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"Smokeless Fuel In HM Ships?" Topic


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563 hits since 14 Sep 2012
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Cuchulainn15 Sep 2012 7:22 p.m. PST

Having just received my winter supply of anthracite got me wondering why I never see any WW1 RN ships at sea, without a cloud of thick black smoke pouring from their funnels?

Could they not have used anthracite in their boilers? They would have got much more power from an anthracite fire than coal, and they wouldn't have had smoke giving away their positions and blinding them in a battle. There was anthracite available in the Welsh mines and probably other parts of the empire as well, so no problems with supplies.

Anu ideas or have you got evidence to prove they did "go smokeless" at times?

Agesilaus Inactive Member15 Sep 2012 8:52 p.m. PST

There are many grades of coal and they have different properties. Naval vessels carried different grades of coal in different bunkers. I remember reading an account of the Battle of Santiago Bay that stated that the Oregon only caught up with the Colon after it used up all it's good Welsh coal.
BTUs per ton and smoke have to be weighed against other properties. Safe storage, ease of ash disposal, Primary and secondary combustion characteristics, moisture content, fouling of boilers, and, of course, cost were all important factors.

David Manley15 Sep 2012 9:52 p.m. PST

RN ships around the world in particular would tend to coal with whatever was available locally, as well as with Welsh anthracite for those "special occasions" – so this was stockpiled at coaling stations as well. "Locally" is something of a relative term and depended on the quality of the truly local supply. In some areas of the world coal was described variously as "dirty" or "not much better then mud" and, whilst it would burn it would clog boilers and uptakes and generally lead to a higher maintenance burden and fire risk, so importing something better from elsewhere in the region, but still cheaper and less calorific than coal from the UK was done too. I touch on this in my original "Fire When Ready" pre-dreadnought rules which had different usage rates for different types of coal (edited it out in the latest editions but on A&AGE's website now)

Personal logo Klebert L Hall Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2012 7:27 a.m. PST

Your house boiler is a lot (A LOT) more efficient at burning all the fuel than the boilers of a late-19th / early-20th century warship. The latter were designed for fast high temperatures above almost all else. They were also almost ridiculously primitive by modern standards… hopefully your home heating system is a lot better in most ways.
-Kle.

Agesilaus Inactive Member16 Sep 2012 9:06 p.m. PST

I believe the most popular commercial heating boiler today is the Scotch Marine. It was invented in 1830. I am not aware of any revolutionary new boiler designs, except maybe for hyper critical pressure boilers and those were never used on ships. Boiler technology is not new. The biggest advantage we have for efficiency today is digital control.

Personal logo Klebert L Hall Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2012 4:32 a.m. PST

You would be extremely wrong.

The only thing about the Scotch Marine boiler that is the same as the one from 1830 is that it is a water-tube design.

Amongst other things, the firebox is a vastly better designed system nowadays, since we can model airflow today, instead of just guessing.

In further news, today's Ford motor car is quite different from the Model T.
-Kle.

Agesilaus Inactive Member17 Sep 2012 6:34 p.m. PST

Hall
The average household boiler today is probably a cast sectional boiler with a gravity burner which predates the boilers you're talking about. The key factor is cost.
The basics of boiler design, including huge water tube boilers were all developed prior to WWI. Design tweaking, has brought marginal increases in boiler efficiency, but as I said before, nothing major. Also the modern efficiencies you talk about are in combustion efficiency and not in hp per ton of fuel. Old boilers polluted more, but they converted coal into steam very efficiently.
The model T is an example of 10 year old technology. An early 20th century battleship is already century old technology, like a car from the 1990s. It is possible for brilliant engineers to model things without computers.
So I would agree that one of us is extremely wrong.

Panfilov11 Oct 2012 2:30 p.m. PST

Only on TMP….

Is it possible that the difference in home heating efficency is due to externalities, ie, better insulation and such?

And I would argue that an early 20th cetury battleship was at most a thirty or forty year old technology; Probably reciprocating steam engines were a "mature" technology by then, but Marine Steam Turbines were a very immature technology.

The Fuel "Input" to the boiler seems to be a bigger variable then actual boiler "efficency"; And there are so many vaiables in that when refering to Coal fired plants, it's a contest of minutia.

Panfilov11 Oct 2012 2:31 p.m. PST

Is Welsh "Steam Coal" Anthracite?

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2012 6:20 p.m. PST

Is Welsh "Steam Coal" Anthracite

Yes, it is a hard, shiny coal high in carbon. It is far less common than the softer/duller Bituminous coal. Only about 1% of the worlds coal supply is anthracite.

The Germans were stuck with large stocks of Brown Coal or Lignite which is even less efficient.

Sorry more than you wanted to know.

Elliott the Frustrated Geologist.

MahanMan14 Oct 2012 7:13 p.m. PST

Elliott the Frustrated Geologist.

Now I know what to call you the next time I see you at The Source… wink

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