FRA seeks information on conversion of railroad ties to biochar

By Erin Voegele | May 03, 2023

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration is seeking information on the potential uses and options for disposal or repurposing used creosote-treated railroad ties (CTRTs), including processing via a pyrolysis process to create biochar.

CTRTs are the wood rail crossties that support railroad tracks. According to the FRA, the U.S. has approximately 207,000 miles of rail track, which equates to about 620 million crossties. Approximately 23 million of those CTRTs are replaced in the U.S. each year.

Traditionally, end of life disposal of CTRTs was primarily accomplished by burning them in waste-to-energy applications to produce electricity. Recent changes in U.S. EPA regulations and policy, however, limit the options for disposing of CTRTs through those facilities.

According to the RFA, recent research points to a pyrolysis process that can recover creosote and produce biochar from CTRTs. The agency is seeking information, public comments and feedback, including information about initiatives and pilot studies, on how CTRTs could be reused or repurposed as an alternative to landfilling, including information regarding the biochar process. RFA also said it is interested in potential uses for CTRT-sourced biochar.

A public comment period is open through June 26. Additional information is available on the Federal Register website