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  #21  
Old 05-03-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimsCAL View Post
Both these statements are incorrect. I recently retired from a forty plus year career as a marine engineer. I was an engineer on large steam cargo ships, a design and project engineer for a major ship design firm, and most recently a professor of marine engineering teaching power plant design. I can assure that coal is a viable marine fuel, that the engine room of a steam ship is actually smaller than that of a modern slow speed diesel, and that the technology to handle and burn coal is readily available. Keep in mind every nuclear submarine and most large LNG tankers are powered by steam turbine power plants. The reason we don't see new coal powered ships being built is economics. Yes the fuel is cheaper, but the lower power plant efficieny offsets much of that. Coal takes up more volume than oil and the storage bunkers must be fitted in valuable cargo storage areas. And coal bunkering facilities are not readily available in major ports anymore. If the price difference between coal and oil widens (and stays that way for a long period of time) we will see coal powered ships being built again. But not yet.
So you actually agree with me? Jim, just to set the record straight:

1. I have no problem with steam power plant - indeed the humble old steam engine is far more efficent than any internal combustion engine, but the topic of this discussion is coal-burning- not nuclear or LNG or anything else.

To compare "apples with apples", when thinking about a coal-burning steam plant (an external combustion engine) you must include at least the engine, boilers and ventilation systems, even if you allow the same size for fuel storage - which you seem to agree also takes up more space. To say that this equipment takes up less space ship-board than an equivalent internal combustion engine and its liquid fuel storage is just crazy stuff!!

As a marine engineer, you, of all people, should be well aware of the significant difference in ventilation rates and air quantities required to operate a steam boiler, compared to the token requirements for an internal combustion engine of any size. The only reason there are steam turbines in use on shipping today is that there are ways to generate steam to power them without using a boiler. eg. Nuclear.

2. My other point that you disagree with seems to be the handling of the stuff. Coal dust is a huge problem - everywhere. It is not only explosive (when mixed with air in the right amounts) and easily ignited by sparks from rock carried within the product itself, it can spontaneously combust unless the humidity is controlled. Everyone I've talked to at coal-handling terminals and bulk carriers in my regular line of work hates the stuff and would much prefer handling liquids any day.

3. Do you really think that the OH&S issues surrounding the use of coal to power a ship can be easily overcome by the regulatory authorities involved, when diesel/fuel oil is completely safe by comparison?? Good luck!!


I know there are plans afoot to liquify coal and feed this into engines of some sort, but am not aware of any advancing past pilot stage. Perhaps you do??
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-03-2011 at 09:08 PM.
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  #22  
Old 05-03-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steel View Post
Health risks of shipping pollution have been 'underestimated' | Environment | guardian.co.uk

Wow it looks like the pollution from burning bunker fuel is really bad. They say that they put out more harmful pollution than all of the world's cars combined..
Sounds like you've never in your life had a whiff of "stack gas". Quite an experience, let me tell you.

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Originally Posted by steel View Post
Nobody here works for an oil company do they? Why is there so much opposition to using coal? There are coal power plants everywhere. Sure they put out pollution but nothing near as bad as bunker fuel. What's wrong with having a coal power plant at sea?
Yes. Because coal = solid; oil = liquid. It is far easier/safer/cleaner/cheaper to handle liquids than solids.

I take it you've not noticed that coal power stations tend to be built on or next to coal mines? How on earth do you propose getting coal out to sea??

FWIW, Coal power plants are yesterday's news and are being progressively shut down all over the world. In the last 2 years, five new Natural Gas Turbine power stations have been constructed here Down Under and the same trend is happening globally (except maybe China) - they are smaller for the same output, cheaper to build and run, and safer and more efficient than the old coal-burning dinosaurs.

The latest tech seems to be Coal Seam Gas (CSG) power generation - where the coal is left in the ground and the methane used to generate power.
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-03-2011 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 05-04-2011
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Yeah LNG is a good fuel too.

But the price has varied widely in the past hasn't it? Kind of like bunker fuel.

A coal / LNG ship would be nice! It would have a boiler either way.
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Old 05-04-2011
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Just to clarify a few things:

1. For the same power, the engine room of a modern slow speed diesel plant (including all auxiliary equipement) would occupy more space than that for a steam turbine plant (including boilers and all auxilliary equipment.

2. The diesel is more efficient than the steam turbine plant. A modern slow speed diesel has a thermal efficience of over 50%. As marine steam plant is around 30-35 % efficient. A reciprocating steam engine plant is maybe 10 to 15 % efficient. So the modern diesel plant is actually 3 to 4 times more efficient than the reciprocating steam engine.

3. A diesel actually requires MORE combustion air than a boiler. Some boilers run with excess air levels of only 3 to 5 percent. A diesel at full load may be at 30 to 50 percent excess air and over 100 percent at part load.

3. Coal has a lower heating value than oil so you need more for the same amount of energy. This is one of the disadvantages of coal as compared to oil. But the lower cost of coal for the same amount of energy offsets that.

4. Coal has been used as a marine fuel for over a century. More electricity is generated by coal in the US than any other fuel. Thousands of smaller industrial boilers (similar in size to marime boilers) use coal as the fuel because of the lower overall costs. Yes there are considerations that have to be taken to handle and burn coal safely, but this is a fully developed technology with thousands of installations doing this routinely on a daily basis.

5. The use of coal as a fuel to power ships comes down to economic considerations, not engineering or technical ones. After oil spiked in price in the 1970s, a number of new coal-fired ships were built. Most were either bulk carriers or coal colliers. When oil then dropped in price in the 1980s new construction went back to oil as the fuel. We'll see if the current oil price situation will again result in a reconsideration of coal as a marine fuel.
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Isn't it true that coal dust can be piped as a liquid when mixed with an anti caking agent? Or as a slurry?
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  #26  
Old 05-04-2011
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Originally Posted by CapnBilll View Post
Isn't it true that coal dust can be piped as a liquid when mixed with an anti caking agent? Or as a slurry?
Yes, it can - although it's highly abrasive and hence doesn't do the pipelines any good. ..but you have to get it back out of it's slurry form (usually by hot-air drying) to be able to use it again.

I'm not against coal per se - there will always be a need for mining the stuff for steel-making, manufacturing and fuelling heritage ships and trains - but with so many Greenies and Tree Huggers around in this world of ours, it is simply not, right now, a viable (read "politically correct") alternative fuel for commercial applications given the host of other options out there.

Last I heard, someone was trying to run a diesel engine on a modified coal slurry - but I don't know how successful that was.
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Old 05-10-2011
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I know this thread has sort of died but I just had to.


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  #28  
Old 05-10-2011
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When I worked on some ships, they had steam deck winches. To me they were smoother and had more variable speeds in operations than an electric winch does.
The boilers on the ships burned special Navy fuel... Not as much crap came out of the stacks when they blew tubes.
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  #29  
Old 05-10-2011
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Coal...you guys are funny! Why not just burn old used tires to power your boat? Personally I prefer wind energy!
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  #30  
Old 05-11-2011
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When I worked on some ships, they had steam deck winches. To me they were smoother and had more variable speeds in operations than an electric winch does.
..they also had amazing amounts of torque for their size - which was why, even after some working boats converted to heavy oil, the old winches, powered off heat-recovery boilers, were often the last things to go.

Electric winches are only in the last few years, with the invention of 21st century electronics and efficient VVVF variable-speed torque-controlled motors, becoming a true like-for-like replacement for the old steam deck winch.
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-11-2011 at 12:13 AM.
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