Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
cyanrumblecord
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Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by cyanrumblecord » 07 Jun 2018 04:30

I hesitated as to whether to put this question in the "what-if" section or the "Economy" section, but it's already cropped up in the what-if section, so I'll put it here.

Germany, like the other Axis powers in WW2 faced the problem of trying to feed it's industry the raw materials it needed that it didn't have control over. Faced with the options of;

1. Trade
2. Autarky, or
3. Conquest and Seizure.

Germany under Hitler moved from 1 to splitting the difference between 2 & 3. Of course fighting a war meant cutting off trade & great use of material resources & it turned out to be all a leap to far.

Que the usual discussions about 'What if less of A was done & more was done of B". E.g less Steel was put into the Navy, more into Synthetic Fuel and Rubber & Truck plants to push logistics in the East. This seems pretty well examined already.

What I wanted to look at was the industrial viability (or lack thereof) of Coal-Water slurry fuels had Germany hit upon the idea pre-war & pursued it with some of the resources it historically put into Fischer-Trops & Bergius Coal Hydrogenation plants.

They were considered as a potential German "Wunderwaffe" here on this site about a year ago: https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic ... 5#p2081735 , there's a link to the wiki on them in that comment thread.

I don't really have the professional Engineering/Economic/Logistical background to answer properly how much use it would have been though (maybe you get efficiency losses that are too great piping it if you try to do that from Germany to the Eastern Front? Or would the Energy Density not be as great so you'd just have less range for your vehicles or you'd need more rail tanker cars which would crimp you in another way? Or maybe given the increased viscosity of Coal Water Slurry over oil you need to produce large volumes of large diameter high pressure pipes & there could be an industrial bottleneck there?) but I'm guessing someone here might.

Dann Falk
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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by Dann Falk » 07 Jun 2018 17:00

Greetings,

It is my understanding that a Coal/Water Slurry is not a fuel but a way to transfer Coal from the mines to where it will be used via pipe line. It uses huge amounts of water and does require an extensive pipe network. Coal/Water is also less viscos than oil...as far as I know.

Hope this helps.

cyanrumblecord
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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by cyanrumblecord » 08 Jun 2018 04:52

Dann Falk wrote:Greetings,

It is my understanding that a Coal/Water Slurry is not a fuel ...
I was surprised to discover it was possible but nonetheless, from the wiki I mentioned -
cyanrumblecord wrote: there's a link to the wiki on them in that comment thread.
"Coal-water slurry fuel is a combustible mixture of fine coal particles suspended in water. It can be used to power boilers, gas turbines, diesel engines and heating and power stations."

Here's a video of Coal Water Slurry being produced & burned in a Boiler:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiYf5c8cCOI

Here's the abstract of research paper from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers describing Coal-Water Slurry being used in a Gas Turbine.
http://gasturbinespower.asmedigitalcoll ... id=1417374

Here's a New York times article from the 1980's describing a patent on Coal-Water slurry injection in Diesel Engines.
https://www.nytimes.com/1989/09/09/busi ... lurry.html

GregSingh
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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by GregSingh » 08 Jun 2018 10:09

What is the source that this technology was even available in the Third Reich?
Soviets seemed to come up with first application as late as late 1950's...
Overheard in the office:
Instead of losing 10% a year to inflation, you can invest in the stock market and lose 80% a year to stupidity.

cyanrumblecord
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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by cyanrumblecord » 08 Jun 2018 11:02

GregSingh wrote:What is the source that this technology was even available in the Third Reich?
Soviets seemed to come up with first application as late as late 1950's...
It wasn't although Germany had pursued coal-to-liquid fuel technology in the interwar period (resulting in the Fischer-Tropsch & Bergius Synthetic Oil plants).

That's why I started the post by saying :
cyanrumblecord wrote:I hesitated as to whether to put this question in the "what-if" section or the "Economy" section, but it's already cropped up in the what-if section, so I'll put it here.
To clarify what I'm asking, it's about whether this would have been economically a viable path for Germany had they developed it in the inter-war period.

Dann Falk
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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by Dann Falk » 08 Jun 2018 16:45

Greetings cyanrumblecord,

I stand corrected.

I feel that creating an entirely new fuel system/transport system would not have been economically viable. Germany had a well developed coal mine to rail line to end user system and they used it well. The needed time, money, steel, engineering skills and other resources were being used to rebuild and develop existing assets and of course to rebuild the military. Not much was left over for new projects.

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losna
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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by losna » 24 Apr 2022 19:45

how much use it would have been though (maybe you get efficiency losses that are too great piping it if you try to do that from Germany to the Eastern Front? Or would the Energy Density not be as great so you'd just have less range for your vehicles or you'd need more rail tanker cars which would crimp you in another way? Or maybe given the increased viscosity of Coal Water Slurry over oil you need to produce large volumes of large diameter high pressure pipes & there could be an industrial bottleneck there?) but I'm guessing someone here might.
Short answer: it would have not had any use, because the German Achille's heel was the lack of tactical trucks to move infantry and armored divisions, and not so much the lack of fuel.

Longer answer: the main issue with what is called "motorization" is the sheer number of trucks needed to move the troops, not so much to move the supplies.
The German truck supply unit called "Grosstransportraum" needed several tens of thousands of trucks to operate (source: Martin Van Creveld, "Supplying War").
That is a paltry number if compared to the enormous 1'600'000 total of the combined Dodge WC, Willys Jeep and GMC CCKW total that the US Army needed for less than 90 infantry divisions.

Building this amount of trucks required vast quantities of steel: the Ordnance department required 7'000'000 tons of steel for trucks and tanks in 1943 alone (trucks were produced from 1941 to 1945), and most was used for trucks (source: https://history.army.mil/html/books/010/10-9/ ).
To put it very simply, Germans had not enough steel during the war to fully motorize their army.
They could have built more trucks in the years preceding the war, but it would have required going into full war economy much earlier, just to build trucks AND the associated coal liquefaction plants (which took about 1 million steel tons per 1,6 million tons of gasoline!) to fuel them.

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Re: Economic viability of coal-water slurry fuels for german logistics?

Post by PunctuationHorror » 24 Apr 2022 20:52

Coal to liquid (Fischer Tropsch and other processes etc... which produce liquid hydrocarbons, i.e. synthetic gas) and a coal-water slurry, merely a suspension of coal in water, are two entirely different topics. There is no relationship between one and the other exept for its use of coal. Dont confuse them.

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