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??