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Wood Pellets for use in heritage steam locomotives?

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Wood Pellets for use in heritage steam locomotives?
Posted by roundstick3@gmail.com on Thursday, June 23, 2022 7:28 AM

With coal and fuel oil shortages converting heritage steam loco to a pellet feed system can't be that hard. Here in wood rich New Hampshire we have huge silos full of wood pellets next to our schools running power and steam. Also we take grocery store waste and brew methane gas using anorobic digesters.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, June 23, 2022 10:07 AM

It sounds like an interesting idea but it may not be very practical.  Consider that most steam locomotive fireboxes were designed with a specific grade of coal in mind.  You would probably need to rebuild the firebox in order to generate suffficient steam from a lower grade of fuel. 

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, June 23, 2022 11:13 AM

One of the beauties of the steam locomotive is as long as you've got something to burn in the firebox to generate heat you've got steam and you've got power.  It's one of the things that kept steam alive for so many years in developing countries.

Wood pellets would probably work in small steam locomotives with appropriate firebox revamping, whether they would work in big steam like 4014, 1309, 611, 1225, and others is problematic.  I have my doubts, but I could be wrong.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, June 23, 2022 11:47 AM

The catch about 'pellets' is that they can't be pellets of typical stove-use size... those just blow up the stack, even more effectively than R-r-r-r-r-osebud coal or that weird UP subbituminous.  As much of the development was then intended for stationary once-through power boiler use, making the product suitable to feed the same way as typical pulverized coal was an advantage.  It would be dubious at best (and history is full of attempts that were more or less lamentable at the end) to use such fuel in historic locomotives.

The most "correct" answer when the technology was hot a couple of decades ago was to torrefy the wood (essentially baking the volatiles and water out and reducing it nearly to carbon with interesting ash) and then co-firing it with suitable formed coal.  The ash from appropriate species acts the same way as a flux and sulfur absorbent as dolomite.

The approach I was looking at 'back in the day' was to form appropriate coal fragments or fines, or SRC, into the equivalent of washed 2" lump coal along with the appropriate percentage of torrefied renewable wood.  The use of 100% renewable carbon in this style of fuel is certainly possible (for zero-net-carbon) and for most excursion use the fuel is only a small percentage of the overall cost -- something like 5% historically with 2-10-0 8055 in Europe.

A true zero-carbon fuel for large reciprocating steam locomotives would be an interesting thing to see.

Methane gas has begun to see demonization on the warpath to zero-carbon.  Look for digesters, landfill, etc. to become more strongly regulated as the methane not effectively collected gets into the atmosphere as a 'potent greenhouse gas'.  While I believe strongly that blue hydrogen with effective sequestration is going to be a big part of the answer... I find it isn't something practical for steam locomotives for a variety of reasons.  

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Posted by roundstick3@gmail.com on Thursday, June 23, 2022 1:15 PM

It is frustrating to see methane gas being vented and flamed off at Landfills instead of being genetating electricit. A large University produces enough garbage to run a small city via grease pit and methane production. Throw in methane powered fuel cells and your on to something.

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Thursday, June 23, 2022 2:53 PM

Let me introduce you to "Yellow Coal"

YELLOW COAL?! - Talyllyn Railway - YouTube

 

 

 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, June 23, 2022 3:47 PM

BEAUSABRE
Let me introduce you to "Yellow Coal"

Interesting.  I hope it works for them if they can't get any of that good Welsh coal.

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Posted by Backshop on Thursday, June 23, 2022 5:52 PM

There's a shortage of coal?

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Thursday, June 23, 2022 5:55 PM

No, the environut cult will then say that burning anything is not acceptable.

"Don't you know the future is electric?

But, we're a heritage railway. It was steam powered its entire life. We're trying to preserve that experience

So we should allow you to pollute?

Even if we wanted to do so, we can't afford the cost to string wire and buy custom built narrow gauge electric locomotives. We'd go out of business.

Tough. You'll have learn that you need to make sacrifices to SAVE THE PLANET"

I think it was HL Mencken who said a puritan is someone who lives in deathly fear that somone, somewhere is having fun. 

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Thursday, June 23, 2022 5:57 PM

Backshop
There's a shortage of coal?

Yes, in Wales, no less

Watch the video

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, June 24, 2022 10:00 AM

roundstick3@gmail.com

It is frustrating to see methane gas being vented and flamed off at Landfills instead of being genetating electricit. A large University produces enough garbage to run a small city via grease pit and methane production. Throw in methane powered fuel cells and your on to something.

 
We would need to know how much methane is being produced and at what rate it is being produced.  There may not be enough to justify using it to generate electricity in meaningful amounts.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Friday, June 24, 2022 2:50 PM

Yellow Coal seems appropriate for Britain, but I would remind everyone that the US was a pioneer in this field. The US  had Blue Coal a century ago. 

 

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