The search to find a replacement for coal to steam locomotives in the UK has been going on for several years. Now, attention is turning to replacement fuels for running stationary steam engines and their boilers beyond the use of gas or wood pellets.
Crofton beam engine held a first trial steaming using Homefire Ecoal (comprising 50% olive stones) on 5 July 2022, having warmed the boiler through the previous day. Crofton report on their website (https://www.croftonbeamengines.org/ecoal-trial/) that boiler managers have had to develop a different firing method to control the steam supply to the engines. This “sprinkling” technique meant that the fire burned more evenly over the whole grate area. This had two main consequences:
- cooler firebars, which should lead to longer life; and
- a much hotter working area in front of the boiler, which will need addressing if we are to use this method in future.
It was noted that there appeared to be much less smoke from the chimney and much less ash produced. Further details on the trial and potential future tests will be published later in the year.