SOURCE: IDRW NEWS NETWORK
Indian Railways for a while has been flirting with ideas to develop a liquefied natural gas based turbine electric engine derived out of GTRE’s Kaveri engine to power its next generation locomotives in its efforts to reduce its carbon foot print and to move towards greener and eco friendly next generation locomotives for Indian Railways in next few decades .
A High-level sub-committee dealing with the project has been brain storming with experts from various fields and still are having discussions with DRDO’s associated labs and even with Russian Railways for collaboration since they are regarded as Global leaders in the development and use of gas-turbine engines in their locomotives.
High Ranking Railway official associated with the project explained to idrw.org what are the technological challenges behind the project and several bottlenecks project is likely to face even though the Project is still in infancy stage since High-level sub-committee is yet to submit a detailed project report on it.
Gas-turbine Locomotive Technology
Russia has Succesful developed and demonstrated most powerful gas-turbine based locomotive in the world when they converted NK-32 engine used in Tu-160 strategic bombers to develop the NK-361 engine which was adapted to be used as LNG gas-turbine unit for Locomotives.
NK-361 engine generates 8.3 mega watts of power and can accelerate to a speed of up to 100 kilometres per hour and cover 750 km on a full tank of fuel. Indian Railways is very keen on acquiring this engines for its locomotives which can help later India develop Kaveri based gas-turbine engines but found some technical deficiencies with the engine.
NK-361 engines based locomotives are largely used in the Extreme North where weather conditions are usually cold and Russian developers for that reasons carried out modification on the engine to work in harsh cold conditions of Russia, but in India, it is likely to face extreme heat and humid conditions which will require modification of the engine to work in Indian Hot Humid weather conditions for which Russian company has agreed, only if India gives order commitment for 300 locomotives .
Kaveri locomotive Engine
Kuznetsov Design Bureau which developed NK-361 engines is willing to help India in sharing its technical know how for converting an Aero Grade Military engine for use in a locomotive but till now no agreements have been concluded, while discussions continue.
According to Indian Railway Kaveri based gas-turbine engine will need to generate at least 8 mega watts of power which can cover 750 km on a full tank of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) but due to logistical infrastructure limitations, this locomotive will run on dedicated lines in few sector.
Use of Special Military grade rare earth metal like titanium, nickel and cobalt-based alloys on Military grade Aero engines make them extremely expensive to acquire and success of Kaveri based gas-turbine engine in Indian Railways will depend on how low procurement cost can be kept after it enters production.
According to Industrial experts, Indian Railways will need to spend nearly 70-80 crores to develop a Kaveri based gas-turbine prototype engine but Indian Railways has estimated it can be developed within 50 crores but is still not made up its mind on whether it will pursue the project.
Technological challenges and cost of development are seen as key difficulties project is likely to face and the sub-committee dealing with the project based on their submitted report of their findings and opinions will allow Indian Railways to take a final call on the project.
NOTE : Article cannot be reproduced without written permission of idrw.org in any form