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GE #609: Coal Fueled C39-8?

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GE #609: Coal Fueled C39-8?
Posted by wallyworld on Monday, September 15, 2008 9:39 PM
Does anyone know what happed to General Electric #609, a C39-8 outfitted to run on coal sludge in the early 90's? It was co-sponsored by Northfolk Southern and The DOE. I tried various search engines using different combinations of GE etc, and came up empty handed.

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Posted by scottychaos on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 8:56 AM

Found a post that says GECX 609 is now GECX 899:

http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?2,866458

 

The coal experiment didnt work..she was quickly converted back to a "traditional" locomotive..

still floating around, perhaps in lease service.

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=65589

seems to be a lot of confusion about her current model designation..I have seen C39-8, C39-9, B40-8! (which is obviously wrong), C32-8, C44-9..

I think the correct model is:

built as the only C36-8 that ever existed, and is currently called a C44-9.

this page: http://www.coloradorailfan.com/gallery/gallery.asp?rr=_GE says she is now classed as a C44-9 on the nose sticker..so that is probably what GE is calling her now.

So originally C36-8 #609, today C44-9 #899.

although there might have been other model designations inbetween the first and the current! perhaps that is why there seems to be so many different model designations for this unit..

Scot

 

 

 

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Posted by scottychaos on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 9:21 AM

ok! more info on this unit..

from this thread: http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=42823&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0 (which I participated in! how funny..)

putting all this data together, it looks like the history goes something like this:

began life in 1982 as the only C36-8 ever built, GECX 607.

upgraded in 1984 to a C39-8

in 1992, converted to the coal-slurry experiment loco, renumbured to GECX 609 and classed as  a C39-8CF ("CF" for "Coal Fired" perhaps?)

today is classed as a C44-9, GECX 899.

although no promises that is the final, correct history of this unit! ;)

Scot

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Posted by wallyworld on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 10:31 AM
Thanks guys...I ran into the same issue with designations. This is such a rare locomotive (one of a kind) that it caught my interest. While it seems there were high hopes for this experiment, it certainly seems it went nowhere. I am guessing it was the typical issue with the abrasive quality of coal. Another interesting aspect of this loco is that it may have a tie-in to the abortive ACE. On another board, supposedly there was a presentation done by GE issued 12 months after the official demise of ACE that was prepared after GE countered the ACE proposal with a promise of a coal fueled engine, which I assume this may be the engine referred to. Supposedly this proposal by GE was one of the factors in the sudden dropping of previous support for the ACE. If this is true, it only adds to story of both ACE and this rare C39-8. Another interesting story...I cant find anything else...not for lack of trying....this seems to be the last chapter of mainline coal fueled engines....it would be fascinating to have the full account.

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Posted by carnej1 on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:43 AM

 I believe there are some online documents (DOE maybe) about the project. Googling "coal water fuel" may bring you better results.I know at around the same time Caterpillar and MK rail were doing engineering studies on a coal gasification unit to be mounted on a "tender" to supply a modified Diesel locomotive.....

 There is a long document I found on line from a research group in Australia claiming success in developing a coal-water fuel with the particles sufficiently micronized to overcome much of the erosion problems encountered in the earlier coal fired diesel and gas turbine projects. I will post the link at a later time, If I can relocate it.

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Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 10:37 AM
I would be willing to bet that the only reason a railroad would even consider coal is they got something in return for hosting the experiment.  I am actively involved in attempting to clean up coal fired power plants and it ain't easy or cheap.  Most coal contains high sulfur which is much more easily removed after burning the coal as there is no pracitical way to do it before burning it unless you consider coking as in the steel mills but even then most bituminous coal can't be used.  Those that think modern technology can bring steam back to the rails don't understand why not. Unique engine I agree with.  Practical is another story and the reason it became a diesel when it was over.
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Posted by wallyworld on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:21 AM
I agree with the your well taken points on the difficulries related to the practicality of burning coal. My interest is a piece of largely forgotten bit of history connected to it which I suspect is the final chapter.Experimental engines are such an interesting topic.( at least to me)...This particular one was much touted at the time and then just as quickly vanished. I have a brother in law at the DOE, the next time I see him, Ill see if I can round up any DOE reports.... if thats practical. One time on a flight I was sitting next to a trouble shooter for a diesel firm who proudly told me a "diesel can run on practically anything.." Right. The photo one of the guys posted with a logo on a diesel of all things, stating it's fueled by coal is alone worth the price of admission...

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Posted by carnej1 on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 12:38 PM

 This is an interesting presentation that makes mention of the GE program:

http://www.csiro.au/files/files/pi3r.pdf

The proposal would seem to require a fair amount of emissions control equipment on the exhaust end so I'm not sure how feasible it is for mobile applications but they do mention historical experiments (including the UP/GE coal fired gas turbine project)...

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Posted by carnej1 on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 12:50 PM

 Page 30 of the following document has a summary of the GE Coal Fueled Diesel program written by a GE engineer:

http://www.fischer-tropsch.org/DOE/_conf_proc/MISC/Conf-91014476/de91014476-D.pdf

 

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Posted by wallyworld on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 5:00 PM
Now I am even more mystified by this "update." The only wear was in the injector nozzle, which they were confident in solving. The price quoted back then for diesel fuel was .85 per gallon which the use of coal represented a 20% cost savings. Particulate and exhaust gases didnt seem to be a problem. So again, theres  still something missing from this history...thanks much for the info.

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Posted by carnej1 on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 6:16 PM

 I do not know if I would call that document an "update" as it was written while the program was still ongoing...I do not know how the test engine would have performed if forced to meet the newer Tier II and Tier III emissions standards. Also keep in mind that in the early 90's the oil glut caused Diesel prices to stay low. We all know how conservative the North American RR industry is when it comes to motive power practices.

(I feel I should sign off lest the "could steam make a comeback" thread flames up again, LOL)...

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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:25 PM

That coal slurry diesel sounds like it was ready to go.  I wonder where it stands today.  Here is a description of a dry coal diesel approach:

http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5456066/description.html

It is a hard read but I glean the following:  The coal is micro pulverised onboard the engine by the use of a fluid mill using super heated steam as the fluid.  Electro static precipitators remove the ash from the powdered coal.  It is then injected by the use of compressed air, which also serves as combustion air, taking the place of a turbocharger.  Considerable heat generated during the milling process is transfered to the coal fuel and then reclaimed during combustion.

I don't know about steam making a comeback, but this direct combustion of coal in a diesel engine seems like it might be right around the corner.

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Posted by carnej1 on Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:55 AM

 I'm not going to post the link but on Google patents one can view a similiar patent held by Caterpillar(from the 1980's) for a coal gasifier designed to serve as a "fuel tender" for diesel locomotives.

 Keep in mind 2 points:

1. Just because somebody holds a patent on it does not mean that a given technology is technically practical or economical.

2. Anything like this would would still need to meet the same emissions regs as the newest diesel locomotives. I'm not, however, claiming this system would not (nor am I interested in debating what the regulations should or shouldn't be)...............

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Posted by wallyworld on Thursday, September 18, 2008 11:13 AM
 carnej1 wrote:

 I'm not going to post the link but on Google patents one can view a similiar patent held by Caterpillar(from the 1980's) for a coal gasifier designed to serve as a "fuel tender" for diesel locomotives.

 Keep in mind 2 points:

1. Just because somebody holds a patent on it does not mean that a given technology is technically practical or economical.

2. Anything like this would would still need to meet the same emissions regs as the newest diesel locomotives. I'm not, however, claiming this system would not (nor am I interested in debating what the regulations should or shouldn't be)...............

I agree while at the same time I have to admit as I am sure others would, we do not have the technical background nor the information gleaned from the GE experiment as to make any informed opinion. All we can do in the face of this, is speculate. I am going to keep searching simply out of curiousity. As far as Caterpillar, it's not suprising they would hedge their bet on oil in terms of trending...as a practical matter of positioning themselves. The X factor in this is how far or short did GE reach toward their goal?

 

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Posted by carnej1 on Thursday, September 18, 2008 11:24 AM

 I think another variation on this theme would be utilizing "synthetic natural gas"(coal producer gas upgraded to NG quality) in the LNG/CNG fueled locomotives mentioned in WW's earlier post.

 There is already one production facility (near the PRB) manufacturing this. From my reading this fuel, though definately more expensive per BTU than "mine run" coal, would be more economical than coal-to-liquids (syndiesel) and petroleum derived fuel...

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Posted by ndbprr on Thursday, September 18, 2008 11:41 AM

The reason it won't work has nothing to do with burning the coal.  It has to do with the pollution it would create and in particular the sulfur problem. Power Plant Flue Gas desulfuization (FGD) run many hundreds of millions of dollars and require a subsystem to neutralize the acid they strip from the flue gas.  Where are you going to put that on a locomotive?  You would have to stop even closer than trains needed to for water to dump and replenish the environmental systems.  It just isn't practical. Theoretical yes.  Plausible no.

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Posted by wallyworld on Thursday, September 18, 2008 12:07 PM
 ndbprr wrote:

The reason it won't work has nothing to do with burning the coal.  It has to do with the pollution it would create and in particular the sulfur problem. Power Plant Flue Gas desulfuization (FGD) run many hundreds of millions of dollars and require a subsystem to neutralize the acid they strip from the flue gas.  Where are you going to put that on a locomotive?  You would have to stop even closer than trains needed to for water to dump and replenish the environmental systems.  It just isn't practical. Theoretical yes.  Plausible no.

I just found an interesting paper at Argonne National Laboratories on locomotive technology. Since my browser (Firefox) wont cut and paste, anyone who is interesting might read it there. I did find the answer to the BN natural gas experiment. According to Argonne, they used CNG and found that the volume required ( energy density) was impractical for RR use. However another source claims it was LNG. Argonne goes on to describe the advantages and challenges of LNG...all of these processes have the same issues with emissions..hydrocarbons among them.  The latest variation on a theme that they appeared to favor is a Fischer-Tropsch diesel using coal conversion technology. The problem Argonne identified in regard to further development of these fuels were market forces, more than the barrier of technological challenges..to which they describe a variety of possible solutions..emission gases included. I am surprised in all this that there is no serious R&D to counteract long term trends. I am reminded of George Hiltons study of the demise of interurbans...according to him, their demise it was an inability to forecast trends ( the automobile) Biomass \ LNG diesel hybrids were also given a high score for their probability of success in the Argonne report.I see there is a company now building one, or so they claim...The problem is with these claims of buiding prototypes is that 99% are never built. If you go to the Ultimate Steam Page...it has a compendium of such claims...using refuse for fuel is one that "died on the vine" The whole argument is centered on thermally produced gases either in emissions or as a process to create fuel.Another is the gas producing firebox directly on the locomotive as Porta and Wardale championed in the production of steam....After reading all this material, personally, I would place my bet on LNG..theres an outfit that claims it is building four dual fuel locomotive engines of this sort. I hope the link works..I had to type it in. 

http://www.captsrail/lng.html

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Posted by carnej1 on Monday, October 13, 2008 12:09 PM

This Blog entry has some interesting info about the GE (and similiar) coal fueled diesel project:

 

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2249

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