The Anonymous Widower

GWR Buys Vehicles Outright In HST Fleet Expansion

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Despite concerns over future passenger numbers, the Department for Transport has given permission for Great Western Railway to procure three more shortened HST diesel trainsets, branded as the Castle Class by the franchisee.

These pictures show some of the Castle Class trains.

They must be profitable and/or popular with passengers.

If I have a problem with these trains, it is with the Class 43 diesel power cars.

  • Each train has two power cars.
  • It would appear that there are about 150 of the Class 43 power cars in regular service.
  • Each is powered by a modern MTU 16V4000 R41R diesel engine, that is rated at 1678 kW.
  • The engines are generally less than a dozen years old.
  • They will be emitting a lot of carbon dioxide.

As the trains are now only half as long as they used to be, I would suspect, that the engines won’t be working as hard, as they can.

Hopefully, this will mean less emissions.

The article says this about use of the fleet.

With its fleet now increasing to 14, GWR expects to use 12 each day on services across the west of England. Currently the fleet is deployed on the Cardiff – Bristol – Penzance corridor, but the company is still evaluating how the additional sets will be used.

It also says, that they are acquiring rolling stock from other sources. Some of which will be cannibalised for spares.

Are First Rail Holdings Cutting Carbon Emissions?

First Rail Holdings, who are GWR’s parent, have announced in recent months three innovative and lower-carbon fleets from Hitachi, for their subsidiary companies.

Hitachi have also announced a collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation to provide battery packs to replace diesel engines, that could be used on Class 800 and Class 802 trains.

First Rail Holdings have these Class 800/802 fleets.

  • GWR – 36 x five-car Class 800 trains
  • GWR – 21 x nine-car Class 800 trains
  • GWR – 22 x five-car Class 802 trains
  • GWR – 14 x nine-car Class 802 trains
  • TransPennine Express – 19 x five-car Class 802 trains
  • Hull Trains – 5 x five-car Class 802 trains

Note.

  1. That is a total of 117 trains.
  2. As five-car trains have three diesel engines and nine-car trains have five diesel engines, that is a total of 357 engines.
  3. In Could Battery-Electric Hitachi Trains Work Hull Trains’s Services?, I showed that Hull Trains could run their services with a Fast Charging system in Hull station.
  4. In Could Battery-Electric Hitachi Trains Work TransPennine Express’s Services?, I concluded that Class 802 trains equipped with batteries could handle all their routes without diesel and some strategically-placed charging stations.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train, there is a section called Powertrain, where this is said.

According to Modern Railways magazine, the limited space available for the GUs has made them prone to overheating. It claims that, on one day in summer 2018, “half the diagrammed units were out of action as engines shut down through overheating.

So would replacing some diesel engines with battery packs, also reduce this problem, in addition to cutting carbon emissions?

It does appear to me, that First Rail Holdings could be cutting carbon emissions in their large fleet of Hitachi Class 800 and Class 802 trains.

The Class 43 power cars could become a marketing nightmare for the company?

Could Class 43 Power Cars Be Decarbonised?

Consider.

  • Class 43 power cars are forty-five years old.
  • They have been rebuilt with new MTU engines in the last dozen years or so.
  • I suspect MTU and GWR know everything there is to know about the traction system of a Class 43 power car.
  • There is bags of space in the rear section of the power car.
  • MTU are part of Rolls-Royce, who because of the downturn in aviation aren’t performing very well!

But perhaps more importantly, the power cars are iconic, so anybody, who decarbonises these fabulous beasts, gets the right sort of high-class publicity.

I would also feel, if you could decarbonise these power cars, the hundreds of diesel locomotives around the world powered by similar diesel engines could be a useful market.

What methods could be used?

Biodiesel

Running the trains on biodiesel would be a simple solution.

  • It could be used short-term or long-term.
  • MTU has probably run the engines on biodiesel to see how they perform.
  • Biodiesel could also be used in GWR’s smaller diesel multiple units, like Class 150, 158, 165 and 166 trains.

Some environmentalists think biodiesel is cheating as it isn’t zero-carbon.

But it’s my view, that for a lot of applications it is a good interim solution, especially, as companies like Altalto, will be making biodiesel and aviation biofuel from household and industrial waste, which would otherwise be incinerated or go to landfill.

The Addition Of Batteries

This page on the Hitachi Rail Ltd web site shows this image of the V-Train 2.

This is the introduction to the research program, which was based on a High Speed Train, fotmed of two Class 43 power cars and four Mark 3 carriages.

The V-Train 2 was a demonstration train designed in order to demonstrate our skills and expertise while bidding for the Intercity Express Programme project.

The page  is claiming, that a 20 % fuel saving could be possible.

This paragraph talks about performance.

The V-Train 2 looked to power the train away from the platform using batteries – which would in turn be topped up by regenerative braking when a train slowed down to stop at a station. Acceleration would be quicker and diesel saved for the cruising part of the journey.

A similar arrangement to that Hitachi produced in 2005 could be ideal.

  • Technology has moved on significantly in the intervening years.
  • The performance would be adequate for a train that just trundles around the West Country at 90 mph.
  • The space in the rear of the power car could hold a lot of batteries.
  • The power car would be quiet and emission-free in stations.
  • There would be nothing to stop the diesel engine running on biodiesel.

This might be the sort of project, that Hitachi’s partner in the Regional Battery Train; Hyperdrive Innovation. would probably be capable of undertaking.

MTU Hybrid PowerPack

I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that MTU have a drop-in solution for the current 6V4000 R41R diesel engine, that includes a significant amount of batteries.

This must be a serious possibility.

Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator

In Our Sustainability Journey, I talk about rail applications of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW generator, that has been developed to provide power for electric flight.

In the post, I discuss fitting the generator into a Class 43 power car and running it on aviation biofuel.

I conclude the section with this.

It should also be noted, that more-efficient and less-polluting MTU engines were fitted in Class 43s from 2005, so as MTU is now part of Rolls-Royce, I suspect that Rolls-Royce have access to all the drawings and engineers notes, if not the engineers themselves

But it would be more about publicity for future sales around the world, with headlines like.

Iconic UK Diesel Passenger Trains To Receive Green Roll-Royce Jet Power!

COVID-19 has given Rolls-Royce’s aviation business a real hammering, so perhaps they can open up a new revenue stream by replacing the engines of diesel locomotives,

I find this an intriguing possibility. Especially, if it were to be fitted with a battery pack.

Answering My Original Question

In answering my original question, I feel that there could be several ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a Class 43 power car.

It should also be noted that other operators are users of Class 43 power cars.

  • ScotRail – 56
  • CrossCountry – 12
  • East Midlands Railway – 39
  • Network Rail – 3

Note.

  1. ScotRail’s use of the power cars, is very similar to that of GWR.
  2. CrossCountry’s routes would need a lot of reorganisation to be run by say Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train.
  3. East Midlands Railway are replacing their Inter-City 125s with new Class 810 trains.

The picture shows the power car of Network Rail’s New Measurement Train.

These may well be the most difficult to decarbonise, as I suspect they need to run at 125 mph on some routes, which do not have electrification and there are no 125 mph self-powered locomotives. After the Stonehaven crash, there may be more tests to do and a second train may be needed by Network Rail.

Why Are GWR Increasing Their Castle Class Fleet?

These are possible reasons.

GWR Want To Increase Services

This is the obvious explanation, as more services will need more trains.

GWR Want To Update The Fleet

There may be something that they need to do to all the fleet, so having a few extra trains would enable them to update the trains without cutting services.

GWR Want To Partially Or Fully Decarbonise The Power Cars

As with updating the fleet,  extra power cars would help, as they could be modified first and then given a thorough testing before entering passenger service.

GWR Have Been Made An Offer They Can’t Refuse

Suppose Rolls-Royce, MTU or another locomotive power plant manufacturer has a novel idea, they want to test.

Over the years, train operating companies have often tested modified trains and locomotives for manufacturers.

So has a manufacturer, asked GWR to test something in main line service?

Are Other Train Operators Thinking Of Using Introducing More Short-Formed InterCity 125 Trains?

This question has to be asked, as I feel there could be routes, that would be suitable for a net-zero carbon version of a train, like a GWR Castle or a ScotRail Inter7City.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains is now run by the Department for Transport and has surely the most suitable route in the UK for a shorted-formed InterCity 125 train – Leeds and Carlisle via the Settle and Carlisle Line.

Northern Trains may have other routes.

Transport for Wales Rail Services

Transport for Wales Rail Services already run services between Cardiff Central and Holyhead using diesel locomotive hauled services and long distance services between South Wales and Manchester using diesel multiple units.

Would an iconic lower-carbon train be a better way of providing some services and attract more visitors to the Principality?

Conclusion

GWR must have a plan, but there are few clues to what it is.

The fact that the trains have been purchased rather than leased could be significant and suggests to me that because there is no leasing company involved to consult, GWR are going to do major experimental modifications to the trains.

They may be being paid, by someone like an established or new locomotive engine manufacturer.

It could also be part of a large government innovation and decarbonisation project.

My hunch says that as First Rail Holdings appear to be going for a lower-carbon fleet, that it is about decarbonising the Class 43 power cars.

The plan would be something like this.

  • Update the three new trains to the new specification.
  • Give them a good testing, before certifying them for service.
  • Check them out in passenger service.
  • Update all the trains.

The three extra trains would give flexibility and mean that there would always be enough trains for a full service.

Which Methods Could Be Used To Reduce The Carbon Footprint Of The Class 43 Power Cars?

These must be the front runners.

  • A Hitachi/Hyperdrive Innovation specialist battery pack.
  • An MTU Hybrid PowerPack.
  • A Rolls-Royce MTU solution based on the Rolls-Royce 2.5 MW generator with batteries.

All would appear to be viable solutions.

 

 

 

 

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Sustainability Journey

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on the Rolls-Royce web site.

It is sub-titled.

Paul Stein’s Thoughts On Sustainability And Electrification

Paul Stein is Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer, so what he says is important.

This press release was the source of the information behind Distributed Propulsion ‘Maybe The Only Means’ For Small Electric Flight Progress, which I wrote about Rolls-Royce’s beer keg-sized 2.5 MW generator.

This is the third paragraph.

We’ve taken great steps at Rolls-Royce with our three-pillar sustainability approach of developing the gas turbine to even greater efficiency, supporting the introduction of Sustainable Aviation Fuel and creating new, disruptive technologies such as electrification.

These are definitely, the three pillars of wisdom, when it comes to sustainable aviation.

E-Fan X

This paragraph is Paul Stein’s view of the E-Fan X.

One of the great endeavours in the latter category has been our E-Fan X programme in partnership with Airbus. From our side, this has involved creating a hybrid-electric power generation system at a scale never previously seen in our industry, comprised of an embedded AE2100 gas turbine driving a 2.5MW generator and 3000V power electronics and an electric propulsion unit. What has been particularly encouraging has been the amount of industry interest and support for this programme, and I know everyone at Rolls-Royce and Airbus has been truly grateful for that.

He states that the E-Fan  has now concluded, but a several valuable lessons have been learned.

2.5 MW Generator

He describes the generator like this.

Amongst the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5 MW. That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.

The press release discloses that the heart of this staggering generator is a Rolls-Royce AE2100 gas turbine, which powers the latest version of the legendary Lockheed Hercules; the C-130J Super Hercules.

Wikipedia gives this data for the AE2100D2 version of the engine.

  • Length – three metres
  • Diameter – 0.73 metres
  • Weight – 783 kilograms
  • Maximum Power Output – 3458 kW
  • Fuel Consumption – 0.25/kW/h

It looks like in the E-Fan X application, the engine is not at full power.

Use With Aviation Biofuel

Aviation Biofuel is described like this in the first sentences of its Wikipedia entry.

Aviation biofuel is a biofuel used for aircraft. It is considered by some to be the primary means by which the aviation industry can reduce its carbon footprint. After a multi-year technical review from aircraft makers, engine manufacturers and oil companies, biofuels were approved for commercial use in July 2011.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean growing large amounts of crops and converting it to the fuel. Altalto, who are backed by British Airways, Shell, Oxford University and the British Government are building a plant at Immingham to convert household and industrial waste into aviation biofuel.

I would expect that Rolls-Royce have made sure that the generator will work with aviation biofuel.

A Memory Of Emergency Power Generation

About twenty-five years, there was a major power failure after a thunder storm, where I lived in Suffolk and C and myself went to bed in the dark. We awoke to full power in the morning, after a good night’s sleep with no disturbance.

Imagine my surprise, when I let the dogs out to find parked in the field in front of the house, a very large articulated truck.

I was greeted by an engineer, who asked if I minded, his generator in my field. I seem to remember my response was to offer him a cup of tea, which he refused, as he said he had everything he needed in the truck.

It turned out that the main sub-station for the area had received a direct lightning strike and had been destroyed. So to supply power to all the nearby villages, as my farm was at the end of the supply, it was the most convenient place to plug in a transportable gas-turbine generator. The generator was in the field for about ten days and the whole operation impressed me with its professionalism.

But with this new 2.5 MW generator from Rolls-Royce, there would only need to be a small 3.5 tonne four-wheeled truck, to include the generator, fuel and living quarters for the engineer

We have made a lot of progress in twenty-five years.

A Modern Railway Locomotive

The power of this new Class 68 diesel locomotive, that was built in Spain, by Swiss company Stadler is a very healthy 2,800 kW.

Consider these facts about a Class 68 locomotive.

  • Thirty-four of these locomotives have been produced for the UK.
  • They are powered by a Caterpillar C175-16 engine, which weighs thirteen tonnes.
  • The transmission of these locomotives is electric, which means that the diesel engine drives a generator and the train is driven by electric traction motors.
  • The locomotive is equally at home hauling intermodal freight trains and passenger trains for Chiltern Railways or TransPennine Express.
  • According to Wikipedia, Class 68 locomotives comply with Stage III A of the European emission standards but not Stage III B. But that is much better than most of our noisy, smelly and polluting diesel locomotives.

Class 68 locomotives are members of the UKLight family of locomotives, which contains, these two other locomotives.

  • Already in service is the Class 88 locomotive, which is a bi-mode locomotive, which is capable of running on electrification or the on-board 0.7 MW diesel engine.
  • Under development is the Class 93 locomotive, which is a tri-mode 110 mph locomotive, which is capable of running on electrification, the on-board 0.7 MW diesel engine or battery power.

Stadler seem to be able to mix-and-match various power sources to provide versatile and highly-desirable locomotives.

I feel it would be feasible to design a railway locomotive with the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC  overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification, providing up to perhaps the four MW of a Class 88 locomotive.
  • A Rolls-Royce gas-turbine generator running on aviation biofuel, providing up to perhaps three MW.
  • Batteries up to a weight of perhaps ten tonnes.

I am sure that it could handle many of the routes still run with diesel locomotives in the UK.

  • It would handle all locomotive-hauled passenger services and would be electric-only in stations.
  • It certainly solves the problem of hauling long intermodal freight trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands and the North.
  • To handle the heaviest stone and aggregate trains, it might need a more powerful generator, but I’m sure Rolls-Royce would oblige.

In Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive, I gave a list of routes, that would need to be handled by a battery electric locomotive.

  • Didcot and Birmingham – Around two-and-a-half hours
  • Didcot and Coventry – Just under two hours
  • Felixstowe and Ipswich – Around an hour
  • Haughley Junction and Peterborough – Around two hours
  • Southampton and Reading – Around one-and-a-half hours
  • Werrington Junction and Doncaster via Lincoln – Around two hours
  • Werrington Junction and Nuneaton – Just under two hours

Will Rolls-Royce’s generator be able to supply 2.5 MW for up to four hours?

This would need two-and-a-half tonnes of aviation biofuel, which would be around 3,200 litres, which could be carried in the 5,000 litre tank of a Class 68 locomotive.

It certainly seems feasible to replace diesel locomotives with gas-turbine locomotives running on aviation biofuel, to reduce net carbon emissions and reduce noise and pollution.

But this is not just a UK problem and many countries, who rely on diesel-hauled rail freight, would look seriously at such a locomotive.

Underfloor Mounting In Passenger Trains

These pictures show the space underneath a Hitachi Class 800 train.

The red cap visible in some pictures is the filler for the oil or diesel for the MTU 12V 1600 R 80L diesel engine used to power the trains away from electrification.

This diesel engine has this specification.

  • It produces 560 kW of power.
  • It weighs around six tonnes.
  • Its is about 4 x 2.5 x 1 metres in size.

The diesel engine produces about a fifth of the power as the gas-turbine generator, which is also smaller and very much lighter in weight.

It should also be noted, that a nine-car Class 800 train has five of these MTU diesel engines.

At a first glance, it would appear Hitachi could find one of Rolls-Royce’s gas-turbine generators very useful.

  • It might even enable self-powered high speed trains to run on lines without electrification at speeds well in excess of 140 mph.
  • I can certainly see, High Speed Two’s classic-compatible trains having one or possibly two of these generators, so they can extend services on lines without electrification.

We shouldn’t forget that one version of British Rail’s Advanced Passenger Train was to be gas-turbine powered.

A Class 43 Diesel Power-Car

Rolls-Royce would need a test-bed for a trial rail application of their 2.5 MW generator and there is probably no better trial vehicle, than one of the numerous Class 43 power-cars waiting to be scrapped. They could probably obtain a complete InterCity 125, if they wanted one for a realistic weight, test equipment and a second power-car for comparison and rescue.

But seriously, if we are going to remove diesel from UK railways by 2040, a solution needs to be found for the GWR Castles, ScotRail’s Inter7Citys and NetworkRail’s New Measurement Train.

One of the great advantages of these staggering (Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer’s word, not mine!) generators is that they are controlled by Full Authority Digital Engine Control or FADEC.

FADEC will give the pilots in a Hercules or other aircraft, all the precise control they need and I doubt Rolls-Royce will leave FADEC out of their gas turbine generator, as it would give the operator or driver extremely precise control.

A driver of a GWR Castle equipped with two gas-turbine power-cars, would be able to do the following.

  • Adjust the power to the load and terrain, with much more accuracy, than at present.
  • Shut the engines down and start them quickly, when passing through sensitive areas.
  • Cut carbon-dioxide emissions, by simply using a minimum amount of fuel.

I would put a battery in the back of the Class 43, to provide hotel power for the passenger coaches.

Running current MTU engines in the Class 43s, on biodiesel is surely a possibility, but that not an elegant engineering solution. It also doesn’t cut carbon emissions.

As there are still over a hundred Class 43s in service, it could even be a substantial order.

It should also be noted, that more-efficient and less-polluting MTU engines were fitted in Class 43s from 2005, so as MTU is now part of Rolls-Royce, I suspect that Rolls-Royce have access to all the drawings and engineers notes, if not the engineers themselves

But it would be more about publicity for future sales around the world, with headlines like.

Iconic UK Diesel Passenger Trains To Receive Green Roll-Royce Jet Power!

COVID-19 has given Rolls-Royce’s aviation business a real hammering, so perhaps they can open up a new revenue stream by replacing the engines of diesel locomotives,

A Class 55 Locomotive

Why Not?

A Class 55 locomotive is diesel electric and there are thousands of diesel locomotives in the world, built to similar basic designs, that need a more-efficient and more environmentally-friendly replacement for a dirty, smelly, noisy and polluting diesel power-plant.

Marine Applications

The Wikipedia entry for the Cat C175, says this.

The Cat C175 is often used in locomotives and passenger-class ships.

I suspect there will be marine applications for the gas-turbine generator.

Conclusion

I’m very certain that Rolls-Royce’s pocket power station has a big future.

Who said that dynamite comes in small parcels?

 

 

July 19, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Restoring A South Humber Link

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The project is described by these two paragraphs in this article in the Yorkshire Post, which is entitled Government Announce Yorkshire Rail Schemes That Could Receive ‘Reverse Beeching’ Funding.

North Lincolnshire Council have bid for funding to subsidise a new train service that would allow passengers from Barton-on-Humber to travel to Gainsborough, from where they would be able to catch direct services to Sheffield.

This would be achieved by diverting the existing Barton to Grimsby and Cleethorpes trains up a freight-only section used by traffic heading to Immingham docks. There have never been passenger trains using this path before.

This rail map clipped from Wikipedia shows the Barton Line to Barton-on-Humber station.

Note.

  1. Barton-on-Humber station has a bus link to Hull station.
  2. The loop gives a grand tour of the Port of Immingham on what is now a freight-only line.
  3. There is a lot of development going on in the area including the AltAlto aviation biofuel, that I wrote about in Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday.

Perhaps all this development is causing a lot of small problems.

  • Is it causing congestion on the roads?
  • Are workers difficult to find in the Immingham area?
  • Is commuting over the Humber Bridge expensive?
  • Is parking difficult in the Port?

North Lincolnshire Council could feel that a better rail connection serving the Port of Immingham, would be an asset, that reduces these problems.

I suspect the current two-hourly service between Barton-on-Humber and Cleethorpes stations, will be replaced by an hourly one, between Barton-on-Humber and Gainsborough Lea Road stations, that takes the following route.

  • Barton-on-Humber to Ulceby
  • At Ulceby station the train will reverse and go clockwise around the loop.
  • After calling at Great Coates, Healing, Stallingborough and Habrough stations, the train would go West to Barnetby and Gainsborough Lea Road stations.
  • Passengers wanting to go from Barton-on-Humber to Grimsby Town or Cleethorpes, would change at Great Coates station.

It may look a rather round-about route, but I suspect that the plan includes some stations to serve the Port of Immingham and the industrial development.

I suspect that some of these port, oil, chemical and energy companies can afford to pay a contribution.

Gainsborough Lea Road Station

Gainsborough Lea Road station is a mix of architectural styles.

But with the addition of a friendly café and some other facilities, it would be a good interchange between the Immingham area and Sheffield and the county town of Lincoln.

Future Trains

Lincolnshire is an energy-rich county, which partly explains all the industrial development in the North-East of the county around Grimsby, Immingham and Scunthorpe.

  • Immingham is a large importer of biomass for power generation.
  • There are off-shore and on-shore gas fields connected to Theddlethorpe gas terminal.
  • There is the large power station complex at Keadby.

But the energy mix is a-changing.

  • Keadby now includes a solar farm.
  • Wind turbines are springing up both on land and in the sea.

If I was to make a prediction, it would be that more and more large energy-related businesses will develop in the area.

  • In recent months, Altalto’s waste-to-aviation biofuel plant has been given national and local government backing to be built at Immingham.
  • ITM Power are involved in a hydrogen development project in the area.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see hydrogen produced for transport from all this energy.

I think it will be inevitable, that zero-carbon battery electric or hydrogen-powered trains will run in the area.

  • Cleethorpes and Doncaster via Scunthorpe 52 miles apart.
  • Cleethorpes and Barton-on-Humber are 23 miles apart
  • Lincoln and Newark are 16.5 miles apart.
  • Lincoln and Doncaster are 37 miles apart.
  • Lincoln and Sheffield are 48 miles apart
  • Lincoln and the electrification at Peterborough are 54 miles apart.
  • Skegness and Sleaford are 41 miles apart.
  • Sleaford and Grantham are 18 miles apart.

With charging facilities at Barton-on-Humber, Lincoln, Skegness and Sleaford, the whole of Lincolnshire could be served by zero-carbon battery electric trains.

I suspect LNER could lead the way, as a five-car Class 800 train equipped with batteries, is predicted to have a 56 mile range away from the wires, which would easily handle a return trip between Newark and Lincoln.

There could be a small problem, in that the first train of the day, between Lincoln and London Kings Cross positions from Doncaster Carr IEP Depot, so running Doncaster to Newark via Lincoln might challenge the battery range of the train. I suspect, that the positioning could be performed via Newark with a reverse, prior to the installation of a charging facility at Lincoln Central station.

I estimate that Barton-on-Humber and Gainsborough Lea Road stations are about 35 miles apart, so with today’s battery technology, I suspect that a round trip in a battery electric train would be on the limit. But with charging facilities at Gainsborough, there would be no problems.

I suspect that East Midlands Railway would use several of their forty diesel Class 170 trains on this and other routes in Lincolnshire, so perhaps a good interim solution would be to run the Class 170 trains on Altalto’s biodiesel, that will be produced at Immingham.

There is also the possibility, that some or all of the Class 170 trains will be retrofitted with MTU Hybrid PowerPacks, which would cut their diesel consumption.

Surely, with all Lincolnshire’s energy, hydrogen-powered trains must be a possibility. But they seem to be stuck in a siding!

The MTU Hybrid PowerPack and Altalto’s bio-diesel seems a more affordable and less risky route.

A Direct Connection To London

In the Wikipedia entry for Gainsborough Lea Road station, there is a section called Future Services, where a direct connection to London is mentioned.

Conclusion

Given that the likes of East Midlands Railway, Hull Trains, LNER and TransPennine Express are improving their services to Hull, Lincoln, Cleethorpes and Grimsby, this local North Lincolnshire Metro serving the Port and the industrial development, could well be welcomed by those that live and work in the area.

I doubt that the infrastructure cost will be very high.

July 12, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will Biofuel Save Jet Aviation?

I ask this question as I have just written a post, which is entitled Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday, where I detail a project called Altalto, which its developers hope will convert waste into aviation biofuel.

But there are other factors at work, that will have effects on passenger flying.

Electric Aircraft

Despite the technological problems electric aircraft, I can see that in a couple of years, an electric plane will be available with the following specification.

  • 9-15 passenger capacity
  • 100-200 mile range
  • Half-hour recharge time

These will improve as technology improves. But then everybody who uses a battery in their product says this.

Lightweight Structures

If you’ve ever looked at a high-performance glider, you’ll see that they are the featherweights of the aviation world and are built mainly from ultra lightweight composites.

Boeing have gone this route with the 787 Dreamliner and the aircraft has been a success.

Unfortunately, Boeing’s accountants have trashed the company, by trying to prolong the life of the obsolete 737 too far, instead of developing a composite replacement.

By the end of this decade all aircraft will be made from lightweight composite structures.

Interstingly, the only all new electric passenger aircraft; the Eviation Alice has a fully-composite airframe.

Lightweight structures will help create lower carbon emissions on traditional aircraft, by reducing fuel burn, but will really help in creating new aircraft types. Some of which will look very unusual.

Better Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics are getting more efficient and this will reduce fuel burn and have two effects on aircraft design.

  • They will make existing designs more efficient.
  • They will improve the design of electric aircraft designed on a clean sheet of paper.

Expect to see some very weird looking aircraft. Look at Eviation Alice, which could evolve into a twenty seat aircraft with a range exceeding six hundred miles.

Hybrid-Powered Aircraft

I can’t with current technology, see an all-electric aircraft powered by batteries having a range greater than perhaps six hundred miles and a capacity of greater than perhaps 20 passengers. The mathematics and the physics say no!

Some aero engine manufacturers are talking about hybrid power, where a small turbofan engine is paired with a battery and electric motors.

I think it could be a way to extend the range of electric aircraft, without creating significant emissions. Aviation biofuel would fit well with a hybrid aviation powerplant, as it would further remove emissions.

Completely Automatic Flight

The pilot of a modern airliner does very little flying and there is no reason, pilots couldn’t do as little to fly the plane, as a driver on a Victoria Line tube has done since 1967 to drive the train.

When a train is ready to depart, the driver presses a button and the train moves automatically to the next station.

If anything unusual happens, the driver takes control.

Why not with airliners?

Point-To-Point Air Services

In MagniX Electric Aircraft Engines Take To The Skies, I put this quote from magniX, who make the electric motors for electric aircraft.

magniX says 45% of all airline flights cover less than 800 km, while 5% of flights are sub-160 km.

These flights will be the first to go electric.

But they are not really suited for an airport like Heathrow or Gatwick, as each plane needs a separate take-off and landing slot to fit in with conventional flights.

Heathrow want a third runway to increase capacity.

Perhaps it should be for electric flights only!

  • Electric aircraft will be low-noise and create no pollution.
  • It would have its own terminal.
  • Charging facilities would be built into the terminal.
  • Taxi distances would be short.
  • The runway would only need to be short.
  • Passengers would have to arrive and leave by zero-carbon transport.
  • There might even be space for two runways; one for landing and one of take-off.

I can see a network of both smaller airports and satellites at major airports developing, that are designed for electric aircraft.

  • Some airports, like possibly London City, might convert to all-electric, due to their sensitive locations.
  • Other important towns and cities without an airport, might develop new all-electric airports.
  • Hubs might develop at convenient locations in the UK, for short trips to the Continent and Ireland. Perhaps a high speed rail-connected Manston Airport would be ideal for electric flights to Belgium, The Netherlands and Northern France.

Frequent point-to-point electric flights could create a zero-carbon short-haul network for flights of up to about six hundred miles.

Rail Journeys Less Than Four Hours

It is accepted by many analysts and rail companies, that if a train takes less than four hours, then it is a viable alternative to flying.

  • Could the success of Eurostar’s London and Amsterdam route, be partly down to the that it’s four hours?
  • First Group subsidiary; East Coast Trains have stated they will target air passengers, with a sub four-hour, one-class £25 train journey between London and Edinburgh.
  • High Speed Two is currently promising three hours and forty minute journeys between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow, when their service starts.

I believe that rail companies all over the world will see tempting air passengers to use rail, as a market to develop.

Zoom And Other Internet Techniques

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, families and others have started using Internet conferencing in a big way.

But will other software develop, that will have the effect of both cutting flying or making it more zero-carbon.

Suppose, I wanted to visit several cities in the United States. Is there an Internet site that tells me how to do it to create the least amount of CO2?

Biofuel For Short Flights

When I laid out the factors, I only mentioned aviation biofuels once.

That was in conjunction with hybrid aircraft, that use both jet and electric power.

If the hybrid technology succeeds, it may mean that flights up to about a thousand miles are possible and this would include a lot of short haul flights around the world. With biofuels and hybrid powerplants, carbon dioxide emissions will be greatly reduced and could probably be managed by carbon offset measures like tree-planting.

Biofuel For Long Flights

As aircraft get more efficient using biofuel will help to reduce the amount of emissions, to a level that could be balanced by carbon offset.

This will be an expensive process for airlines, as probably most fleets will need to be replaced with more fuel efficient planes.

But this is happening, as 757s and A380 are being replaced by Dreamliners and other more fuel efficient types.

Conclusion

By 2035, most short haul flights will be electric or some form of hybrid power, although a lot will be replaced by high speed rail.

Biofuel won’t save long-haul flights, but it will make them economic for the airlines.

I suspect that there will be a lot of aluminium aircraft going for scrap.

June 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday

I listened to Grant Shapps announcement on Friday, when he gave the daily COVID-19 Press Conference.

This article on the Velocys web site is entitled Government Announces Jet Zero Council And Confirms Support For Velocys Waste-To-Jet-Fuel Project.

The article shows a video of the speech and this summary paragraph.

At this afternoon’s COVID-19 press conference, Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced the establishment of a new Jet Zero Council and confirmed Government support for Velocys.

So who are the company with the strange name of Velocys?

This is a quote from the Velocys CEO; Henrik Wareborn.

Today’s announcement on the formation of a Jet Zero Council shows that a new era of net zero carbon flying is on a credible path, at a time when we need it more than ever. This follows news earlier today that our Altalto waste-to-jet fuel facility – the first of its kind in the UK – has received additional funding from Government and formally received planning permission, meaning it could be producing sustainable aviation fuel in commercial scale by the middle of this decade.

Is a new era of net zero carbon flying a possibility or is this a dream too far?

The AltAlto Project

Yhe project is called AltAlto and it has its own web site.

It is backed by British Airways and Shell, and uses technology from Velocys.

This description of the project is on the home page.

Altalto turns household and commercial waste into clean-burning fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions for air and road transport.

A page called Technology describes how it is done.

This is the initial summary.

Our process can accept a wide variety of waste, while delivering a clean product. There are very limited emissions to atmosphere from the plant except water and carbon dioxide. Components of the waste which do not get turned into fuel, such as metals and stones, are recycled; a small amount of it (less than 3%) goes to landfill.

This diagram from the Velocys web site illustrates the process.

The then goes through the stages of the process.

  • Stage 1 – Preparation – First the waste is treceived, sorted and prepared.
  • Stage 2 – Gasification – Next the solid waste is gasified; heated to a high temperature to break it down and convert it into synthesis gas or syngas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen).
  • Stage 3 – Synthesis – After cleaning, the syngas is used to synthesis hydrocarbons using the Fischer-Tropsch technology provided by Velocys.
  • Stage 4 – Finishing – These hydrocarbons are then refined into the final products; renewable jet fuel (in the form of SPK) and naphtha.

They add this final summary.

The process is fundamentally different to incineration: instead of being burnt, the carbon in the waste is converted into a fuel for use in aircraft or vehicles.

There are many clean ways of making electricity, but it is really difficult to make sustainable jet fuel – this is one of the very few economic ways of doing so. It’s therefore a far better use of household waste than incineration, creating a much more valuable and environmentally beneficial product.

Could the process be considered a sophisticated waste incineration process, where the actual incineration is performed in the turbofan engine in the aircraft or the diesel engine in the truck to provide power?

I have a few questions.

What is Fischer-Tropsch Technology?

This is the first sentence for the Wikipedia entry for the Fischer-Tropsch Process.

The Fischer-Tropsch process is a collection of chemical reactions that converts a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. These reactions occur in the presence of metal catalysts, typically at temperatures of 150-300 °C (302-572 °F) and pressures of one to several tens of atmospheres. The process was first developed by Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut fur Kohlenforschung in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany, in 1925.

One of the companies involved in using the Fischer-Tropsch process is the South African company; Sasol. Wikipedia gives this summary about Sasol’s use of the process.

Another large scale implementation of Fischer-Tropsch technology is a series of plants operated by Sasol in South Africa, a country with large coal reserves, but little oil. The first commercial plant opened in 1952. Sasol uses coal and now natural gas as feedstocks and produces a variety of synthetic petroleum products, including most of the country’s diesel fuel.

The involvement with the apartheid regime in South Africa probably wasn’t the best of publicity for the process.

But have Oxford University and Velocys created a way of making net zero carbon aviation and diesel fuels?

What Is SPK?

SPK is Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene and it is an aviation biofuel.

The Wikipedia entry for aviation biofuel has a sub-section called FT-SPK, where this is said.

The second route involves processing solid biomass using pyrolysis to produce pyrolysis oil or gasification to produce a syngas which is then processed into FT SPK (Fischer-Tropsch Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene)

This sounds like the Velocys process.

What Are The Environmental Effects?

In the Wikipedia entry for aviation biofuel, there is a section called Environmental Effects. This is the first sentence.

A life cycle assessment by the Yale School of Forestry on jatropha, one source of potential biofuels, estimated using it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85% if former agro-pastoral land is used, or increase emissions by up to 60% if natural woodland is converted to use. In addition, biofuels do not contain sulphur compounds and thus do not emit sulphur dioxide.

As Velocys produce their SPK from household waste, their fuel will have a different and more positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

This press release on the Velocys web site is entitled Plans Submitted For The First Waste To Jet Fuel Plant In The UK And Europe.

This is a paragraph.

The proposed plant will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household and commercial solid waste and turn it into clean burning sustainable aviation fuel, reducing net greenhouse gases by 70% compared to the fossil fuel equivalent – equal to taking up to 40,000 cars per year off the road.

Earlier, I quoted this about the process.

There are very limited emissions to atmosphere from the plant except water and carbon dioxide.

A lot depends on where the carbon dioxide is produced, but if it is produced by a well-designed process plant, it should be possible to capture it for storage.

There are also possibilities to reuse carbon-dioxide in the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Could Diesel Be Produced By The Process?

In the United States, Velocys are developing a project called Bayou Fuels.

This is said on the home page.

We are developing a plant in Mississippi that will create diesel fuel for road transportation in the U.S. It will process waste from the paper and lumber industries – woody biomass forest residue that would otherwise rot on the forest floor or contribute to forest fires.

It should be noted that this is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Port of Immingham.

In 2013 ABP began the development of the “Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal” on the Humber International Terminal site, as part of a 15-year contract with Drax Power Station to supply biomass (wood pellet) to the powerplant. ABP’s total investment in biomass handling facilities, including installations at Hull and Goole was to be around £100 million.

As Velocys’s new  plant will be at Immingham, close to the biomass port, I suspect the answer is yes.

Where Is The Plant Located?

This Google Map shows Immingham Port and the area to the South.

Note.

  1. Immingham Port is towards the North West corner of the map.
  2. South Humber Bank Power Station is towards the South East corner of the map.

It would appear that the Altalto plant, will be located on an 80 acre site between the port and the power station.

There would also appear from Google Maps that the Barton Line runs through the area, which would surely be handy for bringing in the waste and taking out the fuel.

This picture from the Altalto web site, shows a visualisation of the plant, looking North East.

INote, what looks to be the railway, through the site in the foreground.

There are also a couple of informative videos, including one from the BBC, on this page of the Velocys web site.

t looks to be the ideal site.

How Much Fuel Will The Plant Produce?

According to the video on the web site, the plant will convert 500,000 tonnes of waste into 60,000,000 litres of fuel. I estimate that would be about 48,000 tonnes of jet fuel.

Could The Diesel Fuel Be Used To Decarbonise The Railways In The UK?

I believe that a substantial amount of the use of diesel on the UK’s railways will be cut by the use of battery and hydrogen power in multiple units and locomotives.

But some services like the heavy stone trains moving aggregates from the Mendips and the Peak District to London will be difficult to decarbonise, unless a locomotive manufacturer produces a hydrogen-powered locomotive with upwards of five megawatts of power. And that is a tough design challenge.

Low sulpur diesel produced from waste would be one way to reduce the carbon footprint.

Conclusion

It sounds a crazy idea to create aviation fuel and diesel from household waste!

Will It Work?

Consider.

  • It appears that most of the technology used to produce this fuel has been around for decades.
  • Sasol opened their first commercial plant in South Africa, using the Fischer-Tropsch process in 1952 and still use the technique today.
  • Oxford University have added magic ingredients to the Fischer-Tropsch process.
  • Velocys seem to have put in a lot of serious thought to get the Altalto project ticking all the right boxes.

The project could be late, but I feel it will deliver the main objective of converting household and commercial waste to jet fuel and diesel.

 

 

June 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments