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NZCS chat recap: Railroads continue efforts to cut fuel emissions

Norfolk Southern official says hydrogen locomotives could be solution

Josh Raglin for FreightWaves' Net Zero Carbon Summit

This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ Net-Zero Carbon Summit.

TOPIC: The role of freight railroads in sustainable supply chains

DETAILS: Railroads are much more fuel efficient than trucks and are studying new technologies to further reduce their carbon emissions.

SPEAKER: Josh Raglin, chief sustainability officer at Norfolk Southern Corp.

BIO: Raglin was appointed to his current role a year ago. Previously, he was general manager of facilities and led a number of projects related to conservation. He has experience in ecological restoration, forest ecosystems and endangered species management and carbon reduction.


“The railroads have such a great sustainability story. We’ve made so much progress on fuel efficiency going back to 1980. We’ve almost doubled our fuel efficiency since then. And we’re getting better. Every year there’s new technologies coming out. There’s probably not a lot of low-hanging fruit left, but we’re making a lot of incremental change every year. Norfolk Southern, last year alone, improved our fuel efficiency 5%. But there’s still opportunity and the railroads are going to continue to challenge ourselves as far as fuel efficiency goes, and we’re going to challenge the manufacturers as well because we really depend on them to provide that next level of technology that we need to decarbonize.”

“We can help our customers reduce their carbon emissions 75% just by modal shift. That right there is a superpower. That doesn’t take technology to do that. We’re working with our customers to convert from road to rail.”

“Hydrogen has the potential. … There are challenges, but it is a possibility long term. … It definitely has to be something where you’re not changing out the units, you’re just refurbishing the units. So if the cost works out for some changeover to hydrogen technology using the existing locomotive platforms, it’s a lot more realistic from a capital expenditure standpoint. From a fueling standpoint, how do you change out that fueling infrastructure? We have over 49 fueling stations on Norfolk Southern in 22 states. And then you have the shared assets.”