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Now, cooking oil to power huge Central Railway locomotives

Central Railway plans to use biodiesel — a mix of 95% diesel and 5% used cooking oil — to more than halve its fuel costs

Soon, the vegetable cooking oil you use in your kitchen may also power the huge locomotives of the Central Railway. CR is looking at replacing the diesel used in the engines with biodiesel — mainly by mixing some portion of used cooking oil into the diesel — to bring down the costs drastically.

Biodiesel engine
Trailblazer: A biodiesel engine being used by the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Tamil Nadu. Pic/Getty Images

Sources in CR said that they have set up a biodiesel plant at the Parel workshop with the help of a workshop in Chennai that produces it. At first, the authorities are getting used cooking oil from the canteens of their workshops at Parel and Matunga and transferring it to this biodiesel plant. After this, they will mix diesel with 5 per cent of cooking oil. Once the process is complete, they will refill the engines with biodiesel.

Officials said they are doing this to save on fuel costs. CR is currently procuring diesel at Rs 63 per litre, which is just marginally below the market rate. Biodiesel, on the other hand can be manufactured at Rs 30 per litre. “Our costs will come down drastically. The calorific value of this biodiesel is sufficient to run engines and haul coaches,” said a CR official.

Private help
However, there is a glitch: the non-availability of used cooking oil. Normally, a diesel engine runs at least 500-700 km every day, hauling passenger trains and goods trains with as many as 50 coaches, carrying coal and perishable items, and finally goes to ports and plants connected to rail lines. “For all this, on an average, we need to refill 20,000 litres of bio-diesel a month,” said another CR official.

Rail authorities are asking for help from private players, including major fast-food chains like McDonalds, 5-star hotels and other huge eating houses and restaurant chains which can spare cooking oil at the end of the day. “We had a few meetings with McDonalds. We want to appeal to these private players to give us used cooking oil,” said Brigadier S K Sood, General Manager, Central Railway.

Officials said that these private fast food outlets and restaurants can give the vegetable cooking oil — which is of no use to them once it is used for cooking —as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. Buying biodiesel would cost the railways at least Rs 52 per litre, which will not lead to a significant reduction in costs.

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