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Freight Railroad Electrification?

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 23, 2021 9:49 PM

Personally if you're going after the carrier market putatively served at a blue-hydrogen price point, you should ramp up biobutanol (perhaps via ABE -- not the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton ABE!) as that is a higher-net-energy fuel that is pipeline-distribution capable.

Ceramic Solar turbines with magnetic bearings in shock-absorbing modular sleds is a solution that's largely worked out.   You can even steam-bottom for that GTCC long-Rankine-efficiency cachet.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Saturday, July 24, 2021 1:53 AM

I'd wonder if thermoelectric generators might be a bit more practical (think size), though may not wring out as much energy as Rankine cycle bottoming would. One advantage of any bottoming cycle is reducing the exhaust temperature.

Is biobutanol any easier to produce than ethanol? OTOH, a gas turbine should be able to burn any reasonably clean vegetable oil, though alcohols are probably cleaner burning than oils.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, July 24, 2021 2:16 AM

Wind turbine generators are actually motor generators uch like hydro plants.  If the wind mill is stopped the grid starts up the windmill until it is in sync .  As the windmill is accelerating the prop angle is adjusted to have minimual air friction.  Once the props are in sync then the blade angle  changes to have the wind start giving thrust to the generator.  The motoring then changes to generating.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, July 24, 2021 2:58 AM

daveklepper

Run-through?   Diversion?

 

 
This illustration is a very quick depiction of how best to begin electrification.   Participation in an informal electrification srudy of Horse shoe brought this up.  Each of the 2 diesels provide power to its own traction motors and to one of the electric's trucks.  Just before entering the climb the electric now contacts the CAT which just started and now provides power to all three units on the climb to the top with diesels idle or off.  
 
Once over the top and during descent regeneration to either the grid or partial power to a train coming up grade toward the descending train. The electric could be old 6 axel units whose prime mover is removed and electronic equipment installed to  facilitate this operation.  This set up uses good old loco frames with newer  AC traction motors.  Now you have a dual mode set up without carrying around all the needed CAT fuctions in every dual mode loco..
 
This set up also requires fewer prime  movers and locos than having dual mode equipment all in one loco. ( means less diesel maintenance )  Diesel fuel consumption  would be much less.  Also on a long run where all major climbs used CAT refueling delays would be spread farther apart.  HP hours for diesels would be greatly reduced making for longer times between overhauls.
 
Another help is that coming out of tracks with no CAT the full HP of the diesels is now spread over 18 axels instead of 12 that a convential 2 diesels has.  Most present day AC locos have to derate HP at low speeds until reching ~ 8 -14 mph,   Full HP can be used to start out from yards. Expensive extensive CAT in yards would not be needed.
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, July 24, 2021 7:27 AM

Erik_Mag
I'd wonder if thermoelectric generators might be a bit more practical (think size)

I've looked at TAC and other thermoacoustic approaches over the years, but my general appraisal is that they're too expensive in most cases for harvesting power.  They are highly useful in a few niche applications, including railroading, but not really cost-effective for a few extra degrees of bottoming.  I think it is more worthwhile, if low effective exhaust temperature is desirable, to make the absorptive bottoming system larger and run it a bit over optimal capacity with the generated power stored and any surplus extracted heat dissipated away from the exhaust.

I have been following butanol and ABE over the years, along with bio-H2O2 with solar concentration -- of course if you were a rogue nation intent on terrorism this is a sort of Manhattan Project -- and there are some interesting technologies, one involving green electricity to assist the biology, that are said to be compatible with modern ethanol production.  Again the great advantage is in distribution and compatibility, which, as in the case of hydrogen carrier, factors measurably into the delivered price and availability.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, July 24, 2021 7:50 AM

Modern dual-mode-lite is just like the FLXdrive demonstrator with the HVAC transversion installed; while it is possible to build this with 'just' electrical equipment, you have the same issues with that unit as straight AC (needs to be expensively switched/cabled in or out of consist at ends of electrified district, or run merely as a road slug).  In some cases that could be justified, but I think it would be wiser whether 'homemade' or bought new to have the battery and electric equipment co-designed so that the one can easily be installed to supplement the other as desired, and all computers programmed to recognize what is present and use it most effectively.

I still think the most effective power intertie will be at DC-link voltage; this is higher than most present road-slug connections, but I see little application of hybrid power to DC-motored units preferentially, while some DC-to-DC transversion followed by modulation at 600V might be arranged for DC motoring.

The conversion of individual AC locomotives to dual-mode-lite directly (through installation of power pickups and transversion/rectification to DC link) is likely for a later stage in electrification, where the islanding has become more extensive.  Here you will still have some of the prime movers idling or on the line for operational reasons, including partial traction power or pollution abatement, as you don't have a traction battery to get across the gaps in the electrification that remain non-cost-effective to span, or areas where the electrification is off. (I may be paranoid but I suspect there will be many times that the grid will be stressed to the point it is 'better' to run trains with their own, oerhaos by then zero-net-carbon, power than to preclude power to utility customers or BEV charging infrastructure.  Dual-mode-lite either in consist or in individual locomotives gives this automatically, even to the extent the 'mix' of onboard and external power could be adjusted from an outside authority with no change in practical train handling (and no consequence on railroad operations if utility SCADA ir whatever is successfully hacked, but that's another discussion).

Just as a note, in the specific case of Horse Shoe: this is a very late validation of the original 'design principle' of compressing the severe gradient of an Allegheny crossing into minimal distance.  Retaining straight-electric helper 'modules' that could plug into traction-motor-level circuits would remain an attractive option for so short and specialized an operation, even if the comparative advantage of snapping over helping applies less in this modern PSR world.  However, as NS transitions away from DC units, and uses AC more on Horse Shoe where its advantages are more obvious, the idea of tying to DC link here, too, become attractive, even if make-and-break connections in the 1200-1500V range are involved.

Such construction would, of course, be in common with the wiring to be used for FLXdrive-style dual-mode-lite...

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Saturday, July 24, 2021 1:16 PM

MidlandMike

Great, now how much steel, copper and concrete does it take to build a thermal power plant?

From a paper on the UC Berkeley NE department website "05-001-A_Material_input.pdf" with steel in metric tons per average MWe and concrete in cubic meters per average MWe (Mega Watt electric)

Plant type     Steel     Concrete
GT-CC             3.3              27
Nuclear          40                90
Coal               98              160
Wind             460              870

GT-CC = Gas Turbine Combined Cycle

NB: I got my master's degree from Cal's NE department, but that was over two decades before the above paper was written.

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, July 24, 2021 8:55 PM

Erik_Mag

 

 
MidlandMike

Great, now how much steel, copper and concrete does it take to build a thermal power plant?

 

 

From a paper on the UC Berkeley NE department website "05-001-A_Material_input.pdf" with steel in metric tons per average MWe and concrete in cubic meters per average MWe (Mega Watt electric)

Plant type     Steel     Concrete
GT-CC             3.3              27
Nuclear          40                90
Coal               98              160
Wind             460              870

GT-CC = Gas Turbine Combined Cycle

NB: I got my master's degree from Cal's NE department, but that was over two decades before the above paper was written.

 

 

That was a 2005 study, while others have pointed out that wind construction has become more efficent.  It would be interesting to see a more recent comparison.  Of course this says nothing of the fuel usage over the life of a thermal electric power plant.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Saturday, July 24, 2021 10:58 PM

MidlandMike

That was a 2005 study, while others have pointed out that wind construction has become more efficent.

I would doubt that there would be more than modest improvements in material requirements for wind power in the last 15 years. For a given wind velocity, the thrust against the turbine is going to be directly proportional to the power prooduced. This thrust is then going drive the amount o steel needed for the supporting pylon along with the concrete in the base to counter overturning moment.

As I mentioned before, this does not include the amount of materials for the energy storage to make 100% renewable electricity feasible.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Sunday, August 1, 2021 10:41 AM
 

Read this link by Jim Blaze. It lays out the best path forward for electrification.

https://www.railwayage.com/news/dont-dismiss-freight-rail-electrification/

 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, August 6, 2021 11:10 AM

JoeBlow

North American railroads will electrify when someone develops a battery that is more user friendly than diesel engines and the current battery tech available.

The same reasons (faster/easier refueling, longer distances between stops, less maintenance, high energy density than diesel fuel, etc) that caused diesel to replace steam. 

 

 
Yes, I suspect that they might just come up with some kind of a new, super-duper battery that could handle this.
 
I would just like to point out, that if they could do that the railroads would be able to string catenary without necessarily wiring the entire line.  Perhaps in a 100 mile stretch, only 30 or 40 miles would need to be wired.  That would save a lot of money.
 
Trains under catenary could be charging their batteries while they were moving under wire.
 
There are actually a few newer streetcar lines that are already doing this.  Only part on the line is under wire.
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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, August 7, 2021 12:18 AM

If battery development is slow have a lash up of diesel-electric- diesel.  Use electric to power all 18 axels when all 18 axel power is needed and on the relative flat have diesels provide all traction power. 

Same effect refueling not needed as often.

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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, August 7, 2021 3:18 PM

I don't think I've ever seen a locomotive do a spin before...Geeked

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, August 7, 2021 3:31 PM

Not viable as elimination of diesels on mainlines is the objective. 

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Posted by rdamon on Saturday, August 7, 2021 4:35 PM

I do not see this happening without regulation.

Probably with a start in Southern California.

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Posted by diningcar on Saturday, August 7, 2021 4:54 PM

Mr. Cain, your 100 mile charging segment would have a few problems with the usual mishaps like a hot box or derailment while occupying the charging site. Tying up the 100 miles until problems resolved.  

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Posted by david vartanoff on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 2:01 AM

At least a few heavy interurban lines (often owned by electric utilities) co-located transmission lines w/ their rail holdings.  The Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee comes to mind.   

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Posted by Samuel Johnston on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 1:24 PM
Those NYWS&B lines near Syracuse are actually on the Rochester & Syracuse interurban ROW.
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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 1:53 PM

david vartanoff

At least a few heavy interurban lines (often owned by electric utilities) co-located transmission lines w/ their rail holdings.  The Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee comes to mind.   

 
That arrangement could be found on North Shore's Skokie Valley bypass and South Shore had a similar arrangement on its East Chicago bypass.
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Posted by Samuel Johnston on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 2:12 PM

The PRR studied electrification to death over several decades between WW One and the Korean War.  Yes, the electrifications of the 1915 era and then 1931-7 (probably) saved them from bankruptcy then and preserved its fabled dividend record.  The 1930's electrification happened in part because the Depression had reduced costs so much.  For much detail on the PRR and electrification see Michael Bezilla's book on the PRR's experience with electrification.  You'll read that the 1931 choice was between building the "Relief Line" across NJ and electrifying the main line New York-Washington (adding Phillly-Harrisburg came a few years later once they saw how well that was working).  In 1946-9 the choice was between electrifying the Middle Division and Dieselizing the entire system--Dieselization won as they were going to have to do that aways.  In a nutshell the perfecting of the Diesel made electrification non-competitive and future changes in traffic confirmed the choice.  I dont' have the time now to brainstorm on charging battery locomotives--I have suspicions that the heavy weight of batteries may turn out to be a big plus for tractive effort of battery locos--someone I hope is doing this.  Right now a lot of "talk" about future Mainline Electrification is much Environmentalist "Hokum" akin to the economic and racial theories running around loose 80-90 years ago: ultimately insanely deadly pernicious dead-ends.  The one truly positive thing the PRR's 1930's electrification did unexpectedly was win WW Two for us: the PRR in 1930-1 had worked out traffic projections for their system for ten-year intervals until 1982.  Their traffic projections for January 1982 were on them in Janaury 1942--and two years later traffic was double that!  So think people, THINK!

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Posted by Backshop on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 2:53 PM

Another thing to consider about electrification is how long the routes are viable.  Think of the heavy duty main lines of 3040 years ago.  Many are still that way, but many have been abandoned.  Most prominently is the old PRR west of Alliance (for most purposes).  Look even at the Powder River Basin.  Could the increased construction costs of electrification have been paid off before the route lost its viability?

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Posted by greyhounds on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 3:34 PM

charlie hebdo

Not viable as elimination of diesels on mainlines is the objective. 

 

And why is that a goal?
 
We could eliminate all emissions from US-Canadian rail operations, and it would have no, none, zero, nada, significant effect on climate change.  It’s insignificant.  
 
We do not have unlimited economic resources.  We cannot waste them.  Electrification would be a huge expense with negative benefits.  It would make rail transportation less efficient and more expensive while providing fewer benefits than its cost. 
 
And the trains can't run only when the wind blows and the sun shines.
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Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 10:12 PM

greyhounds

 

 
charlie hebdo

Not viable as elimination of diesels on mainlines is the objective. 

 

 

 

And why is that a goal?
 
We could eliminate all emissions from US-Canadian rail operations, and it would have no, none, zero, nada, significant effect on climate change.  It’s insignificant.  
 
We do not have unlimited economic resources.  We cannot waste them.  Electrification would be a huge expense with negative benefits.  It would make rail transportation less efficient and more expensive while providing fewer benefits than its cost. 
 
And the trains can't run only when the wind blows and the sun shines.
 


They think the Le Chatelier's principle doesn't exist, and CO2 and water vapor are pollutants. 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 8:46 AM

Some people just refuse to accept reality. 

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 9:05 AM
 

charlie hebdo

 

 Not viable as elimination of diesels on mainlines is the objective. 
 

 

 

 

While I'm a proponent of electrification. Our current system is fine, and in my thought prefered over; Asian, European, etc. model. I'd rather see improvements go toward clearance increases for; Greater dimesnional freight high and wide loads 23' Height by 16' Wide, grade reduction, and realignment to reduce transit time and increase capacity and average speed.

 

I do like battery switchers and that would be an efficient use in yard or local service in dense urban areas. When it comes to Diesels they are well suited to linehaul with high consistent RPM. Which makes them very efficient in that role, and a role in which they should stay. We don't need any range limited fancy fuel cells, LNG, CNG, etc. Diesel Fuel is the perfect combination of energy storage, and doesn't require expensive specialized infrastructure or storage..

According to the chart above RR's only produce 2.1% of GHG. Miniscule compared to on road vehicles. The absurdity that railroads are major contributors to GHG and need to curb emissions rapidly, are bogus and exaggerated claims. You want cleaner air. Eliminate inefficient zoning laws that create situations where you have to drive almost everywhere to get items you need..

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by ronrunner on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 9:38 AM

GE LOCOMOTIVE TOOK DOWN THEIR CAT WIRE ON THEIR TEST TRACK IN ERIE A COUPLE YEARS AGO

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Posted by ccltrains on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 9:43 AM

Electric locomotives do not pollute but what about the power plants generating the juice?  A 20 year payout is absurd for a knowledgable management.  Back when I was gainfully employed (up to 2006) we would strive for a three year payout for small projects and a seven year payout for large projects.  Look at the noise about electric cars.  If a significant percentage of the cars are electric there will not be enough electrical capacity to charge them.  This requires building more power plants that run on coal, natural gas, and oil.  How well do the solar and wind farms work on a calm night about midnight.  People in southern Arizona are installing solar panels on their roof.  With a seven year payout and a life expectancy of 10 years I do not think it is a good investment and personally will not be doing it.

 

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Posted by ccltrains on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 9:44 AM

charlie hebdo

Electric locomotives do not pollute but what about the power plants generating the juice?  A 20 year payout is absurd for a knowledgable management.  Back when I was gainfully employed (up to 2006) we would strive for a three year payout for small projects and a seven year payout for large projects.  Look at the noise about electric cars.  If a significant percentage of the cars are electric there will not be enough electrical capacity to charge them.  This requires building more power plants that run on coal, natural gas, and oil.  How well do the solar and wind farms work on a calm night about midnight.  People in southern Arizona are installing solar panels on their roof.  With a seven year payout and a life expectancy of 10 years I do not think it is a good investment and personally will not be doing it.

 

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 12:15 PM

SD60MAC9500
I'd rather see improvements go toward clearance increases for; Greater dimesnional freight high and wide loads 23' Height by 16'

The Erie (6  feet) and Great Western (7 feet) were ahead of their time and bequeathed generous clearances to their standard gauge successors, but maybe its time to move up from standard gauge. How about a nice round number like 10 foot gauge? The we'd see some REAL railroading!

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Posted by Gramp on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 8:57 PM

charlie hebdo

Some people just refuse to accept reality. 

 

Time will tell. Meanwhile enjoy the lusher environment. There's such a thing as natural variation when it comes to climate. Just as there's such a thing as human lust for power. 

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