Drax Wagons
David Gatehouse

Member Article

Drax unveils first Biomass rail freight wagon

Drax has unveiled the UK’s first purpose-built biomass rail freight wagon at the National Railway Museum in York, which is part of an investment of up to £700 million.

Developed by designers at Lloyd’s Register Rail and manufactured by WH Davis, it is the largest ever produced and pushes the boundaries of rail engineering. The wagon will transport sustainable biomass from the Ports of Hull, Immingham and Tyne to Drax Power Station, near Selby, for use in generating low carbon, cost effective and reliable renewable electricity.

At 18.9m long with top doors stretching 18.2m and bottom doors of 3.7m, the supersize rail car has a capacity of 116 cubic metres allowing a biomass load of 71.6 tonnes. This volume is almost 3% bigger than any freight wagon currently rolling in the UK.

Peter Emery, Drax’s production director said: “Our transformation to become one of Europe’s largest renewable generators through the use of sustainable biomass means we need new, bigger and better rail wagons. We need to keep the biomass dry, move more of it and speed up the unloading process.

“The finished product is an industry-leading design and fulfils all the criteria we set. We may be launching it in a museum but this wagon is no museum piece and will not be surpassed for many years to come.”

Work on two prototypes began in January 2013 and presented the design engineers with a number of challenges in achieving the increased wagon capacity within the limits of the Network Rail loading gauge. The wagon is technically advanced too, with unique door designs and a patented product flow control system to manage the biomass during discharge.

Richard Gibney, professional head traction and rolling stock, Lloyd’s Register Rail UK said: “This is the sort of project that designers relish. An opportunity to take a current design and re-imagine the entire concept, taking advantage of what we have learnt from the performance of the existing vehicle, removing some of the inefficiencies and arriving at an optimised design.

“As an assignment, it presented the team with some unique challenges as we sought to arrive at a design that would meet its objectives, yet also conform to all the necessary industry standards.”

WH Davis met this design specification by working to a measurement tolerance of 5mm, the highest possible and half that normally associated with wagon manufacturing.

Ian Whelpton, sales and marketing director added: “This has been one of the most demanding fabrications we have undertaken, but by working with the wagon designers from the beginning, we have been able to manufacture the required innovations and achieve the significantly increased cubic capacity.”

Drax has ordered 200 wagons and the rail engineering innovations introduced ensure that the pelletised biomass is fully covered to keep it dry; spillage is prevented; larger volumes than coal are moved; and the wagon travels faster through the Drax site.

The power station’s wagons £700 million investment also includes boiler modifications and new biomass receipt, storage and handling facilities, as well as developments further upstream in the biomass supply chain.

Drax’s first biomass converted generating unit began operating in April; a second will follow next year and a third by 2016 depending on securing contracts for sufficient supplies. Each will burn approximately 2.3 million tonnes of sustainable biomass a year.

The new wagon will be on display at the National Railway Museum, York until 12th August.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by David Gatehouse .

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