Monday, April 14, 2014

INRD funds upcycling research looking at turning ties into biofuel

INRD funds upcycling research looking at turning ties into biofuel Bart Everson

Through a grant from the Indiana Rail Road (INRD), the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) is initiating research on conversion of used railroad ties into an advanced biofuel, which is a first look into the viability of upcycling used railroad ties.


"CSR is thrilled to have the support of the INRD on this important, potentially historic opportunity," said CSR President Davidson Ward. "INRD is dedicated to innovation and technology and its investment in our primary research is an inspiration to the entire team."

Working with the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota - Duluth, CSR aims to determine the viability of converting some of the 15 million ties replaced on U.S. railroads each year into a clean-burning coal alternative.

Using a biomass processing technique known as torrefaction, the researchers at NRRI and CSR seek to convert the structure of used railroad ties, primarily made from hardwood species, into a clean, renewable, homogenous and densifiable biofuel. The final result is anticipated to be a pelletized biofuel that can be used in power plants, but not before powering CSR's test bed steam locomotive, the Santa Fe Railway's 1937-built No. 3463.

This initial investigation aims to identify any hurdles involved with the upcycling of railroad ties to fuel, including the handling of wood preservatives found in crossties. CSR will make results of the research known through its "White Paper Program," which can be found on its website at



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