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  #1  
Old 05-03-2011
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Coal powered freighters and yachts should come back.

I know this is a sailing forum but I have a big imagination. I know that many people simply could not afford to burn oil to power their boat. But what if you didn't have to sail?

I've researched some and the only coal fired boat that I know of is the Luddington Ferry which I have been on. It was pretty nice. The was a large pile of coal on the Wisconsin side like the kind you would see at a power plant.

Anyway, back over 100 years ago pretty much everything on the water and on rails burned coal. Then oil came along. The heavy oil like #4 and #5 bunker fuel which need preheating to burn in a diesel engine were just waste at the refinery and would be burned off. It could be purchased for pennies a gallon or sometimes even under a penny since it was only a fraction of the cost of the lighter fuels like gasoline. I can't find any actual data on how much it cost. So everything got converted from being coal fired to oil fired. Then since they were now using liquid fuel they started using diesel engines and the boilers were a thing of the past. 10 years ago bunker fuel was about half the price of diesel (#2), when diesel was $1 a gallon. Now it is about 7/10 the price of diesel at $700 a ton.

Because of increasing oil costs and the quickly shrinking ratio of bunker fuel to diesel costs the shipping industry has slowed the speed of their freighters to sometimes as low as 15 knots, which compares to the speed of 19th century sailing ships. Those ships have had operating costs at $15,000 per day!

Coal costs under $100 per short ton (2000 pounds). Anthracite has 7/10 the energy per weight as diesel. Power plants today are able to do over 40% energy conversion efficiency. Commercial electricity from a power plant can be as low as 5 cents per kWh.

Diesel at 7 pounds per gallon is 286 gal/ton or $1000 per ton at $3.50 a gallon. At 1/15 gallons per kWh on a larger (38% efficient) diesel engine that's 23 cents per kWh not counting any other costs.

At $100 coal it should be about 3 cents per kWh compared to 23 for diesel so 1/8 the cost.

Cheap steam turbines which run at 150 PSI and are only 10% efficient are available. But to do a 40% efficient system you have to have very high pressures.

It would be a fun engineering project. If some day I can get my hands on a steel boat that's over maybe 70 feet I'll try to convert it to coal ($58 a ton now) and go around at a fraction of the cost!

I'm surprised the larger ships aren't burning coal again. A small several megawatt power plant could easily fit inside a big ship.
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Old 05-03-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steel View Post
I'm surprised the larger ships aren't burning coal again. A small several megawatt power plant could easily fit inside a big ship.
Steel, assuming you actually believe the content of your own post.. I'll give this a shot:

1. First off, although it was certainly cheap, nobody ever in history just "burned off" heavy oil. Amongst other things like oil lamp fuel, it was used to make the roads you drive on.

2. Coal is basically solid carbon. Do we assume you've not heard of Global Warming/Climate Change, etc?

3. What do you think the greenies would have to say about coal-burning ships?

4. Have you any idea of the handling issues surrounding large quantities of coal? Besides the obvious fire/explosion risk in confined spaces ship-board, think about what coal dust does to your lungs!..

5. You won't get either a "several megawatt power plant", or anyone to run coal-fired boilers, inside any big ship these days. Even if the economy was there (and it isn't, when you take space contraints into account), OH&S simply will not allow it.

IIRC, one of the major reasons behind the move away from steam was the enormous amount of space the boilers and the associated ventilation apparatus took up... but there were many, many other reasons - mostly to do with safety of both ship and crew.

Have another think about why they won't come back..
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-03-2011 at 01:18 AM.
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Old 05-03-2011
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Coal Powered .....

OMG, why can't these people just let it go! Don't come close to our Chesapeake Bay with your @#%A^*& coal fired boat, we're just getting the water cleaned up, don't need to start on the air. Calculate your environmental costs for using coal, from personal experience, I'd suggest you take a "road trip" to China and see coal immissions at it's finest. Gheezeeee....
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Old 05-03-2011
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Where is the imagination...Coal? We can do better...we must do better...Tearing up the mountains/ground for fossil fuels or fracking gas and poisoning the aquifers? Let's get real...we're running out of time to still be going down the saem old road..that roads a dead end pretty soon...We need investment in new ideas and need taxes on oil/gas/coal over and above a certain percentage that must be re-invested in R and D that excludes fossil fuels. Too much fossil thinking going on...
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Old 05-03-2011
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Imagination needs to be backed by solid research. There are very good reasons for oil supplanting coal and economics was only part of it.

Consider safety. The town I'm in was founded on coal mining. I can take you to the site of a ship wreck that occurred when coal dust in its bunkers spontaneously combusted. Yet to best burn coal in a modern fluidized bed system the coal needs to be as fine as possible.

Reintroducing coal fired vessels would be a bit like trying to reintroduce horses into city transportation. There are situations where you can make an economic argument for it but I doubt people want to deal with the stink and tetanus again.

(p.s.: I love my horsies...)
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Old 05-03-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stormsailer1 View Post
OMG, why can't these people just let it go! Don't come close to our Chesapeake Bay with your @#%A^*& coal fired boat, we're just getting the water cleaned up, don't need to start on the air. Calculate your environmental costs for using coal, from personal experience, I'd suggest you take a "road trip" to China and see coal immissions at it's finest. Gheezeeee....
Looking the other way, I mean no pollution and a decent speed (8/10K) without being wind dependent there are two boats around, one circumnavigating (alright it is a odd and very expensive boat) :

YouTube - Solar-Powered Boat Docks in South Florida - Video - WPLG Miami.flv

YouTube - MS TÛRANOR PlanetSolar: el mayor barco solar del mundo (HD)

PlanetSolar :: First Around The World With Solar Energy ::*Home*

They have a cruising version of that one :

Catamaran à moteur : super-yacht de luxe (à énergie solaire) - TURANOR PLANETSOLAR - LOMOcean Design

And another that seems a lot more interesting to me. I saw this one on the Paris boat show and it seems almost a "normal" boat and it is not expensive, it was made by recycling old racing trimarans bits and pieces that were not used anymore:

Solar Odyssey par Lemer Pax

Battre le record de l'Atlantique en trimaran solaire

Solar Odyssey

Not boat related, but energy related, maybe you find this interesting:

Portuguese island to become first CO2-free island | euronews, hi-tech

Regards

Paulo
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Old 05-03-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley18 View Post
5. You won't get either a "several megawatt power plant", or anyone to run coal-fired boilers, inside any big ship these days. Even if the economy was there (and it isn't, when you take space contraints into account), OH&S simply will not allow it.

IIRC, one of the major reasons behind the move away from steam was the enormous amount of space the boilers and the associated ventilation apparatus took up... but there were many, many other reasons - mostly to do with safety of both ship and crew.
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.
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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.
Hei Jim, nice post

Thanks for sharing that knowledge. I knew that some electricity plants run on coal instead of fuel, but they don't have the storage space problem of a ship.

Regarding boats one of the things that I always have find puzzling was the power and speed some of the steam World war I Warships had. Take for instance the Goeben, that could make 27K and that even with a damaged boiler could evade all the British navy in an epic pursuit (I had read the book, an old one belonging to my grand father, and the story is really fabulous).

Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Only much later could diesel engines match that power and speed or at least is the idea I have.

Regards

Paulo
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A modern steam turbine is way smaller than the old piston clanking steam engine. One big advantage from an engineering standpoint is once you convert the energy to steam you have big flexibility. Basically anything that burns can be used to generate steam.

To those who don't think we should burn any fossil fuel, buy a bunch of 200ft oars, I'll buy the pair of drums.
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Old 05-03-2011
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This is where the term "Black Gang" came from. The men shoveling the coal into the fire boxes of the boilers in order to make steam for the steam engines & generators. on board the ships. Even with the modern screw coal feeders for those boilers it is still a dirty job.
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And like when the Engineers get feeling full of themselves; I always tell them that I don't need them because I can always rig sails.
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Last edited by Boasun; 05-03-2011 at 09:19 AM.
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