We Care About Our Environment
BNSF is working to minimize our impact on the planet and to contribute to the long-term sustainability of our customers and the communities in which we live and operate.

Addressing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions

Addressing greenhouse-gas emissions is a high priority for BNSF. Internal and external stakeholders identified and prioritized the most important sustainability issues, and reducing carbon emissions topped the list.

  1. Carbon Emission Reduction
  2. Human Capital Development
  3. Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Expansion Permitting
  5. Innovation
  6. Sustainable Operations
  7. Critical Incident Risk Management
  8. Labor Management

Reducing Carbon Emissions

BNSF set a science-based target that was reviewed and validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in 2023. We’ve committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and 2 and well-to-wheel locomotive GHG emissions 30 percent by 2030 (from a baseline year of 2018). We plan to do so in two ways: by continuing to improve the fuel-efficiency of our locomotives and through the increased utilization of renewable fuels.

Testing Low-Carbon Fuels in Our Locomotives
In 2022, we began testing a B20/R80 blend of fuel, which is a mixture of 20% biodiesel and 80% renewable diesel. By working with our locomotive manufacturing partners and the other railroads, we hope 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. Initial testing results now indicate up to 10% biodiesel and up to 50% renewable diesel can be used in our locomotives. However, we anticipate continued testing will push those percentage blends even higher.

Promoting Adaptation & Resilience

Weather-Related Service Interruptions

Water & Flooding
The most common concern is around water and flooding. Many railroad bridges have been around for nearly a century or more, largely without issue. Increased impervious surfaces (urbanization) reduce water infiltration into the ground, sending even more surface water to the railroad faster with more intensity. We are also experiencing added impacts by communities and developers using our ditches for drainage. Additionally, development on hillsides above tracks can increase landslide and mudslide risks with water irrigation.

We continue to work diligently on public and agency coordination to seek mutually beneficial solutions. For example, when we renew bridges, we complete hydraulic analyses each time to estimate the flood impacts. In the cases where development has increased runoff intensity, we can have larger bridges, bigger culverts and/or raise track elevation.

BNSF has had wildfire response plans and equipment to protect our critical infrastructure for many years, but this program has been expanded significantly due to the increase in wildfire risk. Today we have more than 50 wildfire response tank cars and infrastructure protection trailers, and we have developed Infrastructure Wildfire Protection plans for BNSF’s critical bridges, tunnels and snowsheds.

Increasing Fuel Efficiency

More Fuel-efficient with Energy Management Systems Onboard
We have equipped more than 4,000 locomotives with Energy Management Systems (EMS), such as Trip Optimizer, which allows the throttle and dynamic brakes to be controlled automatically, like cruise control. EMS factors the train makeup (length, weight and horsepower), track geometry, grade, curvature and speed restrictions to determine the most fuel-efficient way to operate the train across a territory while maintaining appropriate train handling.

Fuel-saving Automatic Engine Stop/Start (AESS) System
Automatic Engine Stop/Start (AESS) is another fuel-saving system. AESS automatically shuts down a locomotive that is idling to minimize wasted fuel and eliminate unnecessary emissions. AESS then automatically restarts the locomotive if it’s needed for power or necessary for the health of the engine. Currently, more than 99% of our active locomotive fleet is AESS-equipped.

Horsepower Per Trailing Ton (HPT) Reduction
Reducing the effort required to move the weight of a train, measured in Horsepower Per Trailing Ton (HPT), is another effective method to improve our fuel efficiency. Practices we have implemented to minimize HPT include reducing excess horsepower; implementing speed-based throttle limiting to reduce fuel consumption at higher speeds; and isolating, or potentially shutting down, engines when a train has more locomotives than it needs for a given segment of its route.

Sustainable Solutions for Customers

Reducing Our Customers’ Carbon Emissions

Sustainability has become a larger contributing factor to customers’ supply chain decisions, with many setting net zero carbon targets that include supply chain emissions. Rail is the most fuel-efficient mode of surface transportation. By using rail to transport goods, our customers can reduce their supply chain emissions while remaining competitive in the market.

Railroads handle 40 percent of the nation’s long-distance freight volume, yet account for only 0.5 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions and only 1.9 percent of the transportation related emission sources, according to the U.S. EPA. According to the AAR, if 25 percent of truck traffic moving at least 750 miles shifted to rail, annual GHG emissions would fall by 13.6 million tons.

Collaborating with Customers to Promote Sustainability

Sustainable Freight Leadership Council (SFLC)
We work with customers on sustainable innovation end markets through our Sustainable Freight Leadership Council (SFLC). The SFLC brings together thought leaders from several industries to build insights and alignment on shared actions to reduce carbon emissions and create more sustainable supply chains.

2023 SFLC members include:

  • J.B. Hunt
  • Maersk
  • Amazon
  • Berkshire Hathaway Energy
  • Global Clean Energy
  • Marathon Petroleum
  • Chevron Renewable Energy Group
  • Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem)
  • Geocycle (GCC)
  • United States Steel Corporation
  • Ford
  • Shell Chemicals

Launching a Joint Intermodal Service

In 2023, we launched Quantum, a J.B. Hunt and BNSF service for intermodal. Quantum allows customers with service-sensitive freight to benefit from the cost savings of intermodal transport, while reducing their carbon footprints. This premium service delivers speeds up to a full day faster than standard intermodal shipments.

Celebrating Sustainability

Through our annual BNSF Sustainability Awards, we recognize companies that work with us to make their operations more sustainable. Recipients are recognized for achievement in categories including: Investments in Circular Economy Infrastructure, Supply Chain Efficiencies and Sustainable Technology Implementation.

Winners of BNSF’s 2023 Sustainability Awards:

  • Amazon
  • American Honda
  • Chevron Renewable Energy Group
  • Hereford Ethanol Partners
  • Maersk
  • Montana Renewables
  • Nucor
  • Shell Chemicals
  • Unilever

Supporting a Circular Economy

We are helping to support new sustainable business markets built around the circular economy, where materials are perpetually reused in closed-loop supply chains and upcycled into higher-value goods. We provide sustainable supply chain solutions for enterprises involved in plastics recycling, low-carbon steel manufacturing, renewable fuels and other emerging markets.

Co-Locating BNSF & Customers for Efficient, Convenient Services

Streamlined Supply Chain Solutions
BNSF Logistics Parks are BNSF-owned facilities anchored by a BNSF intermodal hub and surrounded by distribution centers to provide streamlined supply chain solutions for intermodal customers. By providing the setup for customers to operate in close quarters with us, we optimize the operating footprint and limit the transportation emissions required between intermodal and distribution activities.

Resources & Emissions Reductions
Co-locating at these facilities gives customers direct access to BNSF services and reduces the number of truck miles driven on public roads.

Efficiency Advantages
Our customers can enjoy the operational and logistical efficiency advantages of co-locating at our Logistics Parks and Logistics Centers.

Investing in Our Rail to Decarbonize America’s Supply Chain
We invest directly in the development of new facilities and sites in under-serviced, strategic, and primarily end-user markets to provide customers a low-carbon solution for moving their carloads. BNSF Logistics Centers serve customers with direct-rail service in multi-customer, multi-commodity business parks. We are taking strides to meet customers where they need efficient transportation solutions most.

Logistics Parks and Intermodal Hubs

Logistics Centers

Reducing Operational Emissions & Improving Efficiencies at Our Intermodal Facilities

With 27 facilities in 14 states, We boast the industry’s largest network of intermodal hubs, connecting consumer goods to most U.S. markets. In 2023 4.5 million intermodal shipments were transported on our rail lines instead of on the nation’s congested highways.

We continuously look for ways to increase efficiency and reduce our operational carbon footprint with the use of leading-edge equipment and technology at our intermodal hubs.

BNSF intermodal facilities utilize the following equipment and technology to support reduced carbon emissions:

  • Wide-span electric cranes that produce zero emissions and reduce the number of diesel-powered hostlers required.
  • Battery-electric hostlers, forklifts and drayage trucks.
  • Real time Inventory: A combination of data sources is used to simultaneously verify and update inventory operating systems for the railroad, improving customer experience and providing a foundation for more accurate capacity planning in the future.
  • Automated yard checks that utilize 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.
  • Load Plan Optimization: By using an AI-based algorithm that creates a load plan for an outbound train in seconds, we can ensure that the right containers and trailers are located where they need to be on the production tracks, minimizing the overall distance our hostler drivers need to travel, ultimately improving hostler utilization, reducing fuel consumption and improving track turn times.

A BIG New Development

We have begun development of the 4,500-acre Barstow International Gateway (BIG). BIG will be a uniquely integrated operation, consisting of a rail yard, intermodal facility and warehouses for transloading freight from international containers to domestic carriers. The first of its kind, the facility will allow direct transfer of containers from ships at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to trains headed to our mainline. By putting freight directly onto rail from Southern California ports, we will aid in reducing congestion, local emissions, and improving supply chain and transportation network fluidity and efficiency. BIG has the potential to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions in the ports and within the corridor between the coast and the inland facility while creating thousands of jobs. At the facility, containers will be processed using zero- and near-zero emission cargo-handling equipment. Supporting a sustainable transportation network and supply chain along with reducing carbon emissions in our operations are key initiatives in the BIG development.

Take a look at our BIG plans

Advanced Energy Innovation

In 2023, the Advanced Energy Innovation team continued to explore decarbonization solutions including assessing battery-electric locomotives, hydrogen fuel cell locomotives, hybrid locomotives, hybrid rubber-tired gantry cranes, zero-emission solutions for cargo handling, as well as solar power and microgrid technologies for facility resiliency and expense reduction.

Supporting Innovative Locomotive Development to Decarbonize Rail

We continue to develop the industry’s next generation of locomotives. In 2021, we tested a prototype battery-electric locomotive in collaboration with Wabtec. Initial revenue service testing of the locomotive was completed between Stockton and Barstow, California. The battery-powered locomotive was situated between two Tier 4 diesel locomotives, creating a battery-electric hybrid consist that powered the train. The battery-electric locomotive was charged in Stockton and stored additional kinetic energy captured through dynamic braking once on the road.

We are also continuing to evaluate and monitor developments in the advanced energy locomotive space, including both hydrogen and battery electric locomotives. We are partnered with Chevron and Progress Rail for a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive demonstration, which is expected to begin early phase testing in mid-2025. The hydrogen fuel cell locomotive configuration will include on-board hydrogen storage, a fuel cell to create electricity from the hydrogen, batteries to store electricity, and standard electric traction motors to power the locomotive. We are committed to evaluating the technical, operational, and economic feasibility of emerging locomotive technologies and understanding their potential integration into our rail operations.

Additionally, we are exploring the suitability of Tier 4 hybrid locomotives, whereby a battery will be added to a standard Tier 4 locomotive to improve fuel efficiency through the capture and re-use of “free energy” from regenerative braking.

Facility Electrification

We continue to implement next-generation battery-electric and hybrid-powered cargo-handling equipment at intermodal facilities in California and in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Electric cargo-handling equipment operates with less noise and more cleanly with zero-emissions compared to traditional diesel machines, contributing to a safer, and more comfortable work environment while reducing sound pollution and environmental impacts on surrounding communities.

First Fully Electric U.S. Hostler Facility

Our Stockton, California yard is the first fully electric hostler facility in the United States, with 21 electric hostlers and a hybrid-electric rubber-tired gantry crane, which reduces carbon emissions at the facility by 90%. Additionally, this facility has a 0.75 mega-watt solar array providing renewable energy to feed the facility’s electrical grid to charge their equipment.

Zero-Emissions, Battery-Powered Hostlers

In 2023 we replaced 12 diesel hostlers with zero-emissions battery-electric hostlers in our South Seattle intermodal facility.

Over five years, we estimate that replacing 12 diesel yard trucks with all-electric yard trucks will reduce 29.5 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 4.3 tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and 3,328 tons of CO2e. This is equivalent to removing greenhouse gas emissions from 741 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year, based on EPA’s Greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

At our San Bernardino intermodal facility, we began the installation of 12 electric chargers that will support 12 battery-electric hostlers recently purchased by our service partner, Con Global. In 2024, we will deploy those trucks and then potentially replace an additional 38 trucks in 2025.

Sustainable Development & Conservation

Our Commitment to Sustainable Development

BNSF is focused on sustainable development with respect to the environment, the communities in which we live and operate, and our business. In 2023, BNSF executed a deep dive into our development project processes and established a company-specific playbook with a focus on sustainable development and communities, that encompasses the entire lifespan of a project, from site selection, design and construction to operation and maintenance. This new tool provides guidance to engineering project managers by reinforcing current processes with the integration of sustainability measures.

We measure sustainable development by the project’s impact on and by (1) the community, (2) project management, (3) efficient resource allocation, (4) natural world conservation, and (5) climate and resiliency. The vision for our playbook is for BNSF project owners and teams to develop sites that provide business value while minimizing environmental impacts and improving community engagement.

Recycling & Other Sustainability Initiatives

BNSF engages in an intensive recycling program. Materials recycled in 2023 included approximately:

These actions allowed us to reduce overall trucking miles, avoiding ~1,475 Mtons CO2 from emissions. We also reduced annual energy use by ~2,000 MWh and annual Natural Gas use by ~94,400 therms, for a combined ~1,450 MTons/year CO2e carbon emissions.

Other sustainability initiatives include:

  • Responsible Care Management System – Rail Carrier Partner, which promotes continuous environmental, health, safety, and security improvement.
  • Operation Clean Sweep, which focuses on prevention of plastic spills.
  • The Cyclyx Coalition, which aims to build supply chains and support technologies to recycle up to 90 percent of U.S. plastic.

Environmental Protections

Natural world conservation is revisited throughout our sustainable development playbook. The playbook recommends project teams look for opportunities to minimize our impacts to natural resources, such as rivers and streams, endangered species habitats, and wetlands in watersheds during site-location, site layout and design of development projects. Well-informed site selection allows projects to screen potential environmental permitting requirements and potentially avoid any sensitive or protected areas. We aim to optimize the site layout of every project by working with engineering and environmental professionals to strategically and efficently develop operational areas and provide prompt service to our customers.

We continue to work closely with partners such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and PNW Tribal Governments to promote conservation projects.

Our ongoing work with the NFWF supports conservation projects by reducing impacts to wildlife across the BNSF system, such as minimizing grizzly bears strikes in the Northern Rockies, improving habitats for the Mojave Desert tortoises in the southwest, and fostering a healthier marine ecosystem for Chinook salmon and orca whales in the Pacific Northwest.

Investing in Remediation

We actively address environmental impacts at legacy sites – locations where predecessor railroads and others may have conducted operations for up to a century. In the last decade, we have rehabilitated approximately 100 sites and invested approximately $230 million toward remediation efforts.

An Ongoing Focus on Sustainable Operations

We are committed to pollution prevention and environmental stewardship and manage that commitment through our Sustainable Operations Program (SOP). As part of the SOP, we provide guidance and best management practices for twelve operational areas as listed. Each of these are evaluated to identify sustainable solutions that provide operational benefit to our on-site teams. These include waste minimization/recycling, equipment/infrastructure, economic and environmental improvements, or operational changes that improve our environmental footprint. Imbedding environmental stewardship and sustainability into our everyday operations drive sustainability throughout the organization and lead to risk reduction, cost savings and a more sustainable railroad.

  1. Fueling
  2. Maintenance
  3. Wastewater
  4. Stormwater
  5. Waste Management
  6. Equipment/Materials Storage
  7. Property Operations & Maintenance
  8. Contractor/Leased Operations
  9. Construction and Expansion Activities
  10. Transportation Operations
  11. Adjacent Sensitive Receptors (e.g., Rivers, Wetlands)
  12. Agency/Community Involvement