(AP) - When the SS Badger sets sail May 16, the venerable and historic
carferry will sport new combustion controls that will enable it to burn coal
more efficiently. That should result in less coal being burned and less ash
being produced by the Badger.
The more than $1
million upgrade represents the most difficult portion of a two-year process
for the last coal-burning, steam-fired vessel in the U.S. as Lake Michigan
Carferry works to stop the Badger’s coal ash discharge into Lake Michigan,
according to the Ludington Daily News.
Badger, operated between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin by Lake Michigan
Carferry, will run this season under the terms of a consent decree between
LMC and the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of
Justice that requires the Badger to reduce its coal ash discharge this
season and end it before starting the 2015 season.
According to Bob
Manglitz, LMC president and CEO, LMC will learn this season if the work done
while docked for the winter in Ludington will result in what LMC estimates
to be a 10 percent to 15 percent improvement in efficiency, and thus a
similar reduction in coal burned and coal ash produced.
That kind of
reduction would meet the consent decree requirements for this year, Manglitz
said. There could be a payback in fuel savings for LMC, too, he said.
Over the winter,
contractors and Badger crew have been installing the digital combustion
controls on a vessel that began service in 1953 that to date had been
controlled by mechanical technology. Soon LMC will know how well the new
controls perform, and how much the system improves efficiency and reduces
coal ash. Manglitz said the company should have a good idea of the
reductions in coal burned and coal ash early in the 2014 season scheduled
for May 16 through Oct. 26. Once those amounts are determined, then the coal
retention system can be designed to handle expected coal ash. The retention
system would be installed next winter.
combustion control work “was a much bigger project than we thought,”
Chuck Cart, senior
chief engineer of the Badger, has spent much time keeping the Badger
operating and designed the system being installed.
The Badger, Cart
said, originally did have a coal combustion control system when built, but
it was no longer usable. Mechanical controls and a lot of operator
experience have been the primary ways the crew has tried to burn coal as
efficiently and cleanly as possible.
In one sense the
process is simple. Air is mixed with the coal and burned to provide fire to
heat the boilers to power the Skinner Unaflow engines, which turn the props
to move the Badger.
process will become a digital one with sensors and relay switches sending
signals to operators who still will control the system. It’s not automated,
Cart said, noting that’s almost impossible to imagine. The new digital
system will provide quicker, more accurate data that in turn will result in
quicker and more accurate adjustments.
Some 12,000 feet of
wire - about 2 miles worth Manglitz marveled - have been installed on board
over winter. The wire connects the sensors, controls, switches, stokers,
fans and other assorted pieces of equipment so they can interact with each
other. The Badger’s four boilers - each with two stokers of their own -
provide the heat to make the steam to power its two engines.
The stokers, made
by Detroit Stokers for LMC, are fitted into the boilers on new front plates
made by the LMC crew from raw steel plate three-quarters of an inch thick.
Coal and air mix as they enter the boiler oven for combustion. That air is
called distribution air, one of three types of air used in the combustion
process. The second air, “combustion air,” comes in from below the grated
area the coal burns on. The third air, “overfire air,” is introduced through
nozzles in each boiler to enrich the flame and help combustion. In addition
to being part of the combustion process, the distribution air cools the
The new system,
Cart said, changes the mix of air to reflect newer thinking on how coal
burns best. More air will be mixed in from the overfire supply, and less
Signals from the
sensors will provide information to panels so operators can more quickly and
accurately adjust the process. New, more powerful fans have been installed
to deliver the needed air. Those fans will be controlled by a variable
frequency drive - kind of a Star Trekky name for a device that replaces old
mechanical controls of switches and valves that have been removed from the
“This will get more
efficient coal burning, less smoke and less ash,” Cart said of the changes.
“To control the
process, you have to know what the process is doing,” he said of the purpose
of all the technology. “This just makes sure it burns cleaner.”
monitored will be steam demand, steam flow and steam pressure.
Cart said the
changes help the Badger be proactive and less reactive on the amount of fuel
that needs to be burned at any given time, depending on steam demands.
But it wasn’t as
simple as downloading an app to a smartphone. Or as comfortable.
Cart and some crew
worked in the Badger all winter. Even with furnaces running, he said it was
cold, some days never warmer than 34 degrees below deck.
In addition to the
control work, the refractory bricks in the Badger’s boilers were removed and
reinstalled to accommodate more air nozzles in the boilers.
This past week,
electricians were busy at work beneath decks on the project. “A lot of this
has gone on concurrently,” Cart said. “It was pretty crowded.”
In addition, the
crew had to do normal winter maintenance. Cart said that wasn’t too bad this
year since the previous winter the engines had a lot of maintenance done on
In all, Chuck
Leonard, LMC vice president of navigation, said the entire process took “a
considerable amount of work. That was a significant undertaking.”
Leonard believes this is the bigger portion of the two-step process to
retain coal ash.
“We’ve bitten off
the bigger piece this year,” he said, adding he’s very optimistic the work
will deliver the efficiencies being sought.
Cart said the
Badger and its combustion control changes will go through its preseason U.S.
Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping dock and sea trial inspections
He’s confident the
combustion control system will do what it needs to do.
concerned,” Cart said. “There will be problems. We will address those as
they arise. We will fix them as they arise.”