CSX said.

CSX outlined five areas detailing emissions reductions and waste management goals.

It is pursuing its initiative to reduce GHG emissions intensity by 37.3% through network and operational improvements as well as technological investments.

Its 15.6% reduction in scope 1 and scope 2 emissions since 2014 has been achieved through fuel efficiency improvements and pilot programs aimed at utilizing alternative fuels as well as engine enhancements to reduce fuel burn and overall emissions from locomotives. 

Another goal is to increase CSX’s use of renewable energy to 50% of its scope 2 footprint through energy audits, energy efficiency retrofits, renewable energy consumption and partnerships. CSX has entered into community solar agreements and is purchasing renewable energy credits, and it is seeking to find appropriate power purchase agreements that would promote sustainability.

To reduce hazardous waste from ongoing operations by 30% and decrease landfill waste to less than 10% of volume, CSX is reevaluating purchase practices and identifying waste streams for possible reuse or recycling, among other efforts.

Initiatives last year toward this goal included efforts to recycle railroad ties and conduct terminal cleanups throughout the year.

Another goal is to engage with other supply chain partners to evaluate joint sustainability risks and opportunities.

CSX says its customers saved 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by using the railroad company.

Last year also saw a number of new sustainability-related initiatives, including the One-CSX culture initiative aimed at looking at each employee’s unique value and role in meeting business objectives, as well as a supplier engagement program.

CSX operates nearly 19,500 route miles across 23 states and the District of Columbia, and it operates in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Including the network of short-line operator Pan Am Systems, which CSX acquired earlier this year, CSX’s network will grow to 21,000 route miles across 26 states.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.