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Old 09-18-2017, 11:56 PM
DeveakLIVES! DeveakLIVES! is offline
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Honestly i looked into steam engines and I came to the conclusion that a charcoal gasifier would be better in every way. No conversions, its a simple matter of adapting flexible pipe to the throttle intake.
Known engine life, lasts longer than gasoline.
I have no idea how long a steam engine will last plus the cost to fabricate it and the parts. Where do you get the oil? Gas engines are cheap, common and can be durable.
Charcoal is safer, easier to source with less waste heat. Very turn key in comparison.
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Old 09-19-2017, 10:23 PM
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I hope to use CSP parabolic troughs as prime mover. In studying up for the engine build, I downloaded lots of old steam engine books; engineering, design, practical operation, etc. Most were over 100 years old, but hey, they knew what our generation never thought about.

Gasoline engines are certainly the most convenient, but without fuel an external combustion engine is the only other option beyond wind and waterpower, IMO.

I reckon if the lights go out to stay, steam could make a comeback

Turtle
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Old 09-23-2017, 01:05 AM
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I hope to use CSP parabolic troughs as prime mover. In studying up for the engine build, I downloaded lots of old steam engine books; engineering, design, practical operation, etc. Most were over 100 years old, but hey, they knew what our generation never thought about.

Gasoline engines are certainly the most convenient, but without fuel an external combustion engine is the only other option beyond wind and waterpower, IMO.

I reckon if the lights go out to stay, steam could make a comeback

Turtle
With a charcoal gasifier you have all the fuel you need. Plus you don't have the dangers of steam explosions and simplify the fuel sources. No need for lots of clean water. Just charcoal which you make. A lot less digging for older (and not very easy to come by) technology. Modern engines are easily serviced and fairly reliable. Not happy with a 3600 rpm screamer? Get a rebuilt or brand new car or truck engine and run it at 1200-1400 rpm and belt the speed up. A geo metro engine would make an excellent generator if fuel efficiency is something you want. A ford 300 straight 6 would make an excellent generator and at 1200 rpm it would last decades.
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Old 09-23-2017, 11:58 AM
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Everything depends on the setting and application. Generally, steam is a very poor alternative except under a particular set of conditions. This was one purpose of the thread. People like to consider steam, but it can rarely be justified.

With biomass fuel, the far more practical configuration should things get truly strange is a small community scale combined heat and power system using a wood gasifier.

For CSP, see Terrajoule and 3S Power.
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Old 10-08-2017, 06:22 PM
Optimist Optimist is offline
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Goody, have you ever looked at the Roesl liquid piston generator? Military used 'em for a while back in the Viet Nam era, and they were very quiet....
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Old 10-09-2017, 04:52 PM
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With a charcoal gasifier you have all the fuel you need. Plus you don't have the dangers of steam explosions and simplify the fuel sources. No need for lots of clean water. Just charcoal which you make. A lot less digging for older (and not very easy to come by) technology. Modern engines are easily serviced and fairly reliable. Not happy with a 3600 rpm screamer? Get a rebuilt or brand new car or truck engine and run it at 1200-1400 rpm and belt the speed up. A geo metro engine would make an excellent generator if fuel efficiency is something you want. A ford 300 straight 6 would make an excellent generator and at 1200 rpm it would last decades.
Well, not quite or at least not necessarily. It is labor intensive to produce charcoal. Also, about 60% of the energy in biomass fuel such as wood is lost during this processing. A larger wood gas engine system configured to heat and power a small community would be more practical and a lot more efficient. Although, a charcoal gasifier is much better suited for powering very small engines.

There seems to be a lot of emphasis on micro scale (read: individual scale) applications on this forum. However, in reality, there will be few long term survival prospects except in a community setting - should things get truly strange.

Also, a properly designed steam engine system would be fully condensing, so no need to replenish water. Also, there is no danger of a steam explosion where a steam generator is used. Note I do not advocate for a steam engine at the community scale and using wood fuel - a wood gas engine system makes more sense.
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Old 10-09-2017, 04:53 PM
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Goody, have you ever looked at the Roesl liquid piston generator? Military used 'em for a while back in the Viet Nam era, and they were very quiet....
Not familiar. If you have good info, then I'll check it out.
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Old 10-15-2017, 11:31 PM
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If you guys are interested in old time steam engines, there is a show in Buckley, Michigan, each year. While I live within easy driving distance I have never been there so I have limited knowledge about whether they delve into newer technologies or not, but it might be worth a look.

Buckley is located NW of Cadillac and south of Traverse City.

The next show is August 16-19, 2018

https://www.buckleyoldengineshow.org/
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Old 10-16-2017, 12:13 AM
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Well, not quite or at least not necessarily. It is labor intensive to produce charcoal. Also, about 60% of the energy in biomass fuel such as wood is lost during this processing. A larger wood gas engine system configured to heat and power a small community would be more practical and a lot more efficient. Although, a charcoal gasifier is much better suited for powering very small engines.

There seems to be a lot of emphasis on micro scale (read: individual scale) applications on this forum. However, in reality, there will be few long term survival prospects except in a community setting - should things get truly strange.

Also, a properly designed steam engine system would be fully condensing, so no need to replenish water. Also, there is no danger of a steam explosion where a steam generator is used. Note I do not advocate for a steam engine at the community scale and using wood fuel - a wood gas engine system makes more sense.
It does take more work to make charcoal but its worth the safety factor. Regular gasification is a very fine science and if its not running 100% right you can tar the engine. It would't be something you do every day. It would be something you vacuum pack and store away for cloudy days and winters when you need to charge the battery bank or run the generator for several hours so you can run large tools like air compressors. If it was easy and convenient we would already being doing it. It is a nice simple way of powering a common engine with readily available fuel without compromising the engine. I can't think of any other alternative fuel source that is as easily sourced and easily built.
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Old 10-17-2017, 08:25 AM
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With overall efficiency of 5%, a conventional steam engine is not often a practical choice.

There is a reason internal combustion engines are so widely used. Far fewer losses.

One possibility I don’t see mentioned is the use of a Diesel engine such as a lister CS, with just an idle injection event to initiate combustion. The remainder of the power is produced by some form of gas. Either natural gas, propane or wood gas.

It’s fairly common for natural gas engines to be converted Diesel engines. With a Diesel injector providing primary combustion
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Old 11-16-2017, 09:24 AM
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Has anyone used or experimented with the Green Steam Engine? http://www.greensteamengine.com/
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Old 11-17-2017, 03:11 PM
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In my younger years, I served my apprenticeship in steam plants for power generation. I operated and overhauled, steam engines, steam pumps and steam turbines and gas turbines both aero derivative and industrial. The biggest drawback to steam is very heavy requirements for boiler construction and yearly certification. They tend to blow up if not operated and maintained properly. Even worked on a triple expansion engine and that is where you start to get efficiency from an engine. Personally I would go old school diesel, or oil rumly designs, their carburetors could be adjusted to run with water injected with any kind of liquid fuel you could get into them from distillates to oil, diesel or gasoline and they weren't fussy. They woud burn out of date gasoline like a chicken eating corn. When you start talking high pressure and super heated steam, you are talking 3 inch thick rolled boiler plate and all xray welds pass before you can legally even use them. By high pressure that is anything over 15 lbs per square inch at least that is what the code used to say. Love steam but like I say a lot of legal requirements and engineering hurdles.
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Old 11-17-2017, 03:13 PM
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In my younger years, I served my apprenticeship in steam plants for power generation. I operated and overhauled, steam engines, steam pumps and steam turbines and gas turbines both aero derivative and industrial. The biggest drawback to steam is very heavy requirements for boiler construction and yearly certification. They tend to blow up if not operated and maintained properly. Even worked on a triple expansion engine and that is where you start to get efficiency from an engine. Personally I would go old school diesel, or oil rumly designs, their carburetors could be adjusted to run with water injected with any kind of liquid fuel you could get into them from distillates to oil, diesel or gasoline and they weren't fussy. They woud burn out of date gasoline like a chicken eating corn. When you start talking high pressure and super heated steam, you are talking 3 inch thick rolled boiler plate and all xray welds pass before you can legally even use them. By high pressure that is anything over 15 lbs per square inch at least that is what the code used to say. Love steam but like I say a lot of legal requirements and engineering hurdles.
The 3 inch thick shells are on the like 1000 and up psi boilers
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Old 07-13-2019, 10:58 AM
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It does take more work to make charcoal but its worth the safety factor. Regular gasification is a very fine science and if its not running 100% right you can tar the engine. It would't be something you do every day. It would be something you vacuum pack and store away for cloudy days and winters when you need to charge the battery bank or run the generator for several hours so you can run large tools like air compressors. If it was easy and convenient we would already being doing it. It is a nice simple way of powering a common engine with readily available fuel without compromising the engine. I can't think of any other alternative fuel source that is as easily sourced and easily built.
First, a properly designed steam engine system is not dangerous (see later comments). The smaller a wood gasifier the more exacting are its fuel requirements. This is why I suggest charcoal for small engines. However, a large gasifier used to fuel a generator for a small community is not nearly so finicky. These can use baseball sized chunks of wood that are quickly processed with relatively simple tools. BTW, this is not something one keeps around for a rainy day (as you noted). Rather, it could be among the most important technologies humans would adopt following a TEOTWAWKI event (assuming community scale). Make no mistake, community would be the single most valuable resource under these conditions. At this scale, and in the right setting, a large well designed combined heat and power wood gas engine system would be brilliant. Note major improvements over WW2 units have greatly improved performance including (1) heat regeneration, (2) thermal insulation, (3) filtering. These allow much higher hearth temperatures giving the system a broader turndown ratio thereby controlling tars.
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:00 AM
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Has anyone used or experimented with the Green Steam Engine? http://www.greensteamengine.com/
I looked into it. Basically, it's a toy. It cannot provide serious work for an extended period, and it is not capable of worthwhile efficiency.
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:07 AM
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Over the years, I've contributed engineering input to many "steam power" threads.

I really don't want to go through all that again. Many DIY types are convinced they can make it work more efficiently. HINT: They can't.

Let's look at practical examples. Coal fired, steam powered ships were JUST SHORT or JUST BARELY able to cross the Atlantic ocean. Massive effort was put into improving efficiency for the task.

Today's small steam powerplants can't match the efficiency of the huge triple expanding steam engines of years past.
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:14 AM
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Today, we've refined the energy situation quite well. Wood is excellent for heat, and solar/wind/hydro + batteries/inverter are good for power.

From an efficiency standpoint, a woodgas powered engine is considerably better than a steam engine. However, it's a real pain to manage.

Although there are more than a few sterling engine designs floating around, including a real one by NASA, most of which have impressive efficiency. They are difficult to produce, expensive and at the moment, impractical.
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:33 AM
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The biggest drawback to steam is very heavy requirements for boiler construction and yearly certification. They tend to blow up if not operated and maintained properly. Even worked on a triple expansion engine and that is where you start to get efficiency from an engine.... Love steam but like I say a lot of legal requirements and engineering hurdles.
I agree about the danger of boilers. They should not be used. Use a steam generator instead. These are safe. Also, the boiler codes do not apply. Small diameter tubing does not contain enough steam to present a hazard. Also, should it fail it splits to release the low mass of steam relatively slowly - sort of fizzles out. Note higher steam pressure and temperature is required to achieve higher efficiency, and this requires a steam generator be used. Quite literally, a 100 hp steam engine system can use well under 100 pounds of 1/4" steel tubing for steam generation.

Note I argue small scale steam power can make sense only for combined heat and power using fuels that internal combustion cannot use. At small scale a properly designed steam engine system can be superior for less fuel processing, ease in heat recovery, and quiet operation. Assuming wood fuel, only a wood gas engine system (or charcoal) is a viable alternative today. I am only pointing out misconceptions b/c I believe there is potential for biomass fueled CHP steam engine systems that will never be appreciated without addressing these misconceptions.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:35 PM
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I really don't want to go through all that again. Many DIY types are convinced they can make it work more efficiently. HINT: They can't.

Let's look at practical examples. Coal fired, steam powered ships were JUST SHORT or JUST BARELY able to cross the Atlantic ocean. Massive effort was put into improving efficiency for the task.

Today's small steam powerplants can't match the efficiency of the huge triple expanding steam engines of years past.
Two points: (1) As a CHP system, brake thermal efficiency is not so important - more important is the ability to efficiently convert rough cut wood fuel and other unrefined biomass fuels to useable heat, (2) A small steam engine system can achieve the same brake thermal efficiency as a compounded marine steam engine by operating at much higher steam pressure and temperature. The use of a compact monotube steam generator makes this possible and perfectly safe. I am aware of two systems that achieved net cycle efficiencies well over 20% with both systems non-compounded. Interestingly, one was a converted small diesel engine.

Of course, the fact that it can and has been done before (although, not fully developed nor optimized) is a different consideration as to whether one should continue development along these lines.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:59 PM
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Today, we've refined the energy situation quite well. Wood is excellent for heat, and solar/wind/hydro + batteries/inverter are good for power.

From an efficiency standpoint, a woodgas powered engine is considerably better than a steam engine. However, it's a real pain to manage.

Although there are more than a few sterling engine designs floating around, including a real one by NASA, most of which have impressive efficiency. They are difficult to produce, expensive and at the moment, impractical.
I agree. PV with battery storage should be used for primary electricity in most off grid settings. Yes, the most valuable use for wood is heat, and ideally there should be emphasis on achieving complete combustion and some form of thermal storage. However, there are regions that would benefit from a combined heat and power engine system. A properly designed steam engine system would be superior to a wood gas engine system for the ability to use a wider range of fuel with much less wood fuel processing, far superior heat recovery, and quiet operation. On efficiency, yes, a good wood gas engine system will see higher brake thermal efficiency - depending on its output. At low outputs a gas engine can show very low efficiency. However, again, brake thermal efficiency is not so important with CHP.

It's very difficult to get high efficiency in a Stirling engine - especially with unrefined biomass as fuel. Heat recovery for efficient CHP also is problematic. It is even less a practical alternative than steam. Of course, steam is not currently a practical alternative partly due to lack of hardware - but mainly due to a general lack of knowledge.
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