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Moon phases

We Did It

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We Did It

Post by assassin on Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:48 pm

During the 1960’s and 70’s there was something called “the plan for coal” and this was a long term investment to guarantee the future of coal, this led to considerable drilling around the coal producing areas of the coal for depth, seam thicknesses, and quality. During this period many satellite projects were initiated and this was just one of many.

New technologies leads to new markets and both the Labour and Conservative Government’s knew this and they both looked at this particular project as exciting as there were moves within the EU to make itself more powerful and less accountable and their eventual goal was an EU superstate. Realising this was a reality and the possibility of the UK not being energy self-sufficient for the first time in history spurred both political parties to invest in this particular project which was to replace heavy oil engines with a new fuel, coal. Target markets initially were large consumers of heavy oil to create a large sales base for coal as many traditional markets were beginning to dry up and the exploration of new markets would guarantee coal sales in large quantities as fuel. It was envisaged that by making this project feasible we would retain energy independence as a nation and give ourselves a home produced alternative to the dominance of oil. Meanwhile here in the UK we knew we had over 700 years of viable coal reserves which were cheaply and readily accessed to break the dominance of the oil controlled market.

Exploratory work began and the chosen target markets were two of the largest consumers of heavy oil, ships and railway locomotives as they can potentially consume gallons per minute in the case of both and this would create a vast market for the coal industry. Work began with the basics, negotiations started with the nationalised rail industry to convert several of their older locomotives to run on coal and this initially met with some opposition and they elected to offer the older Deltic class of locomotives which were nearly phased out. These ran the old Napier engines and the only ones left in service were those which were too good to scrap as most had already been scrapped and they were confined to more localised duties, but this wouldn’t be a true test of replacing their diesel fuel for coal, so were rejected. Further negotiations continued and with some Government pressure British rail conceded and allowed a limited number of modern Sulzer powered locomotives to be used as a test bed, these were current generation engines and were known for their reliability and low fuel consumption over earlier engines, so true testing could occur. If 25% of all locomotives could successfully run on coal instead of oil, reliably and with lower fuel consumption or lower costs British Rail agreed to convert them and adopt them as a duel fuel strategy for their locomotives, this was the aim.

One ship engine manufacturer also agreed to look at this option as they supplied diesel engines to the lower mid weight ships and these could range from cargo ships to passenger ferries, and as they had massive fuel consumption from equally massive engines it could be a lucrative market for coal.

Work began on producing an injection system for coal and a company in Southampton began work on producing low cost the fuel injection systems, from memory (which sometimes fades) I believe this was a company called Bryce, and they produced an excellent fuel injection system for powdered coal. Rolls Royce were developing multi-fuel engines for military applications which would run on anything from traditional petrol and diesel through to paint thinners, paraffin’s, and even thinned down old engine oils, basically one engine could run on any mix of these fuels. They also allowed some of their locomotive engines to be converted to running on powdered coal for the knowledge gained for their own research.

With a number of engines converted to running on pure coal dust a number of problems were encountered and the main one was wear, this was quickly overcome with the addition of an anhydrous lubricant added to the coal dust, the second problem was moisture in the air.

Fuel tanks had already been replaced with pressurised tanks which were pressurised to around 10 psi to blow the powdered coal into the fuel injection system, apart from this the coal acted in every way as a liquid fuel and was very successful as a fuel. One other problem was clogging and this was from the anhydrous coal absorbing airborne moisture and forming into lumps which wouldn’t break down small enough to act as a liquid and once again this was easily overcome. Fuel tanks were fitted with a series of internal pipes of which some were fitted to the engines cooling system to keep it warm and dry when the locomotive was running and it was coupled to a small coal fired heater which connected to the coal storage tanks when in the loco sheds. This meant that the coal powered locomotives had to have two pipes connected to the fuel storage tanks before the engines were shut off which meant being in range of the heated coal storage tanks, this wasn’t a major problem though.

With the engines running on pure coal dust they provided excellent service and fuel consumption dropped by around 12-28% depending on application and the cost of providing dried and powdered coal was as cheap as diesel bought in bulk, this meant an instant saving. In addition they provided a useful power and torque increase with power being up from 8-22% and torque rising from 14-21% over running on diesel; this meant shorter times running at higher throttle settings to power their massive alternators.

Maintaining these engines was increased for analytical purposes and by switching from diesel to powdered coal it was found that normal oils were actually standing up well to the switch in fuels and servicing reverted back to the normal servicing routines. Additional testing found that the service schedules could actually be increased thus saving a significant amount on engine oils and filters. One problem was found and this was the air filter assemblies were clogging quickly as the engines were drawing more air so needed cleaning or replacing more frequently depending on the filter type.

Heat was an issue as by producing more power you generate more heat and the superbly over engineered Sulzer engines coped with this fairly well but the radiators were redesigned to lower their temperatures when working at high engine loadings, merely as a precaution. Previously this Sulzer unit was prone to some teething issues and while these were effectively dealt with after installation none of them reoccurred from running on powdered coal.
Sulzer 12LDA units were the test bed and they ran in the popular Class 47 locomotives which were used for both freight and passenger duties which allowed a fair trial at full load working and off load idling conditions for prolonged periods. Many Class 47 locomotives were fitted with slow speed control which made them popular for hauling coal and many other loose minerals as they could be loaded and unloaded with automated equipment, and many hauled coal away from collieries.

Unknown to us at the time was the fact that British Rail was indeed running a secret programme to “sprinterise” the locomotives which led to the introduction of the taper fronted locomotives marked as “125” from which many classes derived; these were tested with the Paxman Vallentia power pack.
Class 47’s topped out at either 75 or 85mph depending on variant and this was deemed too slow for long haul passenger work, the following “sprinterised” series all topped out at 125 mph and were deemed to be a general purpose locomotive capable of freight and passenger work.

Various Rolls Royce powered locomotive and marine engines were considered for conversion from diesel to powdered coal and while Rolls Royce showed interest they decided their C series engines were fine running on heavy oil and initially opted out. British Coal had several Sentinel locomotives in use and these were used as shunters which were the original British Coal Gyro units and were converted back to the 325 HP twin engined hydraulic drives and British Coal targeted their own units for conversion.
Rolls Royce saw that worldwide oil prices rising and decided that a twin fuel with minimal engineering work could expand their C series engines worldwide potential in locomotive, static, marine, and power generation markets, and in the mining heavy engines market in plant. Rolls Royce opted out of having Bryce design and build an injection system and opted to design and build their own systems. Things failed right from the outset as Rolls Royce lacked the total fuel injection experience of specialised fuel injection specialists, and while they ran the Sentinel powered locomotives showed great promise and power and torque increases to the Sulzer engines, but were plagued with faults from the fuel injection equipment.

Paxman diesels were producing a new engine called the Valenta MK 2 which was to replace the earlier engine and this came in an 18 cylinder version with a cylinder capacity of around 7 litres per cylinder, and better still Bryce were developing a new diesel injection system for it. Bryce spoke to Paxman and it was agreed that they would run three of these units with coal instead of heavy oil and the results were phenomenal, Bryce introduced and developed the forerunner to high pressure fuel injection we take for granted today and they introduced massive injection pressures to this engine. Their injection system allowed for a cheap and easy conversion from heavy oil to powdered coal; and while these were high speed units peaking at 1600 RPM and producing 5000 HP on heavy oil they produced over 6000 HP on powdered coal.
New cylinder head designs and high pressure injection really suited the conversion to coal and at least three ran on coal in marine applications as primary engines, one is actually still in service somewhere, but I don’t know where and would love to know.


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