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Norfolk Southern Sustainability Report: Normalized Emissions Drop 2%

In 2011, freight company Norfolk Southern reduced its normalized emissions by 2 percent, according to the company’s latest sustainability report.

In 2010, the company produced 28.8 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per revenue-ton mile. That figure fell to 28.1 grams in 2011, according to the company’s 2012 sustainability report, which covers the 2011 calender year.

In its 2009 baseline year the company produced 30 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per revenue-ton mile. The 2011 results put Norfolk Southern 60 percent of the way towards its 2014 goal of 27 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per revenue-ton mile, or a 10 percent reduction over 2009 levels.

The company’s absolute emissions rose from 5.2 million metric tons to 5.4 million metric tons, or 3.8 percent, year-on-year. The railway’s operating revenues increased from $9.5 billion to $11.2 billion, or 17.8 percent, over the same time period.

Some 91.41 percent of the company’s 2011 emissions came from diesel fuel, five percent of its emissions came from electricity and the remainder split almost evenly between gasoline and other fuels such as coal, natural gas, propane and jet fuel.

The company’s use of diesel fuel has increased from 397.3 million gallons in 2009, to 440.1 million gallons in 2010 and 476.6 million in 2011.

During 2011, Norfolk Southern’s average locomotive fuel efficiency – measured by revenue ton-miles per gallon of fuel – dipped slightly from 2010. Its revenue trains moved a ton of freight an average 407 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel, down from an average 413 miles in 2010, a 1.4 percent decline.

Norfolk Southern attributes the decline in large part to record-setting winter storms that disrupted network efficiencies from January through March in the Midwest. Because of traffic backups caused by snow and ice storms, many trains idled on tracks as they waited to gain entry to rail terminals. In addition to weather, the company says it experienced issues with network fluidity because of challenges arising from hiring and deploying qualified train crews following a faster-than expected rise in business activity as the economy began recovering from recession in 2010, the report says.

By the end of 2011, Norfolk Southern had equipped 967 locomotives – 40 percent of its fleet – with an onboard train-handling system called LEADER, or Locomotive Engineer Assist Display Event Recorder. LEADER prompts locomotive engineers with real-time information on optimum throttle speeds and brake settings to achieve maximum fuel efficiency. The system takes into account the train’s length and weight and provides recommendations on how to operate the train based on hilly terrain, curves, and other track conditions. Operating results indicate that the LEADER technology provides locomotives with a four percent fuel efficiency advantage on average, the report says.

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