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What atomizing gas to use for a diesel fired boiler light off?

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mslisaj

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I just purchased a completely hand built steam car that a recently deceased master machinist crafted together. He built many complete steam engines and boilers for other people but the majority of those boilers went in boats and were wood fired. My car's boiler is diesel fired and uses steam to atomize the diesel for burning. When the boiler has pressure steam is used to atomize the fuel. But when the boiler is cold I have used my shop air supply to provide the atomization until I have adequate steam pressure.
The problem arise when I take the car somewhere and there is no air supply to get it fired. The gentleman made a mount for a high pressure bottle and regulator but when I purchased the car these items were no where to be found. My question is what kind of high pressure "gas" could I use just for the atomization process? I was thinking about using nitrogen but because of it's inert nature it may put the fire out. In just conversations with other men it was mentioned to get a small bottle of compressed (atmospheric air) like that used by divers. This would be perfect but I don't have a dive shop in my area to inquire about this or refill the bottle. I've had folks recommend a portable compressor and other items but that takes the portability out of the car and the original builder had thought about this question and made provisions in the car to carry a high pressure "gas" bottle.
Any idea's gentlemen? Thoughts would also be appreciated. I'm brand new to your forum and thought this would be a good question to start off with.
Thank you for your help and thoughts here.

Lisa
 

Cadillac

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Sounds lik a really interesting vehicle. Pictures! What about a 12v air pump with reservoir shoot it through a fine nozzle to atomized. Basically duplicate a kool mister.
Co2 cartridge from B.B. guns. I have large ones used for paintball about the size of a spray paint can.
 

mslisaj

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First off, sorry, I violated the first rule of all forums - "Pictures". So here you go and now you can get an idea of what I'm working on.
Thanks for your response Cadillac and I appreciate your time to weigh in on my question. The 12v pump has been thought of but that requires a battery too and the little car as you see here is pretty basic. There really is no room for the battery, pump and reservoir on the car and while this car would be towed on a trailer to a function, I really need the ability to get it running again if I lost fire and steam pressure away from the support vehicle.
With all that said I have thought about the Co2 but like the nitrogen it will not support combustion. Now I do have a small bottle of nitrogen (5" X 12") that an oxygen regulator will fit on and I'm going to try that today just for grins and see what happens. The firebox is pretty open and there is a blower in the stack to pull air into the fire box and the nitrogen may image.jpegimage.jpegimage.jpeg

work. But I wanted to ask this question as I'm not the first one to face this issue.
 

Buffalo21

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Lisa,

How long does the car need to run before you can switch over to steam?? How much air volume do you need?? What is your atomizing air pressure, used during warm up?? Would it run off a pancake compressor?? If its a real short amount of time, a small air tank might work.

I service industrial boilers for a living, CO2 and Nitrogen will not support combustion and will/can cause flame stability issues.
 

CluelessNewB

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You might want to check with your local welding supplier, thay may be able to supply high pressure AIR cylinders. I know I have seen large ones, I'm not sure about small ones. You may also want to check with your local fire or police department, they most likely have a dive rescue team that needs refills someplace. You may have problems getting tanks filled at a dive shop without a certification card.
 

Cadillac

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That’s really cool stuff. I have the steam bug. I purchased one two years ago. German made horizontal one. I’ve been hoarding engine parts for a long time wanting to make my own but just haven’t had the time. And the knowledge yet.
I agree about the oxygen or air tank from weld center. Or maybe just use N.O.S. That will make her scream.
 

mslisaj

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Lisa,

How long does the car need to run before you can switch over to steam?? How much air volume do you need?? What is your atomizing air pressure, used during warm up?? Would it run off a pancake compressor?? If its a real short amount of time, a small air tank might work.

I service industrial boilers for a living, CO2 and Nitrogen will not support combustion and will/can cause flame stability issues.
Great point's "Buffalo21", I have only fired it once on "shop air" and it took about 15 minutes to heat the water enough to have steam and then I switched it over to the steam atomization system. As far as volume I have no idea, but I figure I need to run a 10 pound flow through the atomizer for 15 minutes. I have a 3 CF nitrogen bottle and I have no idea how long a bottle that size would flow at 10 psi.
On your point about the nitrogen will not support the combustion, I realize that but It's just atomizing the diesel so it will burn. The firebox is drafted well and has a big opening in the bottom so I don't think I would get a build up of the inert gas. But I certainly realize what you're talking about. The sad thing is I have absolutely no notes, instructions or anything about this car. It all went to the grave with the gentleman that built it. But it appears he had a provision and place for a "bottle" and the line runs there so I am pursuing his original idea I believe.
As far as the compressor idea, sure the small "pancake" compressor would work but again "out in the field" you won't have access to electricty to run it. So I'm trying to come up with something small and portable. AIR would be the absolute ticket but again getting it pumped up at a dive shop or firehouse could be an issue.
The point to remember is the "gas" just breaks the diesel into very small droplets so it will burn easier and faster through atomization. The firebox is well drafted at the burner from outside air; with the fire creating a good draft pulling in "good AIR" I'm thinking it will burn. Another point is that steam is inert too. Steam is used for smothering on ships and other big boilers and that is what atomizes the fuel in a locomotive or this little car. But you make all great points.
 

FOMOGO

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I just picked up two bar sized CO2 bottles at a yard sale for $10. I believe they are rated for 1500 psi, and and are about 30"x 9" in diameter. These could be filled with atmospheric air, but you would still require a high pressure compressor to fill them. At a WAG, I would think this would be good for 5-10 start cycles. Very cool little vehicle. Mike
 

mslisaj

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I just picked up two bar sized CO2 bottles at a yard sale for $10. I believe they are rated for 1500 psi, and and are about 30"x 9" in diameter. These could be filled with atmospheric air, but you would still require a high pressure compressor to fill them. At a WAG, I would think this would be good for 5-10 start cycles. Very cool little vehicle. Mike
Well Mike, the issue is getting it filled. A friend gave me the little Nitrogen bottle that I have now. Getting it filled with AIR is the challange. I can buy Nitrogen and it's cheap enough but the AIR would be perfect if I could find someone to fill it. Will go talk to my local welding supply house today. But this bottle I have is full and I'm going to try it today and see what happens. As I mentioned steam is inert too and this is what the boiler is designed to be fired on.

image.jpeg
 

jdjax

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Do what CluelessNewB said and get "air" not oxygen from a welding supply. They even sell bottles just for air in many different sizes.

Oops I just saw your last post.
 

Buffalo21

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There are about 9 major burner manufacturers, that will debate, whether steam is totally inert
 

benmychree

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I have been involved with these steam issues since back in the 1970s, and have used propane for startup for atomizing liquid fuel, it works well and gives a pilot light in the balance. I used to make the "Williams" atomizing nozzles, and built the "York" compound steam launch engines.
 

benmychree

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I designed that one, made the patterns and sold that one in the video and web site as complete engines, (I think) I could not see enough fine details on the video to be sure whether it was sold as a complete engine or a casting kit.
The boat shown belongs to my old friend, Dick Vennerbeck.
 
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benmychree

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Yes, you could, but I doubt that you'd have enough air for that start up time. On my first boat, I used a small gas engine to run an air compressor for start up; my second boat, I opted for a solid fuel capable boiler; fire up on wood, then use both wood and oil as desired/needed.
 

benmychree

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That would likely work, but propane combined with oil gives more heat; you can't feed a "normal" amount of oil because the propane eats up some combustion air, but every little BTU helps.
 

FanMan

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I was thinking more a propane burner to heat the boiler before turning the diesel on.
 

benmychree

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I was thinking more a propane burner to heat the boiler before turning the diesel on.
Yes, I understand that, but oil has more BTUs and propane and oil should heat the boiler faster than propane alone, but I guess that would depend on the propane burner. Also, there should be a pilot light for the oil burner, on my boat, I used a burner from a propane torch, fed from a larger propane tank, it worked well, but once the refractory at the back end of the scotch boiler was at working temp, the oil fire would light off the brickwork ( I had placed a couple of pieces of broken firebrick in the path of the flame).
 

ELHEAD

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How bout some sort of glow plug system as used on some Diesel engines ? I have a Long tractor from the eighties that uses such a system.
Dave
 
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kd4gij

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I believe Nitrogen and compressed air uses the same valve. Your local welding shop should fill your tank with compressed air, just need to change the label. But check the hydro date on the tank.
 

mslisaj

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All interesting idea's here and I thank all of you for taking your time to weigh in as they say. My situation here is kind of you "gotta dance with the one that brung you". I had the 20cf bottle and it had 500 pounds of nitrogen left. So I set it up in the picture as you see and fired the boiler. I was using about 10 pounds of nitrogen and that 500 pounds lasted about 8 minutes and the bottle was empty. I quickly switched to compressed air and finished the job and really got it going today.
Some observations........... It lit right off with the nitrogen in there so it didn't effect the combustion a noticable amount. When I switched over to the compressed air I'm here to say the fire really came to life. But the nitrogen worked. When I switched to steam the fire was about as good as the nitrogen. So I would say that steam and nitrogen, at least in my boiler yield about the same fire. Certainly enough to raise a nice head of steam.

Now I played with the car for about 90 minutes and finally shut it down. I took my empty nitrogen bottle to the welding supply house and had an interesting discussion. First off I could exchange my nitrogen bottle for a full one and that was fine. Straight air was available but in a bottle that was over twice the size of my 20 cubic foot bottle. So the bottle gets too big when I go to air. So I refilled the nitrogen bottle and it has over 2500 pounds in it so I'll see how long or how many starts I get out this. If I only get a couple/few starts out of it then I will have to consider other options like a small portable 12v air compressor that you may plug into a cigarette lighter.

At this point I wish the boiler was a dual fuel system (wood/oil) but then again carrying a supply of wood get's to be an issue. So for now the little steam car is a nice novelty and until I get the start up issues resolved it will have to stay close to home.

Keep the idea's coming.
I do appreciate it.

Lisa
 

Silverbullet

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If you don't need long run time to start the engine, maybe a large cylinder for a air paint ball gun. They can be bought online or even Wal-Mart. .
 

savarin

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What about a primus burner, an alcohol flame heating some pipework then a hand pressurised kero or maybe the diesal tank that passes through the heated pipes and converted to a gas thats ignited to heat the boiler.
 

kd4gij

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I don't think a 12v air compressor will do the job. one with a gas engine would.
 

Old Mud

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Lisa, another option would be a Scuba tank. They should be available used and have to be hydroed as any other pressure vessel. I had a compressor years ago to fill my own but i can't remember the brand.
 

Cadillac

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So I had been thinking about this. I see rotary vane pumps used to atomize diesel for those torpedo heaters. I had to rebuild one. Also I have a air vane pump on my bandsaw that is driven off a belt that blows air to clear chips off blade before it cuts.
Can you adapt a vane pump to the crank rotation. Then you could use a little tank for reserve to build pressure or volume??
 

mslisaj

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Well gentlemen, while I have been out running the car and learning the boiler systems you all have been busy with idea's here. I have to say "FanMan" and Benmychree" may have hit on something - Propane. For those that have followed this thread this little car was built by a master machinist that passed away last year. All his secrets and ideas' went with him. I have been solving the mysteries and puzzles of this car, engine and boiler and one little unknown is in the two pictures here. The first one is a top down picture of a little metal ring that is about 4" in diameter that is secured in the corner of the rear of the car by a hand pump. The second picture shows a one pound can of propane that fits perfectly in this little metal ring. Also the round shape of the bottom of this one pound cylinder of propane matches perfectly to the wear pattern in the wood where it sits. Also in the picture you see a steel braded line that has my shop air fitting on the end of it (this is what I start the fire with our pressurize the system to test run the engine). But the question is............. Does a one pound cylinder of propane sit there and this steel braded line attach to the regulator of that propane bottle? Why couldn't a low flow of propane be used to atomize the diesel or maybe the boiler is initally fired with propane only to get up maybe 20 pounds of steam pressure. Then the propane fire is secured and the burner relit with diesel and steam? As I mentioned, this boiler is very basic and the systems are simple but the mystery of what sat in that little steel ring and the steel bradded line remain. So today's project is to see if propane will work. I'll report back for sure. But keep the idea's coming.

Lisa

image.jpegimage.jpeg
 
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