Reducing the logistics component in the final cost of products is one of the priority tasks that boosts the competitiveness of the business. Updating the fleet of freight cars contributes to this process. Let us learn how to take a qualitative leap from Kazakhstan’s TEXOL Group. To date, its experience in operating six-axle articulated tank cars for the transportation of light petroleum products is unique in the 1520-mm gauge area.
Operator making a bet on uniqueness
Implementing service and infrastructure projects, the TEXOL Group is a major railway operator and owner of a fleet of freight rolling stock, which specializes in complex contract transportation of liquefied hydrocarbons and petroleum products in tank cars, as well as universal transportation in box cars. TEXOL operates across the entire 1520-mm gauge area.
The company’s fleet consists of about 10 thousand freight cars. The bulk of the fleet are LPG tank cars, their total number reaching over 7.5 thousand units. The TEXOL gas tank car fleet is the youngest and most advanced in the 1520-mm gauge area. Though most of the company’s freight cars are mounted on common-type bogies with an axle load of 23.5 tonnes, TEXOL is gradually replenishing its fleet with tank cars on 25-tonne axle load bogies as it bets on tailored transport solutions, such as 15-9541-01 LPG articulated tank cars and 15-629 tank cars for light petroleum products.
Transport decision made by the market
TEXOL has been operating Tikhvin tank cars for light petroleum products manufactured by the UWC Rail Group since the end of 2021. At that time, the company had already gained positive experience with articulated LPG tank cars and, together with UWC, decided to implement another project: articulated tank cars for gas condensate.
Our company is already well acquainted with articulated tank cars. The experience gained as a result of their operation to transport LPG has shown that one need not treat with apprehension whatever novelty that comes to the market.
CEO at Texol Trans Service, LLC:
"Our company is already well acquainted with articulated tank cars. The experience gained as a result of their operation to transport LPG has shown that one need not treat with apprehension whatever novelty that comes to the market. Methodical work to introduce them on the network and thorough attention to the needs of our customers allow us to achieve good results, while significantly increasing the efficiency of transportation. Articulated tank cars are fully compatible with the draining and filling infrastructure, reliable in operation and in most cases carry much larger cargo volumes. In the TEXOL car fleet, they have proven their economic efficiency. Therefore, at the time of purchasing the new model, we already expected that articulated tank cars for light and lightweight petroleum products (and that is what we call them) would deliver no less impressive results."
Due to the articulated type design, the 15-629 tank car has a total tank volume of 160 m3 and a load capacity of 108 t to allow light oil products to be transported with a tank fully loaded, unlike common- type rolling stock, in which less dense and lighter materials are loaded inefficiently, up to 15% below the standard load rate per car.
At the same time, the design solutions implemented in the 15-629 tank car take into account the existing infrastructure constraints and the transportation specifics of oil products. One car section is 12,020 mm long which is equal to the length of a typical tank car.
The outlet and filling fittings and their locations are also unified, which allows to service the tank cars at any loading and unloading terminals. The placement of filling necks and outlet devices takes account of loading and unloading platform spacing and allows to operate articulated tank cars as part of mixed trains with four-axle cars.
The 15-629 tank car uses a self-supporting tank without a center sill: a so-called “bent axis” design. This, in particular, made it possible to place a drain device of three protection levels on the car so that it is compatible with universal devices of unloading platforms even at those terminals where using drain devices of three protection levels already installed on typical four-axle tanks is impossible.
During operation, the 15-629 articulated tank cars are less likely to be retired for maintenance and repair, which implies that their inefficient downtime outside transportation is noticeably reduced
The 25-tonne axle load bogie and a bogie-by-bogie (independent) braking system are used on the articulated tank car. The brake system is equipped with modern braking devices with an extended warranty and repair period, including fittings for threaded connections of brake pipelines, intersectional connecting sleeves with protection from external physical impacts, wear-resistant bushings made of composite pressing material based on phenolformaldehyde resins and composite pads with cast iron inserts. Such solutions help ensure the prescribed maintenance intervals and the required braking efficiency. The 15-629 tank car has a service life of 40 years compared to only 32 years for common-type cars.
The route has been built
In 2022, TEXOL transported about 2.6 million tonnes of cargoes. The range of transported goods includes more than 300 items. It should be noted that light oil products account for about 10% of the total TEXOL shipments.
According to analytical agencies, the share of light petroleum products in shipments on the Russian Railways network is growing from year to year, which renders transportation of these particular cargoes in the petroleum product segment the most promising and attractive.
In total, the TEXOL fleet comprises some 2 thousand tank cars for petroleum products. These are mainly models with tank volumes ranging from 73.1 to 85.6 m3 and payload capacities between 60 and 66 tonnes.
Articulated tank cars for light oil products have been operated by TEXOL on rail tracks from Zabaikalskaya to Oktyabrskaya and from Severnaya to Privolzhskaya railways (in Russia). The company has used these tank cars to transport cargoes for four leading petrochemical enterprises which infrastructure represents standard loading and unloading terminals.
The loading analysis showed that the 15-629 tank cars were mainly used to carry motor (automobile) gasoline. The inclusion of products, such as diesel fuel and a fraction of aromatic hydrocarbons, in the list of products allowed for transportation made it possible to start working with these cargoes as well.
It is particularly noted that during operation, the 15-629 articulated tank cars are less likely to be retired for maintenance and repair, which implies that their inefficient downtime outside transportation is noticeably reduced. Currently, TEXOL, together with large cargo owners, is testing the technology of the so-called guarantee leverage, when following a full shipping route, the infrastructure makes it possible to inspect the undercarriage of articulated tank cars mounted on 25-tonne axle load bogie less often, which, accordingly, significantly increases the train speed and shortens the car turnaround time. The use of warranty leverages generates a significant saving effect on the required fleet, i.e. it becomes possible to transport more freight with fewer cars. In general, the savings on the transportation of 1 tonne of products in the 15-629 articulated tank car reach 9% in some directions.
“The unique design of the tank car consisting of two tanks linked by an articulated connector contributes not only to reducing the cost of cargo transportation, but also to saving on operating costs, since we have one bogie less compared to two typical cars,” notes Sergey Gorsky, CEO at Texol Trans Service, LLC. “The Ak-Zhaiyk car repair depot, part of the TEXOL Group, operating under the brand of the West Kazakhstan Service Company, has successfully passed certification and has been servicing and repairing innovative cars on the Tikhvin 25-tonne bogie, including tank cars of articulated construction, for about 2 years. By having operated articulated cars on the 1520-mm gauge rail network for more than three years, our company fully understands all the advantages of this solution. We do not intend to stop there, and therefore, having plunged deeper into the R&D processes, together with the UWC engineering center, we have developed another model of an articulated car, i.e. a container flat car. The certification process is currently being completed. We hope to start commercial operation of production samples by the end of this year.”
In conditions of increasing competition and market changes, it is necessary to apply new solutions that can ensure high efficiency of transportation. Innovators win, those who are not afraid of market resistance and advanced solutions, especially if these solutions are confirmed in practice.