Alan Hodgkin
Babcock Power, U.K.

Introd uction THE MARINE industry has been served notice that coal-fired ships are about to return. A shift in emphasis from oil to coal based energy budgets introduces a potentially vast trans-oceanic trade in coal requiring many new ships. Of these a large number will use coal as fuel for their steam propulsion equipment. In 1954 two ships were commissioned in Australia. These were significant as they represented the best available practice of that time. Named "IRON SPENCER" and "IRON WHYALLA" these ships each had two sinuous header water tube boilers fitted with mechanical stokers firing onto a continuously moving grate (Figure 1). Reciprocating plate feeders and a bucket elevator were used to transfer coal from the storage bunkers to the daily service bunker whilst a pneumatic system piped ash overboard from the main ash and riddlings hoppers. Although the header boiler is now obsolete the successful operation of these ships over many years, burning coal with low levels of manual intervention, demonstrates a level of confidence upon which modern coal-fired ships may be based. Combining present day technology with this previous experience offers the opportunity of ocean transport systems, with reduced dependence on liquid fuels, through the 1980s and beyond.

The fuel Before we can examine the problems associated with the design and operation of marine coal-fired boiler plant we must first gain an understanding of the fuel and its peculiarities. Variations occur from coal field to coal field, from coal seam to coal seam, and even within a given seam at different lateral and vertical positions. This high variability of coal as a naturally occurring substance is a factor we must bear continually in mind, as it exerts considerable influence upon the design and operation of the boiler plant. The rank of coal may be measured by parameters of ultimate hydrogen, as indicated in Table 1. analysis such as carbon and


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Anthracite Semi-bituminous Bituminous Lignite Peat

93 - 95 91 - 93 84 - 91 60- 84 51 - 59

3.8 - 2.8 5.0 - 3.8 5.7 - 4.4 5.7 - 5.0 6.1 - 5.8



The age and rank of the deposits increases from peat towards anthracite - peat being about one million years old and anthracite around 250 times more ancient. The National Coal Board in Britain classifies coal in terms of a coal rank code where the main distinguishing feature is volatile matter obtained by proximate analysis. In this classification anthracites are 100 class coals with 9 per cent volatile matter or less progressing through classes200, 300, 400 - 900 the latter group being high volatile coals with a volatile matter greater than 32 per cent. Coal as mined, "Run of Mine" coal, varies in size from fine dust to large lumps and contains much impurity in the form of inorganic material present in the coal seam or collected from the floor or roof during mining operations. To prepare it for the market, coal may be cleaned and graded in a coal preparation plant designed to yield products of consistent quality. Lumps bigger than 100 - 150 mm are screened out for domestic use or for subsequent breaking down for industrial purposes. Some of the small coal below 12 mm by-passes further processing whilst all coal between 100 - 150 mm and 12 mm together with the remainder below 12 mm goes to the washer. The various designs of washers all separate coal from discard by virtue of the lower specific gravity of coal compared to mineral matter. A series of screens then grades the washed coal as desired. When bunkering ships with coal any characteristics of the fuel which affect storage will be of interest. During storage coal will deteriorate by low temperature oxidation. If the rate of oxidation is high and storage conditions bad, spontaneous combustion may result. Risk of spontaneous combustion is highest for newly mined coals. If already stored for about 6 months the oxidation which has already taken place in contact with the atmosphere will reduce liability to spontaneous combustion. The weathering will however occasion a small reduction in calorific value. High rank coals pose less risk than lower rank fuel and storage in cool conditions with adequate means of dissipating any heat generated by oxidation is also helpful. Of the mineral impurities present with coal some occur intimately mixed with the coal substance and cannot be removed by any washing process. Elements found are silicon, aluminium, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, titanium, manganese and sulphur as well as traces of phosphorus, gallium, germanium nickel and beryllium. On combustion some of the original compounds are decomposed and recombination and reaction with other derivates of the fuel ash may occur. The ash left on combustion is not therefore a true indication of the nature or amount of mineral matter originally present. When heated, coal ash does not melt sharply at any definite temperature, but commences to soften at a substantially lower temperature than that at which it becomes molten. This is due to its complex chemical nature and requires that special care be exercised when establishing these critical temperatures.

Description of coal sample:





As received


Proximate analysis Moisture Ash Volatile matter Fixed carbon GVC Kj/kg Ultimate analysis Moisture C H S CI
; •••





carbon hydrogen sulphur chlorine phosphorus nitrogen oxygen (by difference)

.. .. ., ..

N 0 Ash

.. .. .. .. ,. .. ..
% % %

CO2 (dried fuel) • Sulphur as Sulphates • Pyritic Sulphur • Organ ic Sulphur Hardgrove Index Abrasive Index mg/kg • 8.S. Swelling No. Ash fusion temperature Initial deformation Hemisphere Flow Ash analysis




Loss on ignition Si02



Ti02 Na20 K20 MnO P205

These items to be notified if available


Deformation temperatu re Hemisphere temperature Flow temperature

the temperature at which the top of a pile of ash shows signs of deformation. the temperature at which the material fused into a roughly spherical lump. becomes fused



the temperature at which the ash becomes molten to spread into a flat pool.


There is little hope to design an efficient boiler plant with a high degree of availability, capable of handling such a variable fuel as coal unless a great deal is first established regarding the characteristics of the coal and its ash. For this purpose all intending coal-fired ship owners are requested to submit with their request to tender a completed copy of the fuel data sheet (Table 2). This information will enable the initial heat balance calculation to be made, will enable decisions to be taken concerning coal storage and handling and suggest suitable arrangements for combustion equipment, furnace sizing and heat loadings. Further, layout of the boiler heating surfaces and heat recovery equipment beyond the boiler can be settled and proper provision made for ash transport, discharge or storage.


of coal

Years ago most steamships burned coal and even 30 years ago 21 per cent of the world's tonnage were still coal burners. In those days manpower was cheap, plentiful and unorganised. Conditions under which coal-fired ships were then operated would seem primitive today. Use of the shovel and the wheelbarrow are now inconceivable and efficiency must be a prime objective for both economic and energy conservation reasons. There exists three purposes:1. 2. 3. methods of burning coal which may be applied to marine propulsion

Fluidised Pulverised Mechanical

Bed Combustion Fuel Stoker


bed combustion

Well established in principle and widely publicised in terms of its environmental advantages fluidised bed combustion has made little impact in marine affairs so far. It remains however as a combustion system of considerable potential particularly in view of the opportunity it provides to bunker coals of widely differing quality and characteristics without serious detrimental effect upon the performance and availability of the associated boiler plant. No doubt more will be said of this with particular plans for use of fluidised beds at sea, in a companion paper at this conference. For the present it is sufficient to say that all the major boiler designers are active in this area and are considering ways to exploit the advantages of the fluidised bed in a manner which minimises its disadvantages. It is important in the marine sphere to introduce new technology with a minimum of risk. One way of accomplishing this with the fluidised bed is by adoption of the VAP (very advanced propulsion) system. Although not taking full advantage of the potential of the fluidised bed this system enables fuel economy to be obtained together with experience of fired fluidised beds


---------- -------

at sea. For the coal-fired VAP system a conventionally fired boiler burning coal will provide steam at say 126 bar 5150 C which after expanding through the H.P. turbine will be reheated in a coal-fired fluidised bed to say 5300 C or more and then expanded in the normal way through I.P. and L.P. turbines to the condenser. Much higher cycle efficiencies will be obtained and valuable seagoing experience of the coal-fired fluidised bed achieved with minimum risk. During periods of manoeuvring when operation of the fluidised bed becomes more questionable, it may be shut down, the plant operating at these times on a simple straight cycle. Development of the VAP system has been jointly undertaken by Stal-Laval Turbin A.B. Babcock International Ltd., and oil-fired versions have been described elsewhere. (1 & 2) coal-fired alternative metnioned above is a direct descendent and with further development experience with fluidised beds it is expected that this will evolve so that eventually all the will be consumed in a fluidised bed just as was intended for the oil-fired VAP system.

and The and fuel



Perhaps the most popular method of burning coal today is by reducing it to very fine particle size, typically 70 per cent through 75 micron B.S. sieve, and injecting it with primary and secondary air through burners arranged in the furnace chamber wall in a manner similar to oil burners. Most applications are for the very large boilers found in electricity generating stations, although many industrial examples exist. This use of pulverised coal has provided a considerable amount of data and knowledge concerning the problems involved. For this reason, a sound base exists from which to consider the use of pulverised coal in a modern marine context. Such a consideration was made on a previous occasion (3) and remains valid today. It will nevertheless be interesting to review the salient features. Initially, it must be decided whether to pulverise on board or ashore, a subject given much attention as long ago as 1927 (4). At that time the point was made that coal pulverised ashore could be stored safety in ships' bunkers if the air tight bunker spaces were kept inert. The inerting medium (washed and cooled boiler uptake gases) predated the methods in current use for minimising explosions on oil tankships. In spite of this there was considerable opposition from those who preferred to carry out the coal preparation on board immediately prior to its combustion. Nowadays, the latter system prevails ashore and seems the natural choice at sea permitting coal to be bunkered in a raw crushed state with a maximum lump size of about 30 mm. The coal is ground in pulverising mills to the appropriate degree of fineness together with hot primary air which dries and delivers the fuel to the burners through pipework. The capacity of the mill is dependent upon coal density, grindability and output fineness. At least two mills would be provided to support each boiler at MCR but three would be used if stand-by capacity is required. Pulverised coal gives a very flexible steam generating system, the fuel and air being modulated as with oil fuel and with a similar rate of response to load change. Turndown is limited however and at 25 per cent MCR and below, a supplementary fuel such as oil may be needed. This is easily arranged however as a steam atom ising oil burner can be fitted in the centre of each coal burner. Although load variation is simply accomplished with pulverised fuel, it is necessary to keep the velocity in the fuel pipes between distinct limits. The lower of these is to ensure that the coal remains entrained in the air steam and the upper to avoid excessive erosion. In practice this limits turndown to about 2: 1 based upon the mill design throughput, so that to achieve a boiler turndown of 4: 1, mills would have to be taken out of service. This is clearly a disadvantage and reduces somewhat the flexibility of the system, suggesting that steam dumping would be required or that all manoeuvring be done on oil alone.

Normally the coal milling plant will be operating in a fuel rich environment so that explosion risk is avoided. During the stopping and starting cycles of the mill however the fuel air mixture may pass through the explosive range sci that precautions.are necessary. It is common in the U. K. shore stations to design the P.F. system to withstand an over pressure of 1.38 MPa. without exceeding the 0.2 per cent proof stress of any of the parts involved. Doubtless a similar injunction would be proposed by the marine survey authorities. Stopping a mill also causes operational difficulties as an idle mill full of coal is an additional fire risk. The need to manipulate mills in this way and the associated safety hazards requires a compromise solution. A number of examples exist whereby coal-fired boiler plant is operated with pulverised fuel on the bin and feeder system. With this, a central milling station would be provided to supply a ready use bunker with pulverised coal. This would act as a buffer between the mills and the boiler, enabling the former to operate on a steady load cycle regardless of the demand of the latter. It can be seen that this is a compromise between the unit mill/boiler system and that where the coal is completely prepared ashore and bunkered in pulverised form. It is worth considering because it avoids the difficulties of the former and minimise the problems of the latter. The ready use bunker would of course need careful design but its relatively small size would make the use of inert gas a more acceptable proposition.

Mechanical stokers Mechanical stokers are available in a variety of types, some having the advantage of previous marine use. Considering the need to reintroduce coal as a marine fuel in the context of modern ship operating conditions, it is felt that the spreader type stoker has much to offer. A wide experience of marine operation can be claimed by the Detroit Stoker Company whose spreader type rotostoker can claim flexibility in operation and a capability for automatic control. These advantages of the equipment are described in more detail in a companion paper at this conference.

The coal-fired

marine boiler

For immediate application the spreader stoker offers the greatest assurance that a return to coal firing at sea will be successful. It is well proven in the marine environment, it is robust to withstand the rigours of the service and offers the advantage of previous use in the two significant ships mentioned in the introduction. Coal is very much more difficult to burn than oil but experience shows that, just as with oil, success comes from a combination of high quality combustion equipment and a properly related furnace design. Provided the characteristics of the fuel fall within suitable limits the Babcock Detroit rotostoker will be used enabling the furnace dimension to be assessed as follows. The maximum allowable grate rating expressed as gross heat release per unit area of grate will vary a little with volatile content but may lie between say (2.05 - 2.37 MW/m2) 650 000 and 750 000 BTU/ft2 hr. To provide adequate burn out and residence time and to limit grit carryover and carbon loss, the furnace should be sized to avoid exceeding a gross heat release per unit volume of about (0.31 MW/m3) 30 000 BTU/ft3 hr. There is also a limit on the heat release per unit width of (12.5 MW/m) 13 x 106 BTU/ft. hr. These may be expressed in terms ofW L H C G grate width (rnl approx. equals furnace width (rn)

grate length (m) maximum

approx. equals furnace length (rn) (kq/hr)

mean height of furnace (rn) coal consumption coal gross calorific value (KJ/kg)


3.6 x 106

12.5 W




x 106






Cx G


106 x W x L x H



from equations from equations

1 and 2 2 and 3

= 5.27 H = 7.65

m m

Basing on these criteria therefore the grate length and furnace height can be fixed with all variations to boiler output taken by selecting the grate width. There may be practical reasons, however, why the grate width and length may not be fixed in this way, but the furnace height will always be around 7% m. This height is important to control carryover of fly ash to ensure complete combustion with low excess of air and to permit proper mixing in the turbulent zone caused by admission of secondary air. Having established the proportions of the furnace using criteria of this sort it is then necessary to check the radiant heat transfer to the enclosure walls to ensure that the products of combustion leave the furnace at least 250 C below the initial deformation temperature of the coal ash. At this stage it is essential to know as much as possible about the fuel, since the design which results from these calculations can give difficulties in service if all the proper precautions are not observed. It will be necessary for example when making the furnace heat transfer calculations to know the fou ling propensities of the fuel ash, or errors can be made leading to insufficiently low furnace gas leaving temperature. In one coal-fired boiler unit having a correctly proportioned furnace above a Babcock Detroit rotostoker, the enclosure walls are constructed from membrane tube wall panels (Fig. 2). The gas exist opening is placed at the top of the screen wall leading to the convection passage, ensuring even upward gas flow for most of the furnace height. The convection passages of the boiler are very similar to the successful radiant oil-fired boiler except that since the outlet of the coal-fired furnace is at the top, two passes are required to bring the boiler outlet to the top of the unit. The enclosure walls of the convection passages are also formed from membrane tube wall panels. All efforts should be made to achieve good operating economy and to this end the steam cycle for the modern coal-fired plant will be similar to that previously used for oil-fired ships. This implies steam temperature of about 5150 C. There is a great deal of experience of Detroit stoker fired boiler plant ashore operating at 5000 C and above so that by taking advantage of this experience, coal-fired marine boilers can provide these temperature levels with confidence. It is essential however to avoid arrangements of superheating surfaces that have insufficient clearance between adjacent tubes, as this encourages fouling and high gas speeds leading to tube erosion. The requirement of widely spaced tubes and low furnace exit gas temperature implies that to achieve high steam temperatures the superheater will need a large number of rows in the direction of the gas flow. This is more readily achieved with the radiant type design than with a bi-drum boiler.

Beyond the boiler outlet further heat recovery surface will be provided in order to reduce the funnel gas temperature to a level appropriate to a high efficiency. Thus economisers and steam air-heaters may be used or a combination of economisers and gas air-heaters. In either case the air temperature is Iimited to about 3500 F (1770 C) to minimise risk of clinker formation on the grate. This may also limit to some extent the temperature of the funnel gases which must also take account of the possibil ity of corrosion. Sulphur content of the fuel is an important consideration in this respect and fortunately, most coals have lower sulphur contamination than currently available residual oil. Funnel gas temperatures typically obtainable are (163 - 177oC) 0 325 - 350 F which with the stoker fired boiler described would correspond to an efficiency of around 82.5 per cent depending upon coal analysis. Efficiency is dependent upon a number of factors, some inherent characteristics of the fuel and others due to the quality of operation of the equipment. Little control can be exercised over the hydrogen and moisture in the fuel, which both cause loss of heat. Good equipment well operated can limit excess air and final gas temperature. There will be a small amount of radiation, which is limited by construction methods and insulation. The remaining outstanding item is carbon loss. Most of this will occur in the flyash and to some extent may be dependent upon the adequacy of the furnace residence time. To control that which does occur it is necessary to collect and refire the heavier grits. Collection can be made at the bottom of the convection passes where the gases make a 1800 turn. A further reduction can be made by a second collection and refiring later in the gas passage. The efficiency quoted of 82.5 per cent assumes a single stage of refiring and is probably pessimistic. It seems preferable at this stage to quote a low figure in the expectation of improving upon it rather than a high value which is not obtained in practice. With any of the combustion methods previously outl ined there will be particu late carryover in the funnel gases. With pulverised fuel this will consist of a large quantity of very fine particles. The finest particles are always more difficult to capture and ashore, where it is important, large and expensive electrostatic precipitators are used. For marine purposes the main consideration on the high seas is to keep the ship's decks clear and by confining our attention to stoker firing, we can achieve reasonable results with simple cyclone type dust collectors or even in some cases by using a high velocity funnel arrangement. It is possible that a cyclone dust collector, with a collection efficiency of about 95 per cent, would provide exhaust gas with a dust burden of 0.34g/Nm3 which may not be clean enough for discharge in some harbours. It would not seem economic to consider anything more sophisticated for such occasional use and therefore operation in harbour using coal may not be possible depending upon local restrictions. Oil may be used however and it is simple to arrange for oil burners in the furnace wall above the grate.

Conclusion It is many years since coal was last used at sea and only economic pressure will provide the opportunity for its return. An appropriate background of technology must exist however so that the manner in which coal returns will be acceptable from an operational standpoint. Seagoing personnel have become accustomed to a high standard of living and working aboard ship and in many cases there is no need to have the machinery spaces manned at night. Economically coal should improve its position with the passage of time and it is believed that proposals similar to those described in this paper will provide acceptable operational standards. Coal can be burned reasonably efficiently with the spreader stoker, and boiler designs are available which should permit a high standard of reliability. Coal and ash can be moved about the ship without manual intervention and without noise or dust nuisance. Automatic controls can be provided enabling the plant to operate with man-

ning levels little or no different from those used on oil-fired ships. Developments continue toward the use of fluidised bed combustion, and pulverised coal is receiving further attention. Eventually, by adopting the latest sensing devices and control philosophy it is expected to achieve unmanned operation at night even with mechanical stoker fired boiler plant. Prospects for coal at sea are good. The first of the modern coal-fired ships are now under construction for owners having previous experience of coal at sea. We look forward to the early commissioning of these ships giving the coal-fired plant an opportunity to prove itself and with a successful result, creat-e the confidence necessary for a wider application to the propulsion of ships.
References: 1. 2. 'V AP Turbine Plant and its economy' by G.A. Larsen, Stat-Laval Turbin A.B. 'Marine Boilers for Very Advanced Purposes' by A.F. Hodgkin, Babcock Power Ltd. (Both the above given at Conference - Steam Propulsion for Ships in the changing economic environment - January 1978) 'Alternative Fuels for Ssapower ' by A.F. Hodgkin & R.A. Grams - IMAS 1976 'Pulverised Fuel for Marine Purposes - Institution of Naval Architects 1927' by J.C. Brand Eng. Capt. RAN

3. 4.




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