To protect the environment

Rail is the most sustainable way to move goods long distances over land, and BNSF is working to make our solutions less impactful on the environment and more efficient for customers.

Reducing Emissions

Compared to long-haul trucks, freight trains are three- to four-times more fuel efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75 percent. But this inherent advantage over highway options is not enough. BNSF has committed to a 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 (from the baseline year 2018). We plan to achieve this goal in two primary ways: by continuing to improve the fuel efficiency of our locomotives and through the increased utilization of renewable fuels. Longer-term solutions, such as battery-electric and hydrogen locomotives, are also being evaluated and field tested.

BNSF is committed to
cutting 30% of our
GHG emissions by 2030.

Path to Emission Reductions

Fuel Efficiency

In 2022, BNSF moved one ton of freight an average of 500.3 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel. But we want to improve. We are dedicated to continuous improvement and over the last 10 years have introduced more energy efficient technologies which have increased our fuel efficiency and reduced emissions by 5% in that time period.

BNSF boasts the largest number of the newest and cleanest-burning locomotives in North America, including more than 300 Tier 4 locomotives purchased since 2015 when new Environmental Protection Agency standards took effect.

We have equipped more than 4,000 locomotives with Energy Management Systems, such as Trip Optimizer, which controls the throttle and dynamic brakes automatically, akin to cruise control in a car. And more than 99 percent of our active locomotive fleet is equipped with Automatic Engine Stop/Start (AESS) technology, minimizing wasted fuel and unnecessary emissions from idling locomotives.

BNSF is further enhancing fuel efficiency by reducing the horsepower per trailing ton (HPT) of our locomotives, through practices including reducing excess horsepower, implementing speed-based throttle limiting and isolating – or potentially shutting down – engines when a train has more locomotives than it needs for a given segment of its route.

Renewable Fuels

The increased use of low-carbon fuels in our operations has the potential to play a key role in meaningful emissions reduction in the years ahead. BNSF is working with locomotive manufacturers Wabtec and Progress Rail to test higher blends of biodiesel and renewable diesel.

In 2022, we began testing a B20/R80 blend (a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent renewable diesel) in a pilot program using a Bartow, California-based fleet of engines over a three-year period to test the fuel blend with the machine components. Collaborating with our manufacturer partners, BNSF looks to increase the amount of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels we can use to operate our locomotives, which would translate into significant carbon intensity and emission reductions for our fleet.

Next-Generation Technology

In 2021, BNSF successfully tested a prototype 100-percent battery-electric locomotive, in collaboration with Wabtec. Now BNSF has committed to purchase four next-gen locomotives from Progress rail, scheduled for delivery in 2024, that will have an eight-megawatt battery. We are also working with an industry group on high-speed charging stations in the range of 1.4 to 2 megawatt hours and plan on installing several chargers in Southern California in 2023 to support these new locomotives, which we will test in yard, local and regional service.

We are testing a variety of next-generation (battery-electric and hybrid-powered) cargo-handling equipment at three of our California intermodal facilities. In fact, our Stockton yard is the first fully electric hostler facility in the United States with 21 battery-electric hostlers (vehicles that move equipment within our yards) and a hybrid-electric rubber-tired gantry crane, which reduces emissions by 90 percent. The Stockton facility also has a 0.75 mega-watt solar array providing renewable energy back to the facility’s grid.

Additionally, our work with Progress Rail and Chevron to pilot a demonstration of a locomotive powered by hydrogen, a technology that holds great promise for dramatically reducing carbon emissions in long-haul transport.

Customer Carbon Reduction

Many BNSF customers are as concerned with reducing emissions as we are. Sustainability has become a larger contributing factor to customers’ supply chain decisions, with many setting net zero carbon targets that include supply chain emissions.

Our intermodal customers recognize that shipping with BNSF comes with many environmental benefits when compared to solely using trucks. According to the Association of American Railroads, if 25 percent of truck traffic moving at least 750 miles shifted to rail, annual GHG emissions would fall by 13.1 million tons. By using rail to transport goods, our customers are able to reduce their environmental impact while remaining competitive in the market.

In 2022, BNSF customers reduced their carbon emissions by
more than 23.9 million metric tons.

Customer Recognition

Through our inaugural BNSF Sustainability Awards, BNSF is proud to recognize companies that work with us to make their operations more environmentally friendly. Recipients are recognized for achievement in one of several categories, including: Investments in Circular Economy Infrastructure, Supply Chain Efficiencies and Sustainable Technology Implementation.

The recipients of BNSF’s 2022 Sustainability Awards:

  • U.S. Steel’s Big River Steel
  • Chevron Phillips Chemical
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Global Clean Energy
  • J.B. Hunt
  • Marathon Petroleum Company

Learn about our customers’ sustainability efforts

Intermodal Facility Improvement

At BNSF’s intermodal hubs and Logistics Parks, where trucks and trains interface, we have implemented several technologies to increase efficiency and decrease environmental impact.

Intermodal Facility technology improvements include:

  • Wide-span electric cranes that produce zero emissions and reduce the number of diesel-powered hostlers required.
  • Real Time Inventory: A combination of data sources is used to simultaneously verify and update inventory operating systems for the railroad. This provides an improved customer experience but perhaps most importantly, it is the critical first step for all future inventory optimization opportunities which will enable accurate capacity planning in the coming years.
  • Automated yard checks that deploy image analytics and machine learning.
  • Remote Cranes: “Wireless” remote cranes operate at Logistics Park Chicago (LPC). This remote capability improves productivity and safety.
  • Automated Gate Systems (AGS) to speed entry and reduce truck idling on entering intermodal facilities.

Recycling and Other Sustainability Initiatives

BNSF engages in an intensive recycling program. Materials recycled in 2022 included approximately:

Other sustainability initiatives include:

  • Operation Clean Sweep, which focuses on prevention of plastic spills.
  • The Cyclx Coalition, which aims to recycle up to 90 percent of U.S. plastic.


BNSF actively addresses environmental impacts at legacy sites – locations where predecessor railroads and others may have conducted operations for up to a century. In the last decade, BNSF has rehabilitated approximately 115 sites and invested approximately $260 million toward remediation efforts.

Habitat Preservation

BNSF makes every effort to protect wildlife habitats near our rail network. In order to protect the arroyo toad, for instance, when adding third main line track on our Southern Transcon route through the Cajon Pass in California, we contributed conservation funding via federal and local agencies, conducted a nightly pre-construction sweep of the habitat, installed a drift fence to keep toads from the workspace, and relocated toads based on pre-approved specifications. Farther along the Southern Transcon in New Mexico, while adding double track, we built a wildlife fence and crossings for bighorn sheep to keep them off the track. During construction projects in Washington state, we worked with wildlife experts and agencies to put platforms on bridges for ospreys to safely build their nests. BNSF also recently published a Habitat Conservation Plan, currently under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which includes recommendations for protecting grizzly bears in Montana.

Learn more about our commitment to preserving habitats

BNSF has contributed more than $2M since 2013 to projects
that protect and restore wildlife and their habitats.