Fuel Alternatives

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Fuel Alternatives

Postby CPSK » Thu Aug 18, 2016 11:06 am

In a world where carbon emissions are forefront in climate change discussions, I haven't read/heard much about the railroad industry.
I have been researching this, and it appears that Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is the leader in near-term alternates to diesel. But LNG is still a fossil fuel, and as such, will still produce CO2 emissions. So what is the answer for the long term? Say, 50 years?
Battery powered locomotives? Bio-Diesel?
I would think that the maintenance required for battery powered locos would be prohibitive, but perhaps in 50 years, battery technology will have advanced to a point where this is no longer an issue.

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby DutchRailnut » Thu Aug 18, 2016 6:56 pm

bio diesel still produces near same as regular Diesel, LNG less but has different problems like safety.
Batteries specially something that could produce huge amounts of power produce gas (explosive) could they use it to power a small engine to charge same batteries ??
really producing amount of Kilowatts to power a train is not easy and won't be replaced for decades.'
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby Nasadowsk » Fri Aug 19, 2016 7:22 pm

CPSK wrote:I would think that the maintenance required for battery powered locos would be prohibitive, but perhaps in 50 years, battery technology will have advanced to a point where this is no longer an issue.


The 'breakthrough' battery of the future has been 5 - 10 years off since the first battery was invented years ago. It's like fusion. It's always another decade and $$$$ in funding away from actually working...
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby John_Perkowski » Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:51 am

Until wind and solar are inexpensive enough and plentiful enough to supplant coal/gas/diesel, electricity will be generated by coal, gas, and diesel.

Remember, those Diesel engines on a locomotive, in the US, are there to turn the generators. Remember also GE has sold (may still sell?) grounded versions of their locomotives as generator stations. Kansas City Power and Light has a bank of them just east of downtown KC, as reserve power.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby bcgfdc3 » Sun Aug 21, 2016 11:03 pm

So I am not in the industry and just a railfan and think I understand how a diesel electric locomotive works.

With that said - please correct me if I am wrong.

When traction motors are used to slow a train they produce an electric current- correct?

This current is then sent to large resistor panels to dissipate the current which becomes heat and is cooled by large fans - correct?

So if this is all true, If batteries were used, could the current from the traction motors slowing be diverted back into the batteries or capacitors to be used later?

Obviously there would still need to be an engine of some kind to charge the batteries but this engine may be a much smaller unit. You could have one unit with an engine and one unit with just batteries and motors, similar to a slug unit.

I'm sure this is easy to think about and plan in my head but practicality may not be feasible.

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby Allen Hazen » Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:18 am

Bcgfdc3--
Yes, you've got the principle of dynamic braking right.
A few years back, General Electric announced that they were developing a variant of the "Evolution Series" freight locomotive that incorporated batteries (I think they war hoping that new battery technology would allow small enough batteries that they could be placed on board without being visually obvious -- American freight locomotives tend to ballasted, to improve traction, so they could carry the weight of a sizeable battery-pack in lieu of their normal ballast) to store the electricity generated in dynamic brake mode and then use it to help when next accelerating or climbing a hill.
I haven't heard much about the project recently, so I don't know its current status.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby MEC407 » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:26 am

Yes, it was the Evolution Series Hybrid and there was one experimental unit built, GECX #2010.

Lots of photos here: http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/locopi ... x?id=80698
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby Allen Hazen » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:46 pm

Thanks for the link to the photo gallery! The most recent of the photos there is from 2013, showing the unit still in existence and still in its original livery… on the GE test track, probably using its dynamic brakes to provide load for a new unit(*) under test.
I haven't seen any news about the hybrid hit, or the hybrid program, in several years, and the last time I looked at the GETS website I couldn't find the brochure about it. I have a feeling the idea has been quietly dropped. (Which could mean that there were technical problems that were too hard to solve, and could mean that with low oil prices the ultra-conservative management of the major North American railroads signalled they weren't interested in new fuel-saving technology…) Heard any rumours?
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby NorthWest » Fri Sep 02, 2016 12:02 am

From what I understand, GE could never quite get the batteries to work reliably over the typical service schedule of a unit. Then the big rush for Tier IV started and all R&D was pulled off of the hybrid on ES44A6 (blue unit) testing and production. It will be interesting to see if any progress is made going forward.

I think that the HSP46s were fully assembled in Boise, but ended up at Erie for warrantee work after teething issues.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby Allen Hazen » Fri Sep 02, 2016 2:29 am

North West--
Thanks for the further story on the hybrids! It will indeed be interesting to see if GE comes back to that program now that the Tier IV diesels are running successfully.
W.r.t. the HSP46... Some of them may have visited Erie for warrantee work, but I don't think that's the reason for the Erie test-track scene in the photo. The HSP46 in the photo is the first in the series, and it's in primer paint (meaning it hadn't made it to Boston yet). I suspect that it was in Erie for pre-delivery test and modification in an effort to prevent teething troubles. (The best laid plans of mice and GE...)
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby John_Perkowski » Fri Sep 16, 2016 9:54 am

Wondering....

Particularly on coal unit trains and tank car unit trains (and I see a lot of those in my neck of the woods)...

Is there enough solar panel space footprint to generate at least some of the electricity the traction motors need in daylight hours?
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby Allen Hazen » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:16 pm

John Perkowski--
Interesting question. My ***guess*** is that locomotives need more power than households do, so solar panels suitable for domestic use wouldn't do. (NB: I am not an expert: what follows is an ***amateur's*** quick and dirty estimate.) I found an ad on the internet for domestic solar panels. One system (costing, I think, $12,000) involved something over 300 square feet of solar panel. (Typical U.S. freight locomotive is abut 70 feet long and 10 feet wide. So, if you built the roof out to the full width allowed by the loading gauge, you could mount about two of these systems on each unit. The claim made for the system was that it would produce between 300 and 700 kWh per month. Generously, and assuming the higher yield (run your coal trains through sunny Arizona?), this might give 1500 kWh per month, or 50 kWh per day. Modern U.S. freight diesels are in the power range of about 3000 kW, so onboard solar panels (somebody check my arithmetic: I've been out of school long enough that I don't trust myself!) would suffice for about one minute's operation in Run 8.
For a unit train with captive rolling stock, you might put solar panels on each car, which might get you up to an hour's full power running…
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby John_Perkowski » Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:50 pm

Your latter was what I was thinking... Panels on cars, particularly on unit train consists (coalers and tankers).
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby CLamb » Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:08 am

John_Perkowski wrote:Is there enough solar panel space footprint to generate at least some of the electricity the traction motors need in daylight hours?


A rough average of the energy in sunlight when hitting the earth is 100 watt / sq. meter. Even with perfect conversion efficiency and covering the entire train with collectors you'd be hard put to get enough energy.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Postby John_Perkowski » Thu Sep 22, 2016 12:14 pm

How much could you realistically replace?

A coal unit train on the UP (ex MoP) or the BNSF (ex CB&Q) coming into Neff or Murray Yards tends to be 100+ cars and 3 SD-70s or equivalent. Could one of those units go away?
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