Coke as home heating fuel?

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Coke as home heating fuel?
Posted by divebardave on Monday, January 6, 2020 8:13 PM

I know Coal but ocasionaly I see Coke mentioned as a fuel

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Monday, January 6, 2020 11:39 PM

I have a vague memory of reading an article meant for boys that touted coke (fuel, not drink) as a fuel as there would be a lot less ash to clean out of the furnace. Anthracite was probably as clean and I'm guessing was more widely available.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 9:14 AM

As I understand it coke is a specialized heating fuel, mostly used in the steel industry.  It burns much hotter than coal does and can damage furnaces not specifically built for its use. 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 10:03 AM

Petcoke was used as a home heating fuel.  Grandma's house was heated with it and Dad told me that his brother-in-law, who worked at Standard Oil in Whiting, would arrange for a load to be delivered to her house as needed.

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 11:42 AM

I grew up in a house that burned oil but I would find bits of coal in the yard where I suppose a coal chute was located. My brother said a big piece of coal (here he held his hands about a foot apart) would be worth fifty dollars! Woo, that was a lot of money to a 6 year old. I asked my father about that and he said fifty dollars would buy a couple of tons. No riches for me. 

But here's a funny thing I remember. On the oil tank in the basement was a float gauge that was a glass tube on top of the tank. Surrouding it was a red and yellow tin sign showing 1/4, 1/2 and full. I used to take those off and play with them, bending them and pretty much ruining them and then I would hide them. And every time I did that, another one would appear on the tank and the process would repeat. I was never asked about it, no one ever said anything about it and I was never punished for it. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 1:46 PM

My grandparents house had a coal furnace, which wasn't converted to gas until my grandmother sold the house around 1968 or so.  As a little boy I was fascinated by that coal furnace, I never played with it or even thought about doing so, but I was awestruck when Grandpa or Grandma opened the door to shovel coal into the furnace!  Wow!  What a sight!  I didn't see anything like that again until I took a cab tour of N&W 611 in 1992!  

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Posted by divebardave on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 2:58 PM

Some background here..On my last visit to Scranton PA I was doing research on the coal industry here from 1910-1970 something. The numbers are awsome--60,000,000-80,000,000 tons in a slow year. Most of it hand mined with pick and shovel by thounsands of miners living in coal patch towns. We only had about 30 Million people in the USA back then. So looking thru old city directorys i would come across "Joes Coal,Coke and Hardware store". Since my IP I now realize that the "Coke" was used by farriers and farmers in there home blacksmith shops for making a repairing horse shoes. See next post

 

 

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Posted by divebardave on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 2:59 PM

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 4:16 PM

divebardave

Some background here..On my last visit to Scranton PA I was doing research on the coal industry here from 1910-1970 something. The numbers are awsome--60,000,000-80,000,000 tons in a slow year. Most of it hand mined with pick and shovel by thounsands of miners living in coal patch towns. We only had about 30 Million people in the USA back then. So looking thru old city directorys i would come across "Joes Coal,Coke and Hardware store". Since my IP I now realize that the "Coke" was used by farriers and farmers in there home blacksmith shops for making a repairing horse shoes. See next post

 

 

 

If I remember correctly, just the C&O moved 60M tons of coal in 1953 or so.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 4:23 PM

Flintlock76
My grandparents house had a coal furnace, which wasn't converted to gas until my grandmother sold the house around 1968 or so.  As a little boy I was fascinated by that coal furnace, I never played with it or even thought about doing so, but I was awestruck when Grandpa or Grandma opened the door to shovel coal into the furnace!  Wow!  What a sight!  I didn't see anything like that again until I took a cab tour of N&W 611 in 1992!  

The B&O station at Lester, OH had a relatively large pot belly stove to heat the office area of the station.  The company would load in a supply of coal every fall for the coming heating season - Lester was on the route of many coke trains headed to the steel mills of Cleveland - when cars are loaded to Full Visible Capacity - some coke can be dislodged from the heap that is above the hopper car side, as well as some hopper car pockets close more securely that others.  There was always a supply of coke on the ground to be picked up and used to augment the coal when additional heat was needed - the stove grates didn't last all that long.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 4:42 PM

Coke is coal that has had the volatiles roasted out of it, leaving almost pure carbon.  This is desirable for forges and smokeless (but NOT carbon -monoxide-free) heat release.  It is more expensive to make than typical coal heating fuel.  Note that 'metallurgical coal' will likely be coked prior to actual use in steelmaking...

'Petcoke' is short for petroleum coke, a kind of byproduct of oil refining.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 4:58 PM

The coking process for converting bitumen/heavy oil into light synthetic crude produces large amounts of petroleum coke as a byproduct.  CN is currently shipping unit trains of it from the Alberta oilsands to Prince Rupert. 

Besides carbon, petcoke usually contains relatively high concentrations of impurities like heavy metals.  This makes it unsuitable for use in steelmaking, but it can be burned as fuel just like coal. 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 7:25 PM

SD70Dude
This makes it unsuitable for use in steelmaking, but it can be burned as fuel just like coal. 

Just be sure not to do so in modern superheated locomotives!  Review the interesting history of high vanadium levels in oil-based fuel... 

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 10:24 PM

There is a gas station nearby that also sells home heating fuel. It's callled Lambert's. I've seen pictures of Lambert's  taken over 100 years ago. They sold coal, coke, coal oil and naptha. So, what's coal oil? Like kerosene? So, if that's a fuel, did any locomotives run on it? I've only seen it referenced in western movies where someone wants to burn down a building, like "they done put coal oil in the livery stable!"  

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 8:48 AM

"Coal oil" was literally distilled from coal, in this country it was marketed under the trade name "kerosene," until petroleum based kerosene was developed.

Here's the story...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_oil  

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 10:24 AM

There's more to coal oil than I think Wikipedia tells.  Look at the mid-19th-century history of "Paraffin" Young and his smokeless lamp oil for a little better understanding; there are other constituents than alkanes in the fractions that come off in the distillation of various coals.

Here is a flowchart of the production of petcoke; I hope Midland Mike will comment as necessary:

The 'residual oil' is our old friend Bunker C; the yield of petcoke after thermal cracking is somewhere in the range of 18 to 30% by weight of the residual feed.

 The government apparently considers #5, the fuel of choice for classic reciprocating steam with von Boden-Ingles or Thomas-style burners, as being in the definition of 'residual oil' although whether a given refinery treats it as a feedstock for more valuable cracking or as a separate product may be a question for economics to determine.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 10:16 PM

Overmod
Here is a flowchart of the production of petcoke; I hope Midland Mike will comment as necessary:

I was more in the Exploration & Production end rather than refining.  Michigan light crudes did not yield much petcoke.  This changed once refineries started importing oil sands dilbit.  A Detroit refinery started generating so much petcoke and storing it in piles besides the Detroit River, that it started blowing around into the river and neighborhoods, which got the attention of regulators.  They finally moved the piles.  Not sure where it went, but one early destination of petcoke was European power plants.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 10:45 PM

I grew up in one of three Federal Housing Projects (Greenbelt MD, Greenhills OH, & Greendale WI). Our home had a coal fired steam boiler in the basement and a coal bin.  Fuel company would chute truck load of coal into the basement coal bin. Then mom would have to mop the basement to get the coal dust cleaned up. Depending on how bad the winter was, might take more than two refills to get through the winter. One year, my dad got a "deal" on a load of coke. Man, did that stuff burn hot. Had to change how you fired, (adjusted the dampers) the fire to avoid over heating the house. Later tried a load of fuel called "HAPPY PAK" which were paper wraped bricks of powdered coal and bound up oil that were easy to handle. no shoveling, just pick them up and throw in. Coal was a messy fuel, coal dust and ash to dispose of. No thermostatic control. At night, you had to bank the fire, then in the morning, you had to go down to the basement and open the dampers and shake the graThen an hour or so later, you woiuld need to reajust the dampers to suit the needs of the day. In 1950, the gov sold the village to the residents and my dad bought our unit. About a year later, we converted the boiler to oil. Village had no gas lines back then.

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Thursday, January 9, 2020 12:57 AM

   Speaking of coke burning hot...

   Does anyone else remember a story in TRAINS about 20 or 30 years ago, I think in "In My Own Words", by a fireman in a locomotive that was sitting idle next to a string of hoppers of coke?  He decided to experiment with burning coke so he borrowed some of it and put it into the firebox.  The boiler got so hot that the safety valves went off even with him opening everything he could and working the injector as fast as possible to inject cold water into the boiler.  By the time it died down, some of the firebrick in the arch was actually melted.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, January 9, 2020 3:29 AM

MidlandMike
Michigan light crudes did not yield much petcoke.  This changed once refineries started importing oil sands dilbit.

This gets interesting fast, and miningman probably has considerable specific information at his disposal.  Is this feedstock the 'dilbit' that has the asphaltenes removed?  It sounds to me as if somebody is 'diluting' the very heavy ends (together with its clays and salts) and sending it out for 'processing' -- something I find often 'glossed over' in discussion of tar-sands processing.

Incidentally, there appears to be a trend in the popular literature that says the composition of diluent is 'proprietary' and therefore dangerously unknown.  Unless I'm badly mistaken, the stats provided for Enbridge CRW condensate blend

https://www.crudemonitor.ca/condensates/index.php?acr=CRW

are as reasonable an analysis as needed.  (Note the residual sulfur component as mercaptans).

I have no current idea whether the degassing operations on American light crude (to suit it for railroad transportation) provide a useful source for some of the light fractions used in diluent.  It certainly appears that considerable dilbit/synbit is needed to admix with typical United States shale oil to suit it for 'conventional' refining, although where substantial amounts of 'useless' petcoke would come from in that feedstream is not entirely clear to me.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, January 9, 2020 3:40 AM

Paul of Covington
He decided to experiment with burning coke so he borrowed some of it and put it into the firebox.  The boiler got so hot that the safety valves went off even with him opening everything he could and working the injector as fast as possible to inject cold water into the boiler.  By the time it died down, some of the firebrick in the arch was actually melted.

Ah, the stories some of these old birds got over on unsuspecting railfans or journalists!

Unlikely he'd get anything even remotely like this level of 'heat' in the combustion plume without dramatic levels of draft (and control of primary air).  What would be necessary has been known since at least Sinclair's day -- think of coke as even-less-combustible anthracite as you read the history of hard-coal burning in "Development of the Locomotive Engine".  (Once it 'gets going', of course, there's all kinds of fun ... but it takes a long time in the absence of forced draft which of course he didn't have.)

The icing on the cake is 'firebrick in the arch' fusing.  I suspect that the firebars in the grate would have melted long before any particular effect of combustion gas plume heat on the firebrick came to be noted.

Of course those of us who actually know something about firing know that if he had too much heat even with the injector on ... he wouldn't wait for it to 'die down'; he'd just start dumping sections of the grate (and presumably building up a new fire using regular coal on those sections, progressively).  Of course this might lead to some comical ashpan burnout, frantic raking-out to the sides, amusing tie fires and the like, but it defies rationality to think that uncontrolled overheating would be tolerated for any length of time by a professional fireman.

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Posted by NDG on Thursday, January 9, 2020 5:18 AM
Coke and Coal Gas.
 
FYI,
 
After the War, in the Forties, we heated with Coke, Hot Water heat, and in summer, when Coke Furnace shut down, heated tap water w Coal in a small water heater plumbed in  adjacent.
 
Coal and Coke Furnace. Hot Water heat. W Blower.
 
 
For FAST hot water, there was a Gas-Fired Jacket Heater, which was costly to operate.
 
Coal and Coke were kept in bins and brought by truck.
 
Ashes from Coke were orangish, and fine.
 
There was an Ash Rocker w wire netting to sift out unburned fuel from ashes.
 
Example.
 
 
Ashes went in ASH CANS, Metal, and were picked up at curb by another truck SEPARATE from Domestic Garbage.
 
Ash Can.
 
 
 
The basement was dark and scary and I never went down there alone.
 
However, when it was time to Fire the Furnace, it was okay.
 
We would play train, and I was the Fireman!
 
If we did not have enough steam, we'd DIE on the grade and the train would be late.
 
My Father shook down the Grates and prepared the Fire for Firing
 
The lights were turned off. Not spooky now, as my Father was there.
 
Could just see in over the bottom of the Fire Door, open wide. Glowing, Blue Flames.
 
Radiant Heat.
 
I had my own shovel and would charge it w Coke and throw it in.
 
" More Steam '' was the cry, " Or we won't make it!! ', and in went another shovel..
 
And another, and another.
 
( With appropriate Locomotive Sounds, w Whistle. )
 
The Summit was reached!
 
We MADE IT!
 
No Flags sent out this trip!
 
Cheers all around!
 
 
The kitchen stove burned Coal Gas until Natural Gas arrived from the West. c. 1957. 
 
Gas Stove. No Pilot Light. Example.
 
 
Lit w Strike Anywhere Wood Matches for holder on wall.
 
Match Box Holder. Tin. Next to Stove.
 
 
Cardboard match box slid open presenting matches in tray.
 
Sides of match box had SAND glued on.
 
Matches struck on Sand thru slots in tin holder, or struck on stove top near burner.
 
Strike Anywhere Matches to go in Holder. Abrasive on sides of box.
 
 
Gas turned on, and Flame lit with POOF!
 
Poor planning to turn on gas, then go look for match......
 
 
 
Anyway.
 
Here is how Coal was converted into Coke and Coal Gas.
 
 
 
 
There was a Coke plant not far from our home.
 
They having their own steam locomotives 'til the Diesel Came.
 
 
 
 
Another Montreal Prairie.
 
 
From this Site.
 
 
After the War, and my Dad came back from Overseas.
 

Thank You.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:11 AM

Interlake Steel's coke battery was not too far from our house and abutted Torrence Avenue.  I remember that an RS3 and some small GE industrials were assigned to it.  The small pushers used to move the coke from the oven to the quenching tower were small 4-wheel beasts with tall cabs to see over the coke car.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, January 9, 2020 11:00 AM

NDG's last post reminded me of something, just how DO you fire up a stove with no pilot light?

Good ol' Stymie demonstrates!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i41mQr2IJ_Y     This NEVER gets old!

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, January 9, 2020 1:18 PM

NDG-- Thank you for all that. I recall those days very well, but in Hamilton, not Montreal, same darn thing though. My Dad, in addition to his day job selling furniture off the floor at Adams Furniture ( remember them... British ' Great Universal Stores GUS' )  he was the superintendent of a 16 unit 4 floors apartment building, where we lived in apartment #1.  So he looked after the big boiler there, and I frequently went with him. All those pipes and accessories wrapped in asbestos! They converted to oil mid fifties. Now that was a big 'furnace' door and it looked like Dantes Inferno inside and the fire maelstrom went on forever into the distance, at least to me anyway. 

The attached SunCoke video which is 'today and now' really shows how little the process have changed in producing coke, but it is a lot more environmentally friendly. This is true of everything in Mining, Milling, Smelting and Refining. 

Overmod-- Quite right. I do have good access, we have 3 Organic Chemists here, 2 of them with Masters, and I've already fired off emails and texts. As for me, I'm a VMS geologist ( Volcanogenic Massive Sulphides) , a 'Greenstone Guy' and when I took Organic Chemistry the Oil Sands pretty much consisted of folks standing around watching the Bitumen bubbling up wondering what the heck is going on here. 

Will get an answer, get to the bottom of this, however I have a hunch you're theory of proprietary secrets are at least a part of it. 

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Posted by divebardave on Thursday, January 9, 2020 3:20 PM

Flintlock76

NDG's last post reminded me of something, just how DO you fire up a stove with no pilot light?

Good ol' Stymie demonstrates!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i41mQr2IJ_Y     This NEVER gets old!

 

and not blow yourself up in the process and lose what hair you have left...run into this in old houses/old train stations all the time

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Thursday, January 9, 2020 8:01 PM

Is Sinclair's Development of the Locomotive Engine a good book for a person interested in the technical aspects of the steam locomotive to read?  Published in 1907, it is missing out on the large firebox tech of the 1920s?  Does it get into superheating and the cylinder wall condensation effect?

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?
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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, January 9, 2020 9:31 PM

Overmod
I have no current idea whether the degassing operations on American light crude (to suit it for railroad transportation) provide a useful source for some of the light fractions used in diluent.  It certainly appears that considerable dilbit/synbit is needed to admix with typical United States shale oil to suit it for 'conventional' refining, although where substantial amounts of 'useless' petcoke would come from in that feedstream is not entirely clear to me.

I think you are wondering if the gassy portion would be used in diluent.  Degassing would produce methane, ethane, propane, and butane.  The analysis of the Endbridge dilutent had little butane and was about 96% heavier hydrocarbons, although the light end of liquid crudes.  The petcoke would come from the bitumen portion of the dilbit.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, January 10, 2020 10:11 PM

Further to my last note, the dilutent is added to the heavy bitumen to make it a pumpable liquid for handling.  The mixing does not change the individual hydrocarbon components.  The dilutent is separated out at the refinery.

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