Emissions Standards Lead to Demand for Higher Performance Railroad Engine Oil

Friday, March 11, 2022

The United States of America was built on the railroad system and was truly “United” upon completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Everything from freight to travelers were transported by rail and much of our lives today was built around this transportation powerhouse. Union Pacific continues to have a large presence in the Midwest with rail yards found in all major cities from the Great Plains to the West Coast. Still to this day, most large Midwestern farms, about 80%, are located within 5 miles of a railway.

Changes to locomotives have been significantly slower than the rapid improvements of HDDEO and PCMO engines, due in part to the lack of standards surrounding railroad engine emissions. Not long ago, in 1997, the first Emission Standards were set in place for locomotive engines starting with Tier 0. Since then, Tiers 1 through 4 have been implemented with Tier 4 coming in 2015. In this timeframe of less than 20 years, the maximum particulate emissions allowed has lowered significantly requiring higher performance of the lubricating oils being used.

To meet these new demands of locomotive engines, oil classifications were introduced by the Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association (LMOA). The specifications included were rolled out as “Generations” and correspond to each EPA Emission Standard Tier. The most recent of these specifications is Generation 7 which complies with Tier 4 regulations. Specifically, the requirements are that railroad engine oils must have a Total Base Number (TBN) of 11.0 to aid in base retention and acid control. These oils must also reduce oil consumption and be compatible with low and ultra-low sulfur fuels, which is a current trait of the multi-weight railroad engine oil SAE 20W-40.

To stay current in this industry, it is important to remain flexible to these changes and provide opportunities to serve all customers. Leading the charge, GROWMARK’s railroad engine supplier, Red Giant, has made the decision to transition their product from Generation 6 to Generation 7. To accommodate this change, United Lubricants will be moving forward with United Railroad Engine Oil SAE 20W-40 11 TBN as the sole offering. This product will be available in 55-gallon drums, 265-gallon totes, and bulk sizes.

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