Norfolk Southern reports progress in green efforts - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Norfolk Southern reports progress in green efforts

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Norfolk Southern reduced its greenhouse gas emission by 4 percent last year, and it was on its way toward meeting its overall goal of reducing carbon emissions.

The railroad is one of two major carriers in West Virginia. On July 16, it released its 2013 sustainability report outlining its progress in meeting its environmental goals. Among the findings Norfolk Southern highlighted in its report:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions were down 4 percent as part of ongoing efforts to improve network operating efficiencies, reduce locomotive fuel use and emissions and decrease energy usage at railroad office buildings and facilities. "By year's end in 2012, Norfolk Southern had accomplished nearly 69 percent of a 2014 goal to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent per revenue ton-mile of freight transported," the railroad said in announcing the report's release.
  • Norfolk Southern hired more than 2,400 new employees in 2012, and the railroad's Norfolk Southern Foundation donated a record $6.98 million to local communities for human services, environmental conservation, education for children, and arts and culture.
  • The company completed 40 percent of its $5.6 million Trees and Trains carbon-mitigation initiative to reforest 10,000 acres in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Since its launch two years ago, Norfolk Southern has expanded efforts to help restore longleaf pines and American chestnut trees to their historic Southeastern U.S. ranges.
  • More than 70 percent of the railroad's locomotives have been equipped with idle-reduction technology, and more than half of its long-haul locomotives have computer-based technologies installed to help engineers achieve maximum fuel economy. Diesel-burning locomotives generate around 90 percent of Norfolk Southern's annual greenhouse gas emissions. NS expanded its locomotive rebuild program to include 1980s-era Dash 8 locomotives, reusing their frame and platforms and equipping them with cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient engines.
  • NS purchased 60 new fuel-efficient locomotives last year. Engines on the units use alternating current rather than direct current to power the motors that turn the locomotives' wheels. Norfolk Southern said it has been using AC units in its unit bulk trains, including its coal, grain and crude oil business. At low speeds, two AC locomotives can do the work of three DC units, the report said.

"During 2012, our average locomotive fuel efficiency remained on par with our 2011 performance. Our revenue trains moved a ton of freight an average 407 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel. We maintained that high degree of efficiency even as our traffic mix shifted in 2012 to include growth in time-sensitive freight and a significant decline in coal traffic," the report said.

"To meet customer service demands, trains moving time-sensitive freight must operate at a higher horsepower, thus consuming more fuel. Unit coal trains are among our most fuel-efficient because of their heavier loads and generally downhill delivery routes from mountain mining sites."

Norfolk Southern said about one-third of the development projects it was involved with in 2012 involved location or expansion of energy-related facilities, including exploration and drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

Several projects were related to coal exports for the thermal and metallurgical markets. Coal for electricity generation was about 21 percent of export coal moved by the railroad last year, up from less than 1 percent in 2011.