Historical

DICE timeline

YearDICE development
1892 Development of the diesel engine was initiated by Rudolf Diesel’s proposal to use coal in his novel compression ignition engine; however, Diesel focussed development on oil firing due to the many technical problems of solid fuel firing.
1911-1945

Kosmos, I-G Farben Industrie, Schichau Werke, Brunenner Machinefabrik and Hanomag, reported the successful operation of 19 engines from 6–400 kW and engine speeds from 160–1600 rpm.


During 1940-45, Japanese tests were undertaken for coal dust fuelled engines for road vehicles.

1945-1978 Coal-diesel mixtures were investigated as diesel fuel extenders – mostly in small high-speed engines (with many difficulties).
1973-1982 Tests in Europe using large slow-speed research engines at Sulzer Bros (now Wärtsilä) and at Burmeister and Wain (now MAN B&W) using unmodified engines. CSIRO tested brown coal diesel mixtures in a Lister laboratory engine with mediocre results. Tests with coal water slurries (i.e. MRC) by Sulzer around 1980 gave better results.
1978-1992 The USDOE carried out a larger development program focussed on the use of coal water mixtures. The program was very successful, and defined economic and technical conditions under which engines could be commercialised. The program was terminated when crude oil costs plummeted.
2007-present CSIRO reassess the use of coal in diesel engines with new drivers and technology, leading to test programs with UCC Energy, Exergen, Newcrest, BCIA and then Xstrata.
 

Generation 1

Development of the diesel engine was initiated by Rudolf Diesel’s proposal to use coal in a compression ignition engine in 1892. After development commenced with Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN) he abandoned coal as a fuel, and concentrated his work on oil fuels.

Serious work on coal-fuelled diesel engines was renewed in 1911 by Rudolf Pawlikowski, a former co-worker of Diesel. After solving many technological problems, four firms, including Pawlikowski’s firm Kosmos, reported the successful operation of 19 engines from 6–400kW and engine speeds from 160–1600 rpm.

Rudolf Diesel - father of the diesel engine
Rudolf Diesel - father of the diesel engine

Serious work on coal-fuelled diesel engines was renewed in 1911 by Rudolf Pawlikowski, a former co-worker of Diesel. After solving many technological problems Pawlikowski’s firm Kosmos, and the firms I-G Farben Industrie, Schichau Werke, Brunenner Machinefabrik and Hanomag, reported the successful operation of 19 engines from 6–400 kW and engine speeds from 160–1600 rpm. It is noteworthy that these small engines obtained thermal efficiencies approximately 200% that of the much larger steam power plants of the time. All of these 1st generation engines used dust firing – either by aspiration/fumigation into the inlet air, or by air blast injection. Little development of fuel processing is reported from this period, with the engines using commercially available coals, coke and charcoals (biochar) – some with up to 12% ash, and with engine operation up to 8,000 hours.

During 1940-45, tests were undertaken in Japan for coal dust fuelled engines for road vehicles.

Generation 2

Following World War II, abundant low-cost oil removed the economic incentive for further development until the early 1970s, when coal-diesel mixtures were investigated as fuel extenders – mostly in small high-speed engines. A short series of tests was also undertaken in Europe using large slow-speed research engines at Sulzer Bros (now Wärtsilä) and at Burmeister and Wain (now MAN B&W) using unmodified engines. Chronic wear of injector nozzles was experienced which resulted in severe cylinder wear. It is now speculated that the coal-diesel mixtures used in these early tests would have given very poor combustion due to agglomeration of the coal particles – leading to cylinder wall contamination and piston ring jamming from unburnt coal.

A short test series with coal water slurries (ie MRC) was also reported by Sulzer in 1982, with better results. These tests led to a larger development program by the USDOE over 1982–92, involving AMAX (fuel production), Cooper-Bessemer/Arthur D Little, Sulzer, General Electric, Adiabatics, General Motors ElectroMotive Division, Detroit Diesel Corporation, and Southwest Research Institute. The program not only defined economic and technical conditions under which engines could be commercialised, but also advanced the state of the art through pilot testing of both fuel production and engines.

In comparison to the much earlier developments, the USDOE program focussed entirely on pressure atomisation of MRC with excellent results:

  • MRC was produced by a range of processes including milling and flotation, selective agglomeration, dense medium separation, solvent refining and chemical cleaning, with ash levels of 1–3% being achieved.
  • Durable injection systems were developed for medium speed engines (400–1000 rpm) with atomiser nozzles giving a life of several thousand hours, and cylinder/rings up to 8,000 hours.
  • A Cooper-Bessemer prototype engine was demonstrated with these technologies (a six-cylinder, 1.8 MW engine) with over 100 hundred hours of continuous engine testing, and a cumulative 1050 hours of engine testing during component development.
  • Similar developments were achieved by General Electric using a heavy haul GE Dash 8 diesel electric locomotive on the Morgantown test track.
  • Processes for producing low ash MRC were developed based on integration of a special cleaning module for a conventional mine-mouth coal preparation plant. Conventional coal cleaning technology was used (mostly by dense media cyclones), and a full-scale modular MRC storage and handling system was also demonstrated.

Although the technical issues were overcome for DICE, the USDOE program was eventually terminated because the expected scenario of oil shortages did not materialise – but not before the potential advantages of DICE were demonstrated, and a preferred fuel cycle was identified for both black and brown coals.

Generation 3

DICE development is now being undertaken with a range of new economic and industry drivers that provide DICE with new advantages. Together with the availability of larger engines and technology improvements for both fuel production and engine manufacture, there is the potential for commercialisation as soon as 2020, given sufficient support.

DICEnet aims to provide wide ranging support, and industry level engagement with the coal, renewables, engine, generation and service industries, to provide the fuel and demonstration projects necessary for commercial deployment.