Class 321s converted to hydrogen fuel

Discussion in 'Traction & Rolling Stock' started by absolutelymilk, 13 May 2018.

  1. B&I

    B&I Established Member

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    The CLC is hardly a niche line which could not justify electrification and an intensive commuter service
     
  2. Chester1

    Chester1 Established Member

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    Its niche in that it has chemical works producing hydrogen as waste relatively near to it. That changes the economics of using hydrogen.
     
  3. xotGD

    xotGD Established Member

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    Batteries work for light vehicles/short range. Once you start increasing one or both of these factors you need to switch to hydrogen. I saw a graph showing the swap-over points recently, but I don't have it to hand.
     
  4. hwl

    hwl Established Member

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    Which is the same as the region in Northern Germany where Alstom units are being rolled out - cheap Hydrogen.
     
  5. Domh245

    Domh245 Established Member

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    It will be interesting to see that graph. But I still feel that with the amount of development being put into batteries by the automotive industry their capacity will continue to increase. I think @D365 gave the example recently of Li-Ion capacity doubling in a reasonably short time frame
     
  6. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    Batteries are still a long way off technology wise, to get equivalent range (600-1000miles) currently would requires 10's of tons of batteries. And if you look at how slow battery technology has developed I can't see it improving enough to be comparable to fuel based systems for a long time.

    But it is to me the holy grail we should be aiming for.
     
  7. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    And in the UK with chemical plants in widnes and North East where proposed lines are
     
  8. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    Can't see OHL being used, complicated enough with a new technology without trying to integrate multiple power systems. And adds additional weight.
     
  9. Chester1

    Chester1 Established Member

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    It does seem to be that the economics only currently make sense if the hydrogen is a waste product of chemical works and not produced to power trains. That is still a substantial niche market available to capture. Alstom's site in Widnes is very large and can support train repair, refurbisment and limited assembly, while still having space for a depot for hydrogen trains. The prototypes may show the conversion is not profitable on a commercial scale but its worth trying.

    There are plenty of lines that need to be electrified where hydrogen and battery trains are not practical and they should be the priority. My view on both hydrogen and battery trains are that they are not the main solution to replacing diesel power but they have an important role.
     
  10. hwl

    hwl Established Member

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    No it isn't complicated and it already fitted on the 321s. The Renatus 321s with 3 phase AC drives allow the batteries & fuel cell to be hooked up to the DC link in the traction electronics in the same way the 3rd rail connection is made easily or the batteries on the 379013 trial. Agre it would be much harder on the original spec 321s but that isn't on the cards as they don't have the regenerative braking capacity required.
     
  11. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    But when they've already added HVAC with Renatus can you afford the additional weight of the hydrogen equipment too and still get performance.

    Possibly better to lose pantograph to create space and can then remove transformer to counter the hydrogen weight.
     
  12. hwl

    hwl Established Member

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    That is what I and several others told DfT at the start of the decade when Hydrogen and Fischer-Tropsch energy from waste Biofuels* were being looked at the last time. The economics of the later were only viable in WW2 Germany and appartied South Africa which killed idea dead by mentioning those 2 eras...

    *Roger Ford got a bit confused and called it bionic duckweed when it wasn't.
     
  13. hwl

    hwl Established Member

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    Yes the weight of air con/pantograph and transformer is fairly small overall. The extra weight on the motor car helps with tractive effort in this case.
     
  14. Class 170101

    Class 170101 Established Member

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    The DfT is trying to get the private sector to pay for schemes rather than the public purse. Eversholt, Alsthom etc are private companies coming up with new ideas albeit perhaps not paying for OLE wires.

    I would argue from electrification infrastructure that should be easy to electrify. The feeder stations exist already via links from adjacent lines at Manchester and Liverpool and also where the CLC crosses the WCML in the northwest corner Warrington.
     
  15. modernrail

    modernrail Member

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    I note the proposed test routes are near chemical works. Let's say that goes well. Does anybody have any idea how much hydrogen these plants could theoretically provide? If you could theoretically power a decent proportion of the northern fleet, I wonder how feasible it might be to transport the hydrogen from the chemical plants to more useful locations for train refuelling.
     
  16. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    I seem to remember 50,000kg but can't find the reference. I doubt bi-product would be the sole source, the ideal would be local production on site using renewable energy like solar or wind.

    Whilst not necessarily a technical challenge to transport the hydrogen by lorry I'm not convinced we would want to introduce more road traffic. Though I wonder what the net difference would be in swapping diesel deliveries for hydrogen.
     
  17. xotGD

    xotGD Established Member

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    The statistic I heard is that the chlorine works on Merseyside produces enough hydrogen to power the entire Arriva Trains Wales (or whatever it is called now) fleet twice-over. That sounds like quite a few units.
     
  18. modernrail

    modernrail Member

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    Thanks for those replies. I wonder if it is possible to transport the hydrogen safely and economically from a railhead close to the chemical works to nearby depots by specially manufactured hydrogen holders on wheels. If this could be done at night with a revolving supply, I wonder what proportion of the northern fleet could become 321 bi-mode. The same applies to Teeside.

    Maybe you could get to a position where it is possible to swap out all remaining 150x other than Yorkshire for hydrogen 321 Renatus. Maybe there is even enough for Yorkshire, but if not - maybe you go for 321 diesel or diesel battery there for now. There are a few stretches of overhead wire on 15x routes that might be interesting for battery re-charging so as to minimise diesel use.

    Imagine a world where Northern gets to swap all its older diesel trains for newer and units that, to my mind, really do feel like nearly new after the Renatus refurbishment. Suddenly passengers are travelling on trains that rarely use diesel, have 4 cars, decent enough seats, climate control and the maintenance staff can start to work with a fleet of similar vehicles. As an added bonus the solutions have been put together by engineers in UK plants, hopefully building a body of knowledge in the UK that can be further grown to create some new UK ventures that can do that exporting thing we have forgotten how to do. The million dollar question is what the bill for all this would look like (on a whole life basis) compared to 15x business as usual.

    If there are enough, I would personally like to see all the 319's replaced with Renatus as well but obviously there are contractual matters to consider there.

    I for one am really interested to see how this plays out.
     
  19. Royston Vasey

    Royston Vasey Established Member

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    There's no such thing as waste hydrogen. It's a valuable commodity and if it can be sold elsewhere such as for chemical production or petroleum refining for more money then it will be.
     
  20. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    I've been thinking about a thread on how Northern can resolve the Sprinter situation. Once the Pacers are gone attention will turn to what to with the noisy, grotty Sprinters which are, in my opinion, life expired - the 150s particularly. The Pacer situation has been blurred by how few new build trains there have been on the Northern Rail network in the past two decades. Once the new trains come along with the modern, clean interior and perks then it's unlikely to see the Sprinters lasting much longer - it'll effectively be a two-tier franchise in terms of quality and that will accelerate the need to find a solution to the Pacers.

    I don't think Northern are not going to order any more new trains. Potentially they could order another 20-25 EMUs to allow the 319s to be converted if the 769 project is a success and allow the franchise to operate only one EMU unit which from a maintenance and training perspective is more efficient in the long term. Any new franchise will be wary about ordering new diesel trains given the government's wish to ban diesel cars by 2040 - that situation is cannibalising into car sales. It's a catch-22 - the Sprinters are life expired but any new diesel train brings a degree of risk if government changes it policy over the lifetime they are in use.

    Northern could still have 150+ Sprinters in service in a few years (150, 153, 155, 156) but we'll potentially have 50+ surplus 319s, 110 surplus 321s and 43 surplus 323s in a few years. The interiors of EMUs can be modernised well as the 321 Renatus project shows and also the surplus EMUs are single 4 carriage units as opposed to two 2 carriage units as Northern currently use. Converting EMUs into bi-mode could be a cheap stop gap to 2035/40 - but could be a pretty an effective one. I know they could lose out financially but it doesn't surprise me Porterbrook and Eversholt are so keen to prolong the life of these surplus EMUs because the market exists if they can do it right. I have my doubts as the acid test will be when they are in service and put to the test 18 hours a day but I really hope the 769s work out as it could unlock new possibilities for rail in Northern England.
     
    Last edited: 11 Oct 2018 at 15:41
  21. modernrail

    modernrail Member

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    Hmmm now there is an interesting point. I wonder whether the providers of the hydrogen would prefer to continue to sell at spot price or enter into what is effectively a Government backed contract for, lets say, 15 years. That is an awful lot of certainty and so the spot price (or price of other, presumably shorter contracts) would have to be consistently a fair amount above that to turn down such a deal?
     
  22. Royston Vasey

    Royston Vasey Established Member

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    It's a conundrum and I've seen many business plans saying "we're going to use renewable energy to power our XYZ plant so it's carbon neutral!" when in fact it would be better and more profitable to just sell the renewable energy to the grid and not bother making XYZ!

    If subsidies are in place to make up the economic shortfall as proof of concept (which the train in Germany is) rather than allow free market economics take their course then that's different and a matter for the policymakers and ultimately voters!
     
    Last edited: 11 Oct 2018 at 20:04
  23. Royston Vasey

    Royston Vasey Established Member

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    Its an extremely exothermic reaction and requires very efficient heat management. Conventional FT plants are therefore very very large. Waste gas and waste biomass present some opportunities. The BA sponsored/guaranteed waste to liquids plant in the Docklands would have been an interesting proof of concept but again, it has to be worth making a drop-in liquid diesel or jet fuel rather than just whacking the waste through a plasma gasifier and making electricity! Particularly as sales of EVs of all flavours will be in the majority by around 2040 or so.
     
  24. xotGD

    xotGD Established Member

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    There isn't currently a market for the bulk of the hydrogen. It gets used on site as fuel gas. There is plenty available to use as fuel for hydrogen trains.
     
  25. Royston Vasey

    Royston Vasey Established Member

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    There's certainly a fairly liquid hydrogen market (pardon the pun) as for almost anything that is produced on a chemical facility and it's a complex equation of the cost of using conventional fuel or other flue gases and natural gas versus the cost that could be recovered from selling the hydrogen once it's distributed to the point of use. But hydrogen is one of the least energy dense fuel gases in conventional combustion so I'd be surprised if there wasn't a better market for it than as fuel... dependent on the cost of moving it which is what is particularly difficult. Containment and transport of hydrogen is challenging as it will leak through most metals or conventional cylinders.

    I'm not doubting this particular case, I can believe that a self-contained train outlet is the most profitable/convenient use of the H2 in this case, but there is huge and rising demand for hydrogen for hydrogenation, hydrotreating and desulphurisation in petrochemicals and refining, so I'd just warn against applying this to any bigger context (and I think your point is the same)

    Being a veteran of petrochemicals snd refining it is very unusual to see the words waste and hydrogen in the same sentence! Most processes involve either addition of hydrogen or removal of heteroatoms like S and N as hydrogen compounds.

    What process is producing the waste hydrogen, out of interest?
     
  26. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    But if the plant in question didn't use the hydrogen as fuel gas, it would have to burn some other fuel. So unless they are burning more hydrogen than they need for fuel because they have nothing better to do with it, the use of the hydrogen isn't as carbon-neutral as it first appears.
     
  27. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    The factory on Merseyside is producing chlorine and the hydrogen gas is a bi-product of that.
     
  28. Emblematic

    Emblematic Member

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    Electrolysis of NaCl solution. Cl2 gas produced at the anode, H2 gas and NaOH in solution at the cathode.
     
  29. snowball

    snowball Established Member

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    I may get shot down for mentioning spelling, but whilst modes are bi, products are by.
     
  30. Andy25

    Andy25 Member

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    I stand corrected
     

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