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A publication of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.
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November 2018
COE schedules repairs and season close

     The Corps of Engineers St. Paul District says navigation interests should be preparing to move all down-bound barges south of Lock and Dam 6 before Dec. 1. 
     The Corps will be doing winter repairs at several locks, including L&D 6, which will close to navigation Dec. 2. Other repairs will be done at Locks and Dams 4, 5, 5A, and 9. 
     
(Below) With season end in sight, the William L. Goetz, was working in Pool 4 last month before also shifting down river. (COE Photo)
 

Divided Congress may agree on infrastructure
  
UMWA members and others who depend on the Mississippi-Illinois Waterway System are optimistic about chances for funding of projects laid out in the strongly bi-partisan WRDA 2018 and other desperately needed infrastructure renewal.

     Infrastructure remains an issue with strong bipartisan support even after the mid-term elections put the Democrats in charge of the U.S. House in 2019.  If she becomes Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she is ready to work with President Donald Trump and the Republican led U.S. Senate to pass funding bills.
     At a post-election news conference, Pelosi said, “I had a conversation with President Trump about how we could work together, one of the issues that came up was ... building infrastructure for America, and I hope that we can achieve that," 

     President Trump has specifically called out the nation’s waterways as a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure that needs renewal.  He told FOX Business last month that, “Infrastructure is going to be starting right after the midterms and we think that’s going to be an easy one.”

     And despite the recent downturn in the stock market, infrastructure-related stocks were rising before the election and have continued to climb since the divided results came in.
 
From the Executive Director . . .
 
Demise of the diesel?
     A century ago internal combustion technology promised future development even though the essential elements of diesel-electric and internal combustion engines hadn’t yet been successfully combined. Yet within 40 years, diesel-electric technology would become the prime mover of freight in the U.S. for both land and marine modes.
 
     According to a recent article in a Kalmbach Media publication, intensive engine design research and development by the U.S. Navy in the late 1920s, pushed the boundaries of internal combustion technology for maritime use.  It reported that industrial advances produced stronger alloys that enabled dramatic improvements to the power-to-weight ratio of diesel engines allowing for smaller and more powerful engines meant initially for submarines and airships, to be even better suited to the confines of a locomotive body, for example.
 
     However, there was one development that insured the success of diesel power, and that was the notched-control system, developed in the late 1900s which matched engine output and electric power characteristics in a single throttle handle which eliminated inefficiencies and limited equipment damage.  Similar, I imagine to current controls of towboats and recreational vessels.
 
New demands
     Both domestic and foreign governments are pushing propulsion designs, with several authorities looking to reduce or eliminate hydrocarbon emissions.  For example, the Kalmbach article said California’s department of transportation has received a mandate to improve the state’s freight transport efficiency while exploring means to attain zero-pollution emission technologies for both highways and railroads.
     In another example, in 2016 the German parliament voted to ban the sale of new automobiles powered by internal combustion engines, thus setting a precedent that may eventually affect railroads [trucks and river vessels] as well.
     Britain, in 2018, announced its intention to ban diesel-powered trains by 2040; and the government of Ontario has been exploring options to replace diesel locomotive power on commuter-rail and is investigating electrification options, including hydrogen fuel cell power.
 
Hydrogen gas fuel predates the combustion engine which used hydrogen gas – not gasoline – as a fuel source; this engine was invented by Isaac De Rivas in 1804.
     As published in newatlas.com, ULEMCo, a UK company has debuted a modified Volvo truck that’s tuned to burn hydrogen gas instead of gasoline in its internal combustion engine.  With zero emissions, a range of around 180 miles and producing some 300-odd horsepower, it’s being touted as a low-cost way to de-carbonize a heavy goods vehicle.
     And, according to H2Stations.org, there are now around 15 operational hydrogen refueling stations in the United Kingdom, a healthy and growing number through the rest of Europe, and a couple dozen around the United States.

     Most of the vehicles that use them, it’s fair to estimate, are running as fuel cell electrics.  A small number may be running hydrogen combustion engines, but this, according to ultra-low emissions company that introduced the Volvo, is the world’s first zero emission combustion engine truck.  The new Volvo will make “at least 300 hp,” and with a fuel load of just over 34 pounds of hydrogen will have an expected range of just under 186 miles.  Unfortunately for the ton-mile calculating crowd, ULEMCo Volvo is silent about how much freight can be transported over that mileage.
     Nonetheless, the team believes it could be an attractive option for zero-emission trucking because battery-electric trucks takes up little space in comparison to the big batteries required for battery-electric trucks (think Tesla Semi) thus, pound for pound they should be able to take more freight.  It should also come in a lot cheaper in terms up-front costs, as only a reasonably minor modification will have to be made to an engine that’s already in production.
     On the other hand, managing hydrogen over many fleeting stations tends to be a lot tougher, as its molecules tend to seep out between joints of its metal containers if it’s not being constantly cooled, thus adding to transport costs.
 
Flexible power
     While NASA is the primary user of hydrogen resources in its space program, hydrogen fuel cells can power any portable device that uses batteries.  More importantly, stationary hydrogen fuel cell are the largest and most powerful fuel cells that promise a clean, reliable source of power to cities, towns and buildings.
 
So, what’s all the hoopla about hydrogen fuel cells got to do with towboats on the inland waterways?
 
     Just this:  those fuel cells do not produce air pollutants, they produce only nitrogen oxides – not to be confused with nitrous oxide – when burned in engines; they reduce the use of imported petroleum as hydrogen can be domestically produced from various sources; and they do not produce greenhouse emissions.
 
     The major downside is that use of hydrogen fuel cells in towboats includes the expense of producing hydrogen; hydrogen cannot use the same delivery system as gasoline from refiners; and most importantly, the cells produce significantly less energy therefore reducing ton-miles hauled when matched against a gallon of diesel fuel or gasoline.
 
     However, faced with our ever-developing search for more and innovated ways to move more with less while maintaining waterways as “environmentally sound, self-renewing economic resources for the entire nation”, we must recognize that while changes will happen, inland navigation will probably continue to be dominated by diesel for quite some time.
 
Disclaimer:  Thoughts and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author and not necessarily those of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association or its members.
 
COB vessel patented

     American Patriot Holdings LLC (APH) strongly believes in the future of Container On Barge shipping. The company has developed and patented a vessel design specifically to move containers on the inland waterway system.

     APH says its vessel will handle 2,375 twenty-foot-length containers and move between the Gulf of Mexico and Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo., in seven to 10 days.  The company says the vessel will move at 13 mph and is designed to create almost no wake.  Large models of the vessel have been tested on German rivers last year.

     APH says the vessel will be able to turn in its own length and parallel dock and undock on its own.
 
Other Items of Interest...

*  UMWA has a new email address effective immediately.  The new address is umwamail@gmail.com.

*   While the future of the three existing Twin Cities hydropower plants is being debated and decided, a Boston company is designing a plant at Allegheny River Lock and Dam 2 that will power up to 8,000 homes.  Rye Development says this is one of eight power plants it would like to develop.

*   Chaos for Germany’s inland river shipping industry and billions of euros in losses after a hot dry summer pushed river levels to record lows.  Shippers are finding that more expensive rail transport is not always available because of infrastructure problems and a shortage of locomotive engineers.  In Magdeburg, the Elbe river has fallen to about 50 centimeters (less than 20 inches) and shippers say at least double that is needed for normal commerce and traffic was slowed or stopped on much of the Rhine.

*   Barges have become billboards on New York’s East River.  Tenants in luxury housing along the river are complaining that the advertising is an eyesore, but advertisers say it’s a cost-effective way to reach potential customers.

*   Residents of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, in Canada’s Northwest Territories are disappointed they didn’t get their annual barge this year. Kugluktuk, like a lot of very remote communities in the Territories depend on barges for food and vehicles and other heavy items.  Small freighters can bring in some goods, but at higher cost.
 
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