The Anonymous Widower

What Will Oxford Do For An Encore?

In the UK, I suspect nearly all of us have watched in admiration, as Oxford University have developed a Covid-19 vaccine for the world.

So what will be the University’s next big medical breakthrough.

Antibiotics

Today, this article on the BBC web site, which is entitled Oxford Research Tackles Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance, was published.

This was the introductory sub-heading.

Oxford University is opening a new research institute dedicated to tackling resistance to antibiotics.

To start the funding INEOS has chipped in a cool £100 million.

This paragraph summarises the project.

There will be 50 researchers working in the new Ineos Oxford Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance, addressing the “over-use and mis-use” of antibiotics, which the university warned could cause 10 million excess deaths per year by 2050.

To put that ten million excess deaths into perspective, the Covid-19 pandemic has so far killed 2.05 million worldwide.

It should be remembered that David Cameron warned of this problem back in 2014, as was reported in this article on the BBC, which was entitled Antibiotic Resistance: Cameron Warns Of Medical ‘Dark Ages‘.

This was the introductory paragraph.

The world could soon be “cast back into the dark ages of medicine” unless action is taken to tackle the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

Will the Ineos Oxford Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance, solve one of the most pressing problems facing the modern world?

Malaria Vaccine

Sometime, this week I either read in The Times or heard someone say on the BBC, that Oxford would soon be starting trials for a malaria vaccine developed by the same team, who developed the AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19.

This wasn’t the article in The Times, that I read, as it is dated the 5th of December 2020, but it does have a title of Malaria Vaccine Another Success Story For Jenner Institute Team Behind Covid Jab.

This is the first three paragraphs.

The Oxford team behind the coronavirus jab has taken a big step towards producing a cheap and effective vaccine for malaria.

The Jenner Institute said that it was due to enter the final stage of human trials with its vaccine, which it hopes could combat the almost half a million annual deaths, mainly in children.

“It’s going to be available in very large amounts — it works pretty well. And it’s going to be very low-priced,” Adrian Hill, director of the institute, said.

This looks to me, exactly what the world needs.

I’ve also found this page on the Oxford University web site, which is entitled Designer Malaria Vaccines.

This is the first two paragraphs on the page.

Malaria is one of the deadliest human diseases, killing a child in Africa every two minutes. A vaccine is urgently needed, but this is has proved extremely challenging because the malaria parasite is a master of disguise, able to change its surface coat to escape detection by the human body. However, structural biology is raising hopes for a vaccine against this killer parasite.

In order to replicate and develop, the malaria parasite must get inside human red blood cells – something that depends upon a malaria protein called RH5. Unlike the other variable malaria surface proteins, RH5 does not vary, making it more easily recognised and destroyed.

There is also this YouTube video.

From the video it looks like Oxford have used the Diamond Light Source to help develop the vaccine, just as the facility has been used to investigate Covid-19, as I wrote about in The Diamond Light Source And COVID-19.

I have added a new page called The Diamond Light Source And Malaria, which points to information on the Diamond Light web site.

There is also this Saturday Interview in The Times with Professor Adrian Hill, who is the Director of the Jenner Institute, at the University of Oxford.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Adrian Hill knew that this would be a big year. As head of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, this was the year, if all went well, he would announce a final large-scale trial into a vaccine to prevent a disease that was ravaging swathes of the planet. And this week, he did just that. Just not for the disease you’re thinking of.

A century after scientific research on the topic began, 30 years after he started working on it and eight years after this version was tried he has, he believes, an effective malaria vaccine. Now he is ready to try it at scale.

The interview is a must-read.

This paragraph from the article compares Covid-19 and malaria.

In the past 20 years, conventional public health investment has averted an estimated 1.5 billion malaria cases. Still, in an ordinary year it is one of the world’s biggest killers of children. “Malaria is a public health emergency. A lot more people will die in Africa this year from malaria than will die from Covid,” he says. “I don’t mean twice as many — probably ten times.”

The numbers show why a vaccine for malaria is so important.

Conclusion

Oxford University appears to have tremendous ambition, to see both these projects through to a successful conclusion.

I believe that their success with the Covid-19 vaccine will have major effects.

  • People like Jim Ratcliffe and Bill and Melinda Gates, drug companies and charities like Wellcome Trust, will be prepared to fund more research.
  • World-class researchers from all over the world will be drawn to work on Oxford’s projects.
  • If Oxford or another group needs another powerful research tool, like the Diamond Light Source, the government will look favourably at the project.

People love to support winners! Just look at how kids follow the football team, at the top of the Premier League, when they first get interested in the game.

If the AstraZeneca vaccine is a success in the poorer countries of this world, that can’t afford the more expensive commercial vaccines, that this could change the world in bigger ways, than anybody imagines.

It could be extremely good not just for AstraZeneca, Oxford University and the UK, but the whole world. And not just in 2021, but in the future as well!

 

 

 

January 19, 2021 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hyundai And Ineos To Co-operate On Driving Hydrogen Economy Forward

The title of this post, us the same as that of this article on Yahoo News.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Chemicals giant Ineos has announced a new agreement with Korean car firm Hyundai aimed at developing the production of hydrogen.

I find this an interesting tie-up between two large companies.

I first came across Hyundai, when they were working on large projects in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, where Artemis was being used for the project management.

From what it says in the article, the two companies are a good fit for the hydrogen market.

  • Hyundai has the hydrogen fuel cell technology, that INEOS needs for its Land-Rover Defender-type vehicle.
  • INEOS has the hydrogen production technology.
  • INEOS produces 300,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year.

This deal could be a a small deal over technology or a large deal that could transform the manufacture and fuelling of hydrogen-powered transportation from small cars to large ships with trains, buses and trucks in between.

 

November 24, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Will INEOS And Rolls-Royce Get Together Over Hydrogen Production?

It has been a busy week for press releases.

8th November 2020 – Rolls-Royce signs MoU With Exelon For Compact Nuclear Power Stations

9th November 2020 – Rolls-Royce signs MoU with CEZ For Compact Nuclear Power Stations

9th November 2020 – INEOS Launches A New Clean Hydrogen Business To Accelerate The Drive To Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Does the timing of these three press releases indicate that there is possible co-operation between the INEOS and Rolls-Royce?

These are my thoughts.

Electricity Needs Of Integrated Chemical Plants

Integrated chemical plants, like those run by INEOS need a lot of electricity.

When I worked for ICI Plastics in the early 1970s, one of the big projects at Wilton works was the updating of the Wilton power station.

  • Fifty years later it is still producing electricity.
  • It is fired by a variety of fuels including coal, oil, gas and biomass.
  • It even burned 110,000 tonnes of cow fat (tallow) from the carcasses of animals slaughtered during the BSE Crisis of 1996.
  • It produces 227 MW of electricity.
  • It also produces around 4,000,000 tonnes of steam per year for the plants on the complex.
  • Wilton 10 is a 2007 addition to the station, that burns 300,000 tonnes of a combination of sustainable wood, sawmill waste and otherwise unusable wood offcuts a year.
  • Wilton 11 is a 2016 addition to the station, that burns domestic waste, which arrives by train from Merseyside.

ICI was proud of its power station at Wilton and there were regular rumours about the strange, but legal fuels, that ended up in the boilers.

Integrated chemical plants like those on Teesside can be voracious consumers of electricity and steam.

I can envisage companies like INEOS boosting their electricity and steam capacity, by purchasing one of Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactors.

A Look At Teesside

If you look at the maps of the mouth of the Tees, you have the Hartlepool nuclear power station on the North side of the river.

  • It was commissioned in 1983.
  • It can generate 320 MW of electricity.
  • It is expected to close in 2024.

This Google Map shows the mouth of the Tees.

Note.

  • Hartlepool power station is in the North-West corner of the map.
  • The Hartlepool site is probably about forty acres.
  • Wilton power station is on the South side of the Tees in the Wilton International site.

I can see, when Hartlepool power station closes, that more power will be needed on Teesside to feed the various industries in the area.

Some will come from offshore wind, but could a fleet of perhaps four of Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactors be built on a decommissioned Hartlepool power station site to replace the output of the current station?

If built in a planned sequence to correspond to the expected need, there are savings to be made because each unit can be commissioned, when they are completed and used to generate cash flow.

I can even see INEOS building a large electrolyser in the area, that is powered either by wind or nuclear power, according to what power is available and the various costs.

An Integrated Small Modular Nuclear Reactor And Electrolyser

Some countries don’t have good resources to exploit for renewable power.

Will a small modular nuclear reactor, be pared with a large electrolyser to produce hydrogen for feedstock for chemical plants and fuel for transport?

How Much Hydrogen Would A Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Produce?

Consider.

  • One of Rolls-Royce’s small modular nuclear reactors has a power output of 440 MW.
  • It takes 23 MWh of electricity to create ten tonnes of hydrogen.

This would create 4,600 tonnes of hydrogen in a day.

That is a lot of zero-carbon chemical feedstock to make fertiliser, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals and fuel for heavy transport.

Conclusion

I will be very surprised if INEOS were not talking to Rolls-Royce about using small modular nuclear reactors to generate the enormous quantities of electrical power and steam, needed to produce chemicals and fulfil their ambition to be a world leader in the supply of hydrogen.

November 13, 2020 Posted by | Business, Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , | Leave a comment

INEOS Launches A New Clean Hydrogen Business To Accelerate The Drive To Net Zero Carbon Emissions

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from inovyn, which is an INEOS company.

The press release starts with these points.

  • The targets set out by the UN and National Governments around the world requires concrete action. INEOS is aiming not only to contribute by decarbonising energy for its existing operations, but also by providing hydrogen that will help other businesses and sectors to do the same.
  • The new business will be based in the UK and will invest in ‘first intent’ Clean Hydrogen production across Europe.
  • The production of hydrogen based on electrolysis, powered by zero carbon electricity, will provide flexibility and storage capacity for heat and power, chemicals and transport markets.
  • The European Union Hydrogen Strategy, which outlines an infrastructure roadmap for widespread utilisation of hydrogen, across Europe by 2030, present new opportunities for the business.
  • Geir Tuft CEO INOVYN said, “INEOS is uniquely placed to play a leading role in developing these new opportunities, driven by emerging demand for affordable, low-carbon energy sources, combined with our existing capabilities in operating large-scale electrolysis.”

With revenue in 2019 of $85 billion in 2019, INEOS has the financial resources to make their ambitions come true.

These are my thoughts on statements in the press release.

Geir Tuft’s Statement

Geir Tuft is reported in the press release as saying.

INEOS is uniquely placed to play a leading role in developing these new opportunities, driven by emerging demand for affordable, low-carbon energy sources, combined with our existing capabilities in operating large-scale electrolysis.

This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for electrolysis.

In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a technique that uses direct electric current (DC) to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction. Electrolysis is commercially important as a stage in the separation of elements from naturally occurring sources such as ores using an electrolytic cell. The voltage that is needed for electrolysis to occur is called the decomposition potential.

From my experience of working in ICI’s hydrogen plant at Runcorn in the 1970s and my knowledge of the technology and companies involved in the production of hydrogen, there are two standard routes to produce hydrogen by electrolysis.

  • Water can be electrolysed as in the classic school physics experiment to produce hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Brine can be electrolysed to produce hydrogen, chlorine, sodium metal and sodium hydroxide.

I worked as an instrument engineer in a plant, where brine was electrolysed using the Caster-Kellner process. As the process uses mercury, it is a process that is not without problems. There is a History section in the Wikipedia entry for the Castner-Kellner process, from where this was extracted.

The mercury cell process continues in use to this day. Current-day mercury cell plant operations are criticized for environmental release of mercury  leading in some cases to severe mercury poisoning as occurred in Japan Minamata_disease. Due to these concerns, mercury cell plants are being phased out, and a sustained effort is being made to reduce mercury emissions from existing plants.

My work in the plant, involved developing instruments to measure the mercury in the air inside the plant. I was also developing other instruments and programming a Ferranti Argus 500 computer.

Because of the death of her father, C wasn’t happy in Liverpool and when the chance came of a transfer to ICI Plastics at Welwyn Garden City, I took it.

In his statement Geir Tuft says this.

Combined with our existing capabilities in operating large-scale electrolysis.

Large-scale electrolysis was certainly handled professionally in 1970 and I’m certain that INEOS, which now owns the Runcorn plant, handles the hydrogen just as well, if not better with the help of modern technology.

Hydrogen As A By-Product

In some ways, fifty years ago, the hydrogen was considered a by-product and to some a nuisance, as I don’t think, there was much of a mass market for the gas.

I used to see it being taken away in specialist trailers, but there didn’t seem to be a major use.

300,000 Tonnes Of Clean Hydrogen

This paragraph of the press release, outlines the structure of the business.

INEOS has today launched a new business to develop and build Clean Hydrogen capacity across Europe, in support of the drive towards a zero-carbon future. INEOS currently produces 300,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year mainly as a co-product from its chemical manufacturing operations.

Note that co-product is used, but I suspect in many places they have too much of it, so new markets are welcome.

I have used a figure of 23 MWh, as being needed to obtain ten tonnes of hydrogen, but I can’t find where I obtained it. If it is correct then INEOS will need 690 GWh of electricity.

INEOS, Electrolysis And Hydrogen

This paragraph of the press release, outlines the relationship between INEOS, electrolysis and hydrogen

Through its subsidiary INOVYN, INEOS is Europe’s largest existing operator of electrolysis, the critical technology which uses renewable energy to produce hydrogen for power generation, transportation and industrial use. Its experience in storage and handling of hydrogen combined with its established know-how in electrolysis technology, puts INEOS in a unique position to drive progress towards a carbon-free future based on hydrogen.

All they need is the renewable energy, to add to their expertise in turning it into hydrogen.

INEOS’s Vision

This paragraph of the press release, outlines INEOS vision for hydrogen.

INEOS is already involved in several projects to develop demand for hydrogen, replacing existing carbon-based sources of energy, feedstocks and fuel. It expects to develop further partnerships with leading organisations involved in the development of new applications. INEOS will also work closely with European Governments to ensure the necessary infrastructure is put in place to facilitate hydrogen’s major role in the new Green Economy.

It is certainly a comprehensive vision.

The Conclusion Of The Press Release

Wouter Bleukx, Business Unit Manager Hydrogen has said this.

Hydrogen is an important part of a climate neutral economy that has been discussed for decades. Finally, a hydrogen-fuelled economy is within reach as transportation in the UK, Germany, France and other countries begins to run on this carbon free technology. With extensive experience in electrolysis, INEOS is uniquely placed to support these new opportunities, driven by emerging demand for affordable zero-carbon energy sources.

You can’t say the company lacks ambition.

Conclusion

This looks to me to be ambition and disruptive innovation on a grand scale.

But it is a plan that can only get bigger and more far reaching.

If the company succeeds, I believe, it will bring hydrogen for all.

November 11, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , | Leave a comment

Frankfurt Starts Building Fuel Station For World’s Biggest Zero-Emissions Train Fleet

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Reuters.

These are the two opening paragraphs.

German regional transport group RMV began construction on Monday of a filling station near Frankfurt that will use hydrogen generated as a by-product of chemicals manufacturing to fuel the world’s largest fleet of zero-emissions passenger trains.

France’s Alstom will deliver 27 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains to the Infraserv Hoechst industrial park in the Rhine-Main region in mid-2022. Starting regular local services by that winter, the fleet will replace diesel engines.

All the investment will be partly funded by fares.

Chlorine Manufacture

I find it interesting, that the article also states that the hydrogen comes as a by-product of chlorine manufacture. When I worked in a ICI’s electrolysis plant around 1970, their plant used the Castner-Kellner process to produce both gases.

The process uses a lot of mercury and Wikipedia says this about the future of the process.

The mercury cell process continues in use to this day. Current-day mercury cell plant operations are criticized for environmental release of mercury  leading in some cases to severe mercury poisoning as occurred in Japan Minamata_disease. Due to these concerns, mercury cell plants are being phased out, and a sustained effort is being made to reduce mercury emissions from existing plants.

Are INEOS, who now own the Runcorn plant, and the Germans still using the Castner-Kellner process?

I remember two stories about the theft of mercury from the Runcorn plant.

Mercury was and probably still is very valuable,  and it was always being stolen. So ICI put a radioactive trace in the mercury, which didn’t affect the process. The result was that all legitimate metal dealers on Merseyside bough Geiger counters to check any mercury before they bought it.

One guy thought he had found the ideal way to steal mercury, so he filled his bike frame with the metal and wheeled it to the gate. Whilst he clocked out, he propped the bike against the gate-house. Unfortunately, it fell over and because of the weight of the mercury, he was unable to pick it up.

My work in the plant, involved devising a portable instrument that would detect mercury in air and a colleague’s project was to develop a way of detecting mercury in urine samples from the plant operatives.

Those projects say a lot, about why we should be careful around any process involving mercury.

 

 

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fracking Hell…Is It The End?

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The article is an interesting read.

These two paragraphs are key.

Activism by Extinction Rebellion and growing public concern about climate change have weakened the chances of an industry once expected to create 64,500 jobs ever getting off the ground.

Cuadrilla Resources, the fracking company most active in Britain, has in recent days been removing equipment from its sole operating site in Lancashire. Petrochemicals tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe has vowed to pursue shale gas exploration overseas because of “archaic” and “unworkable” regulations at home.

But I think it’s more complicated than that!

I sometimes go to lectures at the Geological Society of London and two stand were about fracking.

Two were about fracking.

Fracked or fiction: so what are the risks associated with shale gas exploitation?- Click for more.

This is a video of the lecture.

What Coal Mining Hydrogeology Tells us about the Real Risks of Fracking – Click for more.

This is a video of the lecture.

This is a must-watch video from a good speaker.

I have also written several posts about fracking, with some of the earliest being in 2012-2013.

I have just re-read all of my posts.

  • In the posts I have tried to give information and at times, I have said we should start fracking.
  • But we should only start if we know what we’re doing.
  • In several places I ask for more research.

However, there are some interesting facts and inconvenient truths about fracking and natural gas in general.

  • Russia earns about €300billion a year or twenty percent of its GDP from gas exports to Europe. See Should We Nuke Russia?.
  • Putin backs the anti-fracking movement. See Russia ‘secretly working with environmentalists to oppose fracking’.
  • Fracking techniques  is used in the Scottish Highlands to obtain clean water from deep underground. See the second Geological Society of London video.
  • About forty per cent of gas usage is to heat housing. See the second  video.
  • The eighteen percent of the UK population, who don’t have a gas supply are more likely to be in fuel poverty. See the second  video.
  • Scotland has more need for energy to provide heat. See the second  video.
  • Natural gas with carbon capture and storage has a similar carbon footprint to solar power. See the second video.
  • Cowboy fracking, as practised in the United States, would not be allowed in the UK or the EU. See the second  video.
  • We have no historic earthquake database of the UK, which would help in regulation and research of fracking. See the second video.
  • Fracking has brought down the price of gas in North America.
  • In the United States fracked gas is cutting the need to burn coal, which produces more pollution and carbon dioxide to generate the same amount of energy. See A Benefit Of Fracking.

The article in the Sunday Times says pressure against fracking has started the shutdown of the industry in the UK.

But there is another big pressure at work.replacement of natural gas with hydrogen.

  • This would reduce carbon emissions.
  • It can be used as a chemical feedstock.
  • It could be delivered using the existing gas network.
  • The gas network could be changed from natural gas to hydrogen on a phased basis, just as the change from town to natural gas was organised around fifty years ago.

But it would mean that all gas users would need to change their boilers and other equipment.

Put yourself in the position of Jim Ratcliffe; the major owner and driving force behind INEOS.

INEOS needs feedstocks for chemical plants all over the world and affordable natural gas is one that is very suitable, as it contains two of the major elements needed in hydrocarbons and many useful chemicals; carbon and hydrogen.

If local sources are not available, then liquefied natural gas can be shipped in.

The Hydrogen Economy

It is possible to replace natural gas in many applications and processes with hydrogen.

  • It can be used for heating and cooking.
  • Important chemicals like ammonia can be made from hydrogen.
  • It can be transported in existing natural gas etworks.
  • Hydrogen can also replace diesel in heating and transport applications.

There is also a possibility of measures like carbon taxes being introduced, which using hydrogen would reduce.

There’s more in the Wikipedia entry for Hydrogen economy.

Have Jim Ratcliffe and others done their predicting and decided that the demand for locally sourced natural gas will decline and that the hydrogen economy will take over?

But there will need to be a readily available source of large amounts of hydrogen.

I used to work in a hydrogen factory at Runcorn, which was part of ICI, that created hydrogen and chlorine, by the electrolysis of brine. In some ways, the hydrogen was an unwanted by-product, back in the late 1960s, but similar and more efficient processes can be used to convert electricity into hydrogen.

The latest idea, is to cluster offshore wind farms around gas rigs in the seas around the UK. The electricity produced would be used to electrolyse water to extract the hydrogen, which would then be piped to the shore using existing gas pipelines.

It would be a way of reusing infrastructure associated with gas fields, that have no gas left to extract.

There would be no need to build an expensive electricity cable to the shore.

The Dutch, Danes and the Germans are proposing to build the North Sea Wind Power Hub, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

North Sea Wind Power Hub is a proposed energy island complex to be built in the middle of the North Sea as part of a European system for sustainable electricity. One or more “Power Link” artificial islands will be created at the northeast end of the Dogger Bank, a relatively shallow area in the North Sea, just outside the continental shelf of the United Kingdom and near the point where the borders between the territorial waters of Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark come together. Dutch, German, and Danish electrical grid operators are cooperating in this project to help develop a cluster of offshore wind parks with a capacity of several gigawatts, with interconnections to the North Sea countries. Undersea cables will make international trade in electricity possible.

Later, Wikipedia says that ultimately 110 GW of electricity capacity could be developed.

So could these planned developments create enough hydrogen to replace a sizeable amount of the natural gas used in Western Europe?

I suspect a lot of engineers, company bosses and financiers are working on it.

Conclusion

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • Fracking for hydrocarbons is a technique that could be past its sell-by date.
  • The use of natural gas will decline.
  • INEOS could see hydrogen as a way of reducing their carbon footprint.
  • The heating on all new buildings should be zero carbon, which could include using hydrogen from a zero-carbon source.

There are reasons to think, that electricity from wind-farms creating hydrogen by electrolysis could replace some of our natural gas usage.

 

 

October 15, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen For Hydrogen-Powered Trains And Other Vehicles

I have received e-mails worrying about how hydrogen-powered trains and other vehicles, like buses and trucks, will get the fuel they need.

Production Of Hydrogen

There are two major methods of producing large quantities of hydrogen.

Steam Reforming Of Natural Gas

Steam reforming is used to convert natural gas into hydrogen by using high temperature and pressure steam in the presence of a nickel catalyst.

This section in Wikipedia is entitled Industrial Reforming, says this.

Steam reforming of natural gas is the most common method of producing commercial bulk hydrogen at about 95% of the world production of 500 billion m3 in 1998. Hydrogen is used in the industrial synthesis of ammonia and other chemicals. At high temperatures (700 – 1100 °C) and in the presence of a metal-based catalyst (nickel), steam reacts with methane to yield carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

It gives this chemical equation for the reaction.

CH4 + H2O ⇌ CO + 3 H2

I have two questions about steam reforming.

  • How much fossil fuel energy is needed to create the high temperatures and pressures to make the process work?
  • What happens to the carbon monoxide (CO)? Is it burnt to provide heat, thus producing more carbon dioxide (CO2)?

I therefor question the use of steam reforming to produce hydrogen for vehicles, especially, as a system might be required  to be installed in a train, bus or freight depot.

The only time, where steam reforming could be used, is where an existing refinery producing large quantities of hydrogen by the process is close TO the point of use.

Electrolysis Of Water Or Brine

It is fifty years, since I worked in the chlorine-cell rooms of ICI’s Castner-Kellner chemical complex at Runcorn.

The process used was the Castner-Kellner Process and this is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

The Castner–Kellner process is a method of electrolysis on an aqueous alkali chloride solution (usually sodium chloride solution) to produce the corresponding alkali hydroxide, invented by American Hamilton Castner and Austrian Karl Kellner in the 1890s.

Brine from Cheshire’s extensive salt deposits is electrolysed using a graphite anode and a mercury cathode to produce chlorine, hydrogen, sodium hydroxide and sodium metal.

Large amounts of electricity are needed, but the biggest problem is the poisonous mercury used in the process.

My work incidentally concerned measuring the mercury in the air of the plant.

Since the 1960s, the technology has moved on, and ICI’s successor INEOS, still produces large quantities of chlorine at Runcorn using electrolysis.

More environmentally-friendly processes such as membrane cell electrolysis are now available, which produce chlorine, hydrogen and sodium hydroxide.

In the 1960s, the production of chlorine and hydrogen was a 24/7 process and I would suspect that INEOS have a good deal to use electricity from wind and other sources in the middle of the night.

The Future Of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a clean fuel, that when it burns to produce heat or is used in a fuel cell to produce electricity, only produces steam or water.

There is also a lot of research going into hydrogen fuel-cells, hydrogen storage and batteries, and some of this will lead to innovative use of hydrogen as a fuel.

As an example, there is a growing market for fuel-cell forklifts. The first one was built in 1960, so fifty years from idea to fulfilment seems about right.

How many other applications of hydrogen will be commonplace in ten years?

  • City buses
  • Local delivery vans for companies like Royal Mail and UPS.
  • Taxis
  • Refuse trucks

I also think, some surprising applications will emerge driven by the need to clean up the air in polluted cities.

Ideally, these applications will need a hydrogen filling station at the depot.

Modern electrolysis technologies should lead to the development of  simple cells, for the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

Powered by renewable energy sources or nuclear, this technology could be used to create zero-carbon hydrogen at the point of use.

Diesel Or Hydrogen?

The diesel engine in a New Routemaster bus is a Cummins diesel with these characteristics.

  • 4.5 litre
  • 138 kW
  • 400 Kg

So how much would a 150 kW fuel-cell weigh?

A Ballard FCveloCity-HD, which is capable of producing 100 kW, weighs around 300 Kg.

I feel that as hydrogen and battery technology improves, that more and more city vehicles will be hydrogen-powered.

Hyundai Launch A Hydrogen-Powered Truck

This page on the Hyundai web site is entitled Hyundai Motor Presents First Look At Truck With Fuel Cell Powertrain.

It will be launched this year and looks impressive. Other articles say they have tied up with a Swiss fuel-cell manufacturer called H2 Power and aim to sell a thousand hydrogen-powered trucks in Switzerland.

 

 

 

January 14, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90 mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze” will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

From the article and other published sources like Wikipedia, I can say the following.

Train Formation

The formation of some of the current Class 321 trains is as follows.

DTSO(A)+TSO+MSO+DTSO(B)

Note.

  1. The two DTSO cars are identical and are Driving Trailer Standard Open cars.
  2. The TSO car is a Trailer Standard Open car.
  3. The MSO car is a Motor Standard Open, which contains the four traction motors, the pantograph and all the electrical gubbins.

The refurbished Class 321 Renatus train has a new AC traction system.

In the past, the Trailer car has been removed from some of these trains, to make a three-car Class 320 train, which has this formation.

DTSO(A)+MSO+DTSO(B)

The Times says this about the formation of the hydrogen trains.

New images released by Alstom show that the existing four-carriage 321s will be reduced to three as part of the conversion process, which will be carried out at the company’s plant in Widnes, Cheshire. The front and rear third of the train will be used to house hydrogen gas storage tanks.

It would appear to me that Alstom have decided to go down a route based on the proven Class 320 train.

The TSO car will be removed and the existing or re-tractioned MSO car will be sandwiched between two rebuilt DTSO cars containing large hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity to power the train.

Although, Alstom’s pictures show a three-car train, I can’t see any reason, why a four-car train would not be possible, with the addition of a TSO car.

The train would obviously need to have enough power.

But then a standard Class 321 train is no wimp with a 100 mph operating speed and one MW of power, which is a power level not far short of the 1.68 MW of a modern four-car Class 387 train.

The MSO Car

You could almost consider that a Class 321 train is an MSO car, with a Driving Trailer car on either side and an extra Trailer car to make a four-car train.

In an original Class 321 train, the MSO car has the following.

  • Two motored bogies, each with two traction motors.
  • A pantograph on the roof to pick up the 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • A transformer and the other electrical gubbins.

This picture shows the side view of an MSO car in an unmodified Class 321 train.

It does appear to be rather full under the MSO car, but I suspect, that modern AC equipment will take up less space. Although, the air-conditioning will have to be squeezed in.

Some if not all cars are labelled as PMSO, to indicate they have the train’s pantograph.

British Rail designed a lot of Mark 3 coach-based Electric Multiple Units like this, with a power car in the middle and trailer cars on either side. For instance, the legendary Class 442 train, is of five cars, with all the traction motors and electrical gear in the middle car. It still holds the speed record for third-rail-powered trains. British Rail certainly got the dynamics right.

The upgraded Class 321 Renatus trains have a new AC traction system.

  • This will be state-of-the-art, more efficient and probably more reliable.
  • New traction motors handle regenerative braking.

But is it more powerful than the original system?

If it was, it would give better acceleration.

This modern traction system will probably be a starting point for the electrical system of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train.

It would have to be able to accept electrical power from the following sources.

  • The pantograph, when connected to the 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The two Driving Trailer Standard Open cars with their hydrogen tanks and fuel-cells..

The voltages will probably be different, but this should not be a problem for a modern well-designed electrical system.

Batteries And Regenerative Braking

The Times has a graphic, which shows a part-cutaway of the train.

There is an arrow and explanation labelled Traction System, where this is said.

Ensures appropriate energy is transmitted between fuel cell and battery. Drives wheels and collects energy during braking.

I would suspect that a single battery would be placed in the MSO car, so that the battery could be close to the traction motors under the car.

Battery Size Calculation

The battery should be big enough to handle the energy generated when braking from the train’s maximum speed.

Obviously, Alstom have not disclosed the weight of the train, but a three-car Class 320 train, which is a Class 321 train without the trailer car,  weighs 114.5 tonnes and has 213 seats. So I suspect that because of the hydrogen tanks, there will be about 140 seats in the hydrogen-powered train. So could it hold 300 passengers with the addition of standees?

I don’t know how much a hydrogen tank weighs, but I suspect it is more bulky than heavy.

Fuel cells of the required size, seem to weigh in the order of hundreds of kilograms rather than tonnes.

So I think I will assume the following for my kinetic energy calculation.

  • A 200 tonne train
  • 300 passengers at 90 Kg each with baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • A speed of 87 mph.

This gives a 227 tonne train, when fully loaded.

Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of just under 50 kWh.

So this amount of energy will be needed to accelerate the train to the operating speed and could be substantially recovered at a station stop from the operating speed.

As the train will also need hotel power for doors, air-conditioning and other train systems, a battery of perhaps around 100 kWh would give enough power.

Obviously, Alstom will have done a complete computer simulation, they will have much better and more accurate figures.

As 50 kWh traction batteries are of the size of a large suitcase, I doubt there would be a problem putting enough battery capacity in the MSO car.

Obviously, these are very rough calculations, but it does appear that with modern lightweight tanks, hydrogen trains are feasible, with readily-available components.

But then Alstom have already converted a Coradia Lint to hydrogen power.

Will The Train Be A Series Hybrid?

In a series hybrid, like a New Routemaster bus, the vehicle is driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery, which in the case of the bus is charged by a small diesel engine. Braking energy is also recycled to the battery.

In Alstom’s Breeze train, the traction motors in the MSO car would be connected to the battery.

When the power in the battery is low, the train’s computer will top up the battery from the overhead electrification, if it is available or use the hydrogen fuel cells.

I suspect the computer would always leave enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the energy generated during braking.

Passenger Capacity and Range

I have estimated that the passenger capacity of the train is around three hundred.

This picture from Alstom, shows a side view of one DTSO car of the train.

The windows, probably denote the size of the passenger compartment. So instead of having the capacity of a three-car train, it probably only carries that of a two-car train.

Compare this visualisation with a picture of an unmodified DTSO car.

There’s certainly a lot of space under the DTSO car, which I’m sure Alstom will use creatively. Can the fuel cells fit underneath?

From the cutaway view of the proposed train in The Times, it would appear that the section behind the driving compartment is occupied by the hydrogen tank.

The hydrogen fuel cells or at least their vents are on the roof at the back end of the car.

The Times gives the range of the train as in excess of 625 miles.

To put this into context, the Tyne Valley Line has a length of sixty miles, so a train could do at least five round trips between Newcastle and Carlisle without refuelling.

It’s certainly no short-range trundler!

I deduce from the extreme range quoted by The Times, that Alstom’s Breeze is an extremely efficient train and probably a series hybrid.

If the train is very efficient, that could mean, that there is the possibility to use smaller tanks to increase the train’s passenger capacity to fit a particular route better.

Use Of The Pantograph

All the articles published today don’t say anything about the pantograph.

But I can’t see any reason, why when 25 KVAC overhead electrification exists, it couldn’t be used.

Being able to use available electrification is also a great help in positioning trains before and after, trains  perform their daily schedule.

750 VDC Operation

British Rail did get a lot of things right and one was that nearly all of their electrical multiple units could work or be modified to work on both forms of electrification in the UK; 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.

So I believe that a 750 VDC version of Alstom’s Breeze will be possible.

A Replacement For A Two-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

There are large numbers of two-car diesel multiple units in the UK.

All would appear to have a similar passenger capacity to Alstom’s Breeze.

Some though will be converted into more efficient diesel-battery hybrids.

But there will still be a sizeable number of replacements, where the Breeze will be suitable.

The Breeze will have a major advantage, if as I expect, it has the ability to run using 25 KVAC or 750 VDC electrification.

It will be able to work routes that are partially electrified.

Possible Routes

The Times says this about possible routes.

Although the company refused to be drawn on the destination of the new trains, it is believed that they could be used on unelectrified lines in the north-west or north-east.

It is worth looking at the location of Alstom’s factory in Widnes, where the Class 321 trains will be converted. This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The main railway between Liverpool and Crewe running across the top of the map and then crossing the River Mersey to go South.
  2. The Alstom factory is shown by a red arrow in the North-West corner of the map.

Not shown on the map, as it is just to the South on the South Bank of the Mersey, is INEOS’s massive Castner-Kellner works, which is a major producer of hydrogen, as it was when I worked there in the late 1960s.

I doubt that Alstom will be short of hydrogen to test the new trains.

Alstom and INEOS could even build a pipeline across the Mersey.

The Liverpool and Crewe Line is electrified and recently, the Halton Curve has been upgraded to form a new route between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve has a section called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train Trials, where this is said.

The Chester to Liverpool line via the Halton Curve is proposed for a trial by Alstom of their zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell trains. The line was chosen as Alstom’s new technology facility is at Halebank on the Liverpool border adjacent to the line, with hydrogen supplied via the nearby Stanlow refinery.

I should say, that I personally prefer the INEOS route for hydrogen, where it is a by-product of the electrolysis of brine, which is mainly to produce chlorine. Even in the 1960s, ICI performed a lot of production at night to take advantage of more affordable electricity.

The other route that goes close to Alstom’s factory is the Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester route via Warrington.

Increasing Capacity

I believe that effectively two-car trains with a capacity of 300 passengers,running between say the cities of Liverpool and Chester would not be large enough.

The current Class 321 trains are four-car trains and the conversion to Alstom’s Breeze trains, will result in the removal of the Trailer car, which contains the toilet.

The power of the MSO car in the current Class 321 trains is 1,000 kW.

During the conversion for use in Alstom’s Breeze trains, the power system will be updated.

  • Four new AC traction motors will be fitted.
  • A battery to store electricity and handle regenerative braking will be fitted. I estimated earlier, that this could be at least 100 kWh.
  • The ability to connect to the hydrogen fuel cells in the two updated Driving Trailer Standard Open cars will be fitted.

I also suspect a well-designed computer control system will be added.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I believe that the updated MSO car can be designed to deliver any amount of power between say 1,000 kW and 1,600 kW.

Alstom will obviously know, how much power will be needed to accelerate their proposed three-car train to the operating speed of 87 mph.

Four-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

Suppose though that the trailer car was also updated and added to the train.

  • The weight would rise to 223 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 450.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 55 kWh.

Provided the MSO car is powerful enough, a four-car Alstom Breeze would appear to be feasible.

Five-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

What would the sums look like for a five-car Alstom Breeze.

  • Two trailer cars would be added.
  • The weight would rise to 246 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 600.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 63 kWh.

With the priviso of the power of the MSO car, it certainly looks like a five-car Alstom Breeze could be feasible.

It looks like at least three different sizes of train are possible.

  • Three-car – 300 passengers
  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Only three different types of car will be needed.

  • Driving Trailer Standard Open – DTSO – With hydrogen tanks and hydrogen fuel cells and less seating than in the current trains.
  • Motor Standard Open – MSO – With new AC power system and a battery.
  • Trailer Standard Open – TSO – With seats and possibly a Universal Access Toilet, bike racks or a buffet.

Note.

  1. All DTSO would be more-or-less identical, but some might have larger tanks and more fuel-cells.
  2. All MSO cars would be identical.
  3. TSO cars would be specified by the customer and could be tailored to a particular route.

The train’s computer, would automatically determine what train had been assembled and adjust power settings and displays accordingly.

Suppose four Class 321 trains were to be converted to Alstom Breezes.

You could end up with.

  • Four three-car trains.
  • Four spare Trailer Standard Open cars.

Or.

  • Four four-car trains.

Or.

  • Two three-car trains.
  • Two five-car trains

The permutations are endless.

It is an infinitely flexible system, which can produce trains of a variety of lengths.

I would suspect that Eversholt will want customers to take complete trains, to maximise their returns and not end up with too many orphaned trailer cars.

Are There Any Spare Trailer Cars?

I ask this question, as in the last few years, twelve four-car Class 321 trains, have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains. As part of this process the trailer car is removed.

I would assume the twelve trailer cars have been put into store.

Could they be used to create five-car Alstom Breeze trains?

Will Alstom Breeze Trains Work In Multiple?

Class 321 trains can do this and I suspect that the Alstom Breezes will have the capability.

But it will probably be mainly for train recovery, than general operation.

Although, running two shorter trains as a longer one, is always useful, when there is a large sporting or other event happening.

Manufacturing

Alstom’s design eases the conversion.

Each type of car has its own manufacturing process,

Driving Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all DTSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The driving compartment is updated.
  • The hydrogen tank is added behind the driving compartment.
  • The hydrogen fuel cells are added, with vents on the roof.
  • The new interior with seats is fitted behind the hydrogen tank and fuel cells.
  • No work would need to be done to the bogies, except that needed for maintenance.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All DTSO cars would be treated in the same manner, although some might have smaller hydrogen tanks and detailed differences due to customer preferences and route needs.

Motor Standard Open

This would need to be done to all MSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The electrical equipment is replaced with the new AC system with a battery.
  • The bogies would be fitted with the new AC traction motors.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All MSO cars would probably be treated in the same manner.

Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all TSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All TSO cars would probably be treated in a similar manner, but the interior fitment would depend on the customer’s requirements.

This picture shows a side view of an unmodified TSO car.

There is certainly a lot of space underneath the car.

I wonder if Alstom have any plans for using this space?

Summing Up Manufacturing

The process for the three types of cars is very similar and is very typical of the work regularly done to give mid-life updates to trains in the UK.

Alstom’s Widnes factory has already performed a major upgrade to Virgin Trains’ Pendelinos and I doubt that the work will hold many terrors for the factory, if the design phase is good.

Train Testing

So many train projects have been let down recently, by the lack of suitable test facilities and poorly-planned testing.

The Halton Curve route between Liverpool and Chester would appear to be an ideal route to test the trains.

  • Liverpool Lime Street station has recently been upgraded in size.
  • Chester station is not busy.
  • The route is about forty miles long.
  • I estimate that trains will take about forty minutes
  • The route passes Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The route is about half-electrified, between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.
  • Access is good to the North Wales Main Line for long range testing.

Running on both electrification and hydrogen can be tested with a changeover at Runcorn station.

A Liverpool to Chester service would go through the following sequence.

  • Arrive at Runcorn station, after running from Liverpool using existing 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph.
  • Continue towards Chester on hydrogen power.

The sequence would be reversed in the opposite direction.

I don’t believe Alstom could want for a better test route.

I can only see one major problem.

Liverpudlians are a curious breed and I predict they will turn up in droves at a new attraction in their midst.

Conclusion

I very much feel that by using hydrogen tanks in the two driving cars Alstom have created a pragmatic flexible design, that will prove if hydrogen trains are a viable proposition for the UK.

Things that I particularly like.

  • The first trains being two-car DMU-sized.
  • The ability to use electrified lines.
  • The extraordinary range.
  • The performance.
  • Trains of different length and capacity can be created from three different car types.
  • The testing process.

But I have my doubts that the initial train has enough capacity.

Although I suspect that it could be increased by adding one or more trailer cars.

 

 

 

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Alstom And Eversholt Rail Develop Hydrogen Train For Britain

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in the International Rail Journal.

This is the first paragraph.

Alstom confirmed on September 11 that it is working with British rolling stock leasing company Eversholt Rail to refit class 321 EMUs with hydrogen tanks and fuel cells for hydrogen operation, in response to the British government’s challenge to eliminate diesel operation on the national network by 2040.

Other points about the conversion of Class 321 trains include.

  • Alstom will convert trains in batches of fifteen.
  • The first trains could be ready by 2021.
  • Up to a hundred trains could be converted..
  • A range of up to 1000 km on a tank of hydrogen.
  • A maximum speed of 160 kph.

The article also suggests that the Tees Valley Line and Liverpool to Widnes could be two routes for the trains.

A few points of my own.

  • Fifteen is probably a suitable batch size considering how Class 769 trains have been ordered.
  • Hydrogen is produced in both areas for the possible routes and could be piped to the depots.
  • In Runcorn it is plentiful supply from the chlorine cell rooms of INEOS and that company is thinking of creating a pipeline network to supply the hydrogen to users with high energy needs.
  • As the maximum speed of the hydrogen train is the same as the current Class 321 trains, I would suspect that it is likely that the hydrogen-powered train will not have an inferior performance.
  • I’ve now travelled in Class 321 Renatus trains on three occasions and in common with several passengers I’ve spoken to, I like them.
  • I hope the Class 321 Hydrogen trains have as good an interior!

I very much feel that there is a good chance that the Class 321 Hydrogen could turn out to be a good train, powered by a fuel, that is to a large extent, is an unwanted by-product of the chemical industry.

A Comparison Between The Alstom Coradia iLint And The Class 321 Hydrogen

It is difficult for me to compare the Alstom Coeadia iLint or even a bog-standard iLint , as I’ve never rode in either.

Hopefully, I’ll ride the iLint in the next few weeks.

The following statistics are from various sources on the Internet

  • Cars – 321 – 4 – iLint – 2
  • Electric Operation – 321 – Yes – iLint – Not Yet!
  • Loading Gauge – 321 – UK – iLint – European
  • Operating Speed – 321 – 160 kph – iLint – 140 kph
  • Range – 321 – 1000 km. – iLint – 500-800 km.
  • Seats – 321 – 309 – iLint – 150-180

Although the Class 321 Hydrogen will be a refurbished train and the iLint will be new, I suspect passengers will just both trains as similar, given the experience with refurbished trains in the UK.

In some ways, they are not that different in terms of performance and capacity per car.

But the Class 321 Hydrogen does appear to have one big advantage – It can run at up to 160 kph on a suitable electrified line, This ability also means the following.

  • Hydrogen power is not the sole way of charging the battery.
  • On some routes, where perhaps a twenty kilometre branch line, which is not electrified, is to be served, the train might work as a battery-electric train.
  • A smaller capacity hydrogen power unit could be fitted for charging the battery, when the train is turned back at a terminal station and for rescuing trains with a flat battery.
  • The depot and associated filling station, doesn’t have to be where the trains run most of their passenger services.

I also suspect that a Class 321 hydrogen could run on the UK’s third-rail network after modification, if required.

If you were an operator choosing between the two trains, you would probably find that because of your location, there would be a strong preference for one of the two trains.

I also doubt we’ll see iLints running in the UK because of the loading gauge problem.

Will the platform height scupper the running of Class 321 Hydrogen trains in Europe?

In Riding Docklands Light Railway Trains In Essen, I reported on seeing redundant Docklands Light Railway trains running in Essen.

For this reason, I wouldn’t totally rule out Class 321 Hydrogen trains invading Europe!

 

September 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hydrogen Trains Herald New Steam Age

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on nearly half of Page 4 of today’s Sunday Times.

When I saw the article with its large graphic showing the working of a hydrogen train, the train seemed rather familiar.

The leaning back front of the train with its two windows and the corrugated roof looked like a Class 321 train.

The large orange area on the roof is the hydrogen tank and the smaller one is the hydrogen fuel cell.

This is a paragraph from the article.

Alstom revealed this weekend that it planned to convert the Class 321 diesel trains, which date to 1988 and are used on the Greater Anglia network between London Liverpool Street and Ipswich. The units will be switched to other lines once converted to hydrogen power.

I suspect Mark Hookham, who wrote the article, has already been told by ninety percent of the train enthusiasts in this country, that Class 321 trains are electric multiple units.

This picture shows the first car of a Class 321 train in the sidings at Ipswich.

Note all the space, under the train, which would be an ideal place for the batteries and traction control, that are shown in that position, in pink, in the Sunday Times graphic.

But there are other reasons, why Class 321 trains may be ideal to convert to hydrogen power.

  • Although they are thirty years old, they are a modern train, which meet all the latest regulations.
  • They have a 100 mph operating speed on electricity.
  • They operate on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • There are a hundred and seventeen four-car trains.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing over a hundred Class 321 trains, with new Class 720 trains in the next two years.
  • A number of Greater Anglia’s trains have been upgraded to Class 321 Renatus. These trains are a substantial upgrade over the standard train..
  • Greater Anglia’s trains appear to be in good condition.
  • Designs have been tested to upgrade the traction motors and drive systems of the trains.

But most importantly, the trains are based on the Mark 3 coach, which gives the following advantages.

  • An excellent ride and superb brakes.
  • Bodies with a legendary strength and toughness.
  • There is a vast amount of knowledge in the UK rail industry, that enables the trains to be kept at peak performance.

I doubt, that you could find a better fleet of a hundred trains to convert to hydrogen power anywhere in the world.

The article says or indicates the following.

  • Hydrogen tanks will be mounted on the roof.
  • An Alstom spokesman is quoted as saying. “We have now started work on the development of a specific hydrogen train to launch the technology here in the UK.”
  • He also said that the trains would be super quiet, super smooth and much more accelerative. I assume that is compared to diesel.
  • Conversion will take place in fleets of up to 15 trains a time at Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The first train could be ready by 2021.
  • Eventually, all Class 321 trains could be converted.
  • Initial routes could be on the Tees Valley Line and between Liverpool and Widnes.
  • Range on a tank of hydrogen will be 620 miles.
  • Top speed would be about 87 mph.

The article finishes with a quote from Alstom’s spokesman. “The initial capital costs of hydrogen trains were higher than diesel ones, but the “total life cost” of running them for 40 years was lower.”

I have my thoughts on various things said and not said in the article.

Alstom’s Widnes Factory

Alstom’s Widnes factory has just upgraded, Virgin Trains, fleet of Class 390 trains, so it does seem capable of handling heavy work on a number of trains at one time.

Train Certification

All trains have to be certified, as to being safe and compatible to run on the UK rail network.

Converting an existing train, must make this process a lot easier, especially as many of the hydrogen components and batteries have been used on trains in the EU.

The Proposed Routes

The routes named in the article are in the North East and North West of England, where hydrogen could be readily available from the petrochemical works, so fuelling the trains may not be a problem.

Power Supply

Class 321 trains were only built to work on lines with 25 KVAC overhead wires, but I suspect the parts exist to enable them to run on 750 VDC third-rail lines, if needed.

INEOS

INEOS is a very large multi-national petrochemical company, with a multi-billion pound turnover, which is sixty percent owned by Jim Ratcliffe, who has just been named the UK’s richest man.

So why would a company like that be involved in hydrogen-powered trains?

This news item from Reuters, is entitled AFC In Hydrogen Power Generation Deal With INEOS.

This is the first two paragraphs.

British budget fuel cell maker AFC Energy has signed a deal with British petrochemicals company INEOS to produce electricity using the hydrogen given off in chlorine manufacturing.

AFC said the project with INEOS ChlorVinyls would use surplus hydrogen from the chemical firm’s Runcorn facility in north-west England to supplement the plant’s energy needs.

I used to know the Runcorn plant well, when I worked there for ICI in the 1960s.

The hydrogen was produced when brine was electrolysed to produce chlorine.

So does Jim Ratcliffe, who is a qualified Chemical Engineer, see an opportunity to sell the by-product as train fuel to his neighbour; Alstom, on the other side of the Mersey?

Obviously, I don’t know what Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS are thinking.

But consider.

  • The Sunday Times article says that the North West and the North East of England are two promising areas for hydrogen-powered trains.
  • INEOS has large petrochemical plants on the Mersey and Teeside.
  • I wonder how many plants owned by INEOS around the world have a surplus of hydrogen.
  • Alstom would probably like to sell hydrogen-powered trains everywhere.
  • A well-respected chemical engineer, once told me, that the only things that should go out of an integrated petrochemical plant is product that someone pays for, air and water.

As the other place in the UK, where INEOS have a large petrochemical plant is Grangemouth in Central Scotland, I wonder, if we’ll see hydrogen-powered trains North of the Border.

Availability of Hydrogen

This article on Process Engineering, which is entitled INEOS project reduces energy bill by £3m, starts with these three paragraphs.

INEOS Chlor is one of the major chlor-alkali and chlorine derivative producers in Europe. Its Runcorn site in north west England has two large chlorine plants: the original J Unit that uses a mercury cell electrolysis process route, and the more recently opened Genesis Membrane Chlorine Plant (MCP).

Continuous improvement of the manufacturing processes has taken the Runcorn site to a ’best in class’ cost base and environmental performance, and as part of this improvement programme the company wanted to minimise vented hydrogen and maximise the value of this resource at both plants.

Without a significant change in market demand for hydrogen, it was not possible to increase sales to existing customers. The only alternative was to increase the amount used as fuel to power on-site boilers, thereby reducing costs for purchased natural gas.

Burning the hydrogen in on-site boilers.obviously helps to reduce the energy bill, but surely, if the hydrogen could be sold to a local customer, that could be more profitable.

You certainly want to minimise the vented hydrogen!

A few days ago I wrote The Liverpool Manchester Hydrogen Clusters Project, which is a project to create a hydrogen network in the Liverpool Manchester area.

Surplus hydrogen from Runcorn and other placed would be piped around the area to augment the natural gas supply.

This network could supply Alstom’s new hydrogen-powered trains and INEOS have a new market for their surplus hydrogen.

I don’t know the petrochemical industry in the North East, but there are a lot of petrochemical plants and some are owned by INEOS.

Is there a surplus of hydrogen, that could profitably sold as fuel for Alstom’s hydrogen-powered trains. I don’t know!

And then there’s Grangemouth in Scotland! My Scottish agent in the Borderlands, used to work at the INEOS plant in Grangemouth and that had a hydrogen surplus.

Even, if we can’t pipe hydrogen to the various depots for the trains around the country, surely it can be transported by rail!

I think that we may be short of some things in this country, but hydrogen might not be one of them.

Given that Alstom have moved so quickly to start planning conversion of the Class 321 trains, they have probably identified sources of enough hydrogen to power the fleet, even if all are converted, as they hinted at in the Sunday Times article.

Eversholt Rail Group’s Involvement

All the trains are leased from the Eversholt Rail Group, who would probably like to see their assets continue to earn the best return possible.

A few days ago, I wrote Eversholt Joins Very Light Rail Consortium.

These two projects may be at both ends of the rail industry, but I believe, they show the willingness of Eversholt to invest in innovation, rather than allow an asset to drift towards the scrapyard.

The Class 321 Renatus

This page on their web site describes the Class 321 Renatus, which was an upgrade developed by Eversholt in conjunction with Greater Anglia, to improve the trains, whilst waiting for Greater Anglia’s new fleet to be delivered.

These are the listed improvements.

  • New air-conditioning and heating systems.
  • New, safer seating throughout
  • Larger vestibules for improved boarding and alighting
  • Wi-Fi enabled for passengers and operator
  • Improved space allocation for buggies, bicycles and luggage
  • Passenger power sockets throughout
  • New, energy efficient lighting
  • One PRM compliant toilet and a second controlled emission toilet on each unit
  • Complete renewal and remodelling of all interior surfaces.

It would be a better interior than most British Rail-era trains.

Comparison With The Class 769 Train

The proposed hydrogen-powered Class 321 train, will inevitably be compared with Porterbrook‘s Class 769 train, which is a bi-mode upgrade of the Class 319 train.

Looking at operating speed on electricity and alternative fuel we find.

  • Both trains can operate at 100 mph on lines with 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 769 train can also operate at 100 mph on lines with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • According to the Sunday Times article, the Class 321 Hydrogen train can operate at about 87 mph on hydrogen.
  • According to this article in Rail Magazine, the Class 769 train can operate at 91-92 mph on diesel.

So in terms of operating speed, the trains are more of less comparable, but emissions will be better with the hydrogen-powered train.

When it comes to interiors, as both trains are Mark 3-based, designed around the same time, train operating companies will have what their budget allows.

In the end the choice will come down to cost, which will surely be higher for the Class 321 Hydrogen, as this will require more expensive modifications and additional infrastructure for refuelling the train.

Could Any Other Trains Be Converted?

There are various other classes of electric multiple unit based on the Mark 3 coach.

I think there could be good reasons to only convert trains with the following characteristics.

  • Four-cars or more.
  • 100 mph capability
  • Perhaps fifty or more trains to convert.

These rules would leave us with only the seventy-two Class 317 trains, many of which have been refurbished and are in very good condition.

Conclusion

I’m drawn to the conclusion, that Alstom and Eversholt are serious about producing hydrogen-powered trains for the UK.

I also think, they’ve identified enough hydrogen to power the whole fleet, if it’s converted.

 

 

May 13, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment