[balloon-makers] Paraffin burners

thomas at flyingkettle.com thomas at flyingkettle.com
Fri Apr 27 16:37:09 CDT 2001


Dear Curtis and the List:

I am very interested in your experience with your paraffin burner, 
because I think it is probable that a liquid fuel setup might be more 
effective for my own project, than a LPG one.

I am working on making a Steam Balloon - see my website 
identified by the signature. The project is progressing fine, although 
not very fast because I do need to make a living..... We are 
starting to build a flight boiler now, which is quite painstaking work. 
When it is completed, of course I will test it with a gas burner 
initially, but I intend to try for paraffin later (or even solid fuel - but 
that is another story!)

I know that the stated disadvantages of paraffin/kerosene (not 
"diesel") as a balloon fuel are that it may dirty the envelope - not 
applicable in the case of a steam balloon, because the heat goes 
into the lift gas via a heat exchanger - and that, if the flame goes 
out, (a) you get a flamethrower effect; (b) the splashed around 
liquid fuel doesn't go away quietly, as LPG does, but hangs around 
and makes it dangerous to relight. I would have thought that some 
type of flame failure device could be worked out, which would 
positively prevent flameouts. Have you considered this?

In the case of a Steam Balloon, there is no 
requirement to vary the output of the burner over any 
very great range, because to do so wouldn't have 
much short-term effect on the flight of the craft 
anyway. In other words, you won't be able to arrest a 
quick descent by turning up the burner to very high, 
as you can in a hot air balloon. (Another means must 
be found). This means that the duty cycle demands 
upon the burner are not so severe, as in the case of a 
hot air balloon. It will only have to operate relatively 
steadily.

I was most interested in your point about fuel 
availability in third-world countries. It had not 
occurred to me, but it is extremely valid.

You did not express certain other points which favor 
paraffin/kerosene over propane/LPG:

(1) it is cheaper;

(2) it is much more easy to charge kerosene into a 
tank, than to charge LPG into a cylinder. Balloonists 
often have to go quite a long way and spend quite a 
lot of time, to fill their LPG tanks. Simple filling up 
with kerosene in a service station would resolve a 
medium-scale headache. There would also be the 
attractive possibility of keeping a large tank of the 
stuff on hand for one's own refills between flights or 
between weekends.

(3) Kerosene tankage is vastly cheaper;

(4) Kerosene is safer;

(5) Kerosene tankage can be much lighter, and it also 
can be unified - no need ever to change over tanks!

(6) Kerosene has no low-temperature pressure 
problems;

(7) The calorific value is slightly higher.

Given all these advantages, I find it somewhat 
surprising, that more effort has not been put in over 
the years for making a really practical and smoothly 
working kerosene burner for hot-air balloons. It seems 
to me that the smoke problem, and the flame-out 
problem, could be overcome with some effort.....

Yours, Thomas Goodey


***************************************************************
"Full steam aloft!" cried the Pilot to the Aerial Stoker, as
the staunch craft 'Flying Kettle' puffed upward into the sky...

Read about it at

www.flyingkettle.com

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