Steam engines, instead of boilers, should be inefficient.

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madez
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Steam engines, instead of boilers, should be inefficient.

Post by madez » Thu May 18, 2017 7:30 pm

I thought about storing a heated liquid (or steam) in tanks as an energy storage,
as is done commonly in reality even at large scale.
To generate the heat I wanted to use surplus electrical energy when it is available.
However, there is no electric boiler in Factorio. Duh.

While I was searching the web for an electric boiler in Factorio, I found quite a bit of what
reminded me of the aggressiveness that typically goes along with dementia, but between
that noise I found the argument that the current balancing of Factorio would make that way of storing
energy too powerful.

The issue here boils down to
  • steam engines being 100% efficient, while they are not in reality,
    boilers are not 100% efficient, while they basically are in reality,
    and not having heat loss due to dissipation implemented.
I see that changing this would require balancing other production cycles as well,
but what was the reason to do it that way in the first place?

Is it planned to fix this?
Last edited by madez on Fri May 19, 2017 1:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.

netmand
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Re: Boilers instead of steam engines should be 100% efficient.

Post by netmand » Thu May 18, 2017 8:34 pm

madez wrote:there is no electric boiler in Factorio.
actually there might be:
https://forums.factorio.com/viewtopic.php?t=47716

Xeorm
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Re: Boilers instead of steam engines should be 100% efficient.

Post by Xeorm » Thu May 18, 2017 8:41 pm

The beauty of having boilers be 50% efficient is that it's similar to how every other burner works.

Realistically you'd expect some heat loss (and therefore efficiency loss) from storing liquids in tanks, but as that is non-trivially difficult they haven't added it in, nor seem to care to add it in. I don't blame them either, given how super batteries anyway make for good energy storage.

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Re: Boilers instead of steam engines should be 100% efficient.

Post by HurkWurk » Thu May 18, 2017 10:53 pm

the reason there are no electric boilers in the base game is due to the simple fact that the energy consumed to make electricity is more than the energy produced.
as steam currently has no other use than electricity generation, there is no concept of "waste" electricity. if you dont need it, you dont make it.

only nuclear has a concept of waste heat, not electricity. that is nuclear power is sourced from the reactor that always produces its max heat and nothing else.

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OdinYggd
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Re: Boilers instead of steam engines should be 100% efficient.

Post by OdinYggd » Fri May 19, 2017 1:30 am

Boilers in real life are not 100% efficient.

Real life boilers have the following efficiencies:

"Stoker" fired, commonly seen on locomotives and historic boilers: 50-70% depending on fireman skill, boiler condition, and fuel quality.
"Package boiler", modern automatic-controlled boilers typically using oil or gas fuels: 70-95%. Automated fire controls and modernized designs allow improved efficiency if the boiler is maintained properly.

Electric boilers are not 100% efficient. It is close to 100%, but they always lose some energy to their surroundings even when wrapped in insulation to minimize this loss.


Engines on the other hand, Factorio's engines are laughably impossible.

Real life steam engines are really bad for efficiency.

Single expansion (Locomotive, small stationary engines): 5-10%. Most of the energy in the steam is lost to under-expansion, the steam is released while still at a significant pressure. This is why the blastpipe is so effective at inducing boiler draft, and why steam locomotives chug the way they do.

Compound expansion (Stationary and marine engines): 10-30%. Too complex and large to be reliable in a locomotive, this type was commonly found in factories and ships where the improved efficiency more than made up for the increased complexity and the added weight was of little concern. Even when run with a condenser so that the steam is in fact expanded all the way to a vaccum, there is still a significant energy loss in the latent energy needed to change the water to steam that cannot be recovered by any known engine.

Turbines: Up to 40% efficient. Like the compound engine, a turbine is able to expand the steam all the way to vaccum if designed to do so. But unlike piston engines, turbines are only efficient in a narrow envelope of inlet conditions and RPM. Stray too far from this envelope and your efficiency goes up the cooling tower that condenses the exhaust to be fed back to the boiler.

I would love to see a mod for factorio that actually implements realistic efficiency for steam and nuclear power. But given how disruptive to the game balance that such a configuration would be, it would probably have to be a mod and cannot be part of the vanilla game. Too much realism takes all the fun out of it for people who just want to play the game.
In my mind, Steam is the eternal king of the railway.

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Re: Boilers instead of steam engines should be 100% efficient.

Post by PuffTheDragon » Fri May 19, 2017 5:54 am

Thx for this Text!

madez
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Re: Boilers instead of steam engines should be 100% efficient.

Post by madez » Fri May 19, 2017 1:21 pm

OdinYggd wrote:Boilers in real life are not 100% efficient.

Real life boilers have the following efficiencies:

"Stoker" fired, commonly seen on locomotives and historic boilers: 50-70% depending on fireman skill, boiler condition, and fuel quality.
"Package boiler", modern automatic-controlled boilers typically using oil or gas fuels: 70-95%. Automated fire controls and modernized designs allow improved efficiency if the boiler is maintained properly.

Electric boilers are not 100% efficient. It is close to 100%, but they always lose some energy to their surroundings even when wrapped in insulation to minimize this loss.
If you ignore heat dissipation and losses in electrical systems, electric boilers are 100% efficient. Both is currently not implemented in Factorio, which is a reasonable design choice.
OdinYggd wrote:I would love to see a mod for factorio that actually implements realistic efficiency for steam and nuclear power. But given how disruptive to the game balance that such a configuration would be, it would probably have to be a mod and cannot be part of the vanilla game.
People are already used to how Factorio works right now, leading to upset if too much changed. I don't know the developers opinion on this. Hope-givingly, they reworked the boiler system already which was a breaking change. The game is after all still labeled an Alpha by the developers.
OdinYggd wrote:Too much realism takes all the fun out of it for people who just want to play the game.
I agree. Too much of anything is bad. Especially in a game like Factorio. We like it because it does not agree with reality everywhere. Still, we like it also because it agrees in some aspects with reality.

What aspects of reality should be implemented? I consider that to be a difficult question. But realism can add intuitive depth, and games profit heavily on intuitive depth. This thread is not about that, though, but just about a rather confined and comprehensible change.

It's about making steam engines inefficient while making boilers virtually ideal, thusly allowing electric boilers and other fun stuff without needing to rebalance the game too much.

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Re: Steam engines, instead of boilers, should be inefficient.

Post by PuffTheDragon » Fri May 19, 2017 2:09 pm

I just quoted this post, because is help another discussion to calm down (i hope) :-)
https://forums.factorio.com/viewtopic.p ... 63#p277465

And also its nicely written

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Re: Steam engines, instead of boilers, should be inefficient.

Post by BlakeMW » Fri May 19, 2017 2:18 pm

It's already funny. IRL 1kg of coal contains 8kWh (28.8MJ) of energy. We don't know what exactly 1 unit of coal weighs in Factorio, but it's probably not 278g.

It amuses me to analyze it in terms of cars. A car IRL would require at least 2t of coal to create and when you make a Factorio car you actually burn through something like 10 coal, so 1 coal = 200kg, by this number a factorio coal has about 1/800th the energy value the real coal would (or factorio Joules are 800x real world Joules).
Also a car burns through 1 coal in 32s, and there are 416.67 seconds in a factorio day, so 7.5% of a day or about 2 hours in real time. I would say that 200kg of coal should definitely be able to propel a car for 2 hours even if the engine is very inefficient - considering that 60L of oil should definitely be able to. (actually the ratio of energy to make a car, vs energy to drive it around, is better than I thought it would be - seems to be in the same order of magnitude)

But since I mentioned time compression - Factorio time is about 200x faster than real time, and this also affects kWh/Joules which are defined in terms of time. So when I said that Factorio Coal has 1/800th the energy value of real coal: it's actually only 1/4 the energy value of real coal once time compression is taken into account. So it would be reasonable to think that the 8MJ is the *usable* energy in the coal, and everything that consumes coal is assumed to be 25% efficient, so boiler+steam engine is 12.5% efficient (it is a very primitive setup, being lowest tech), and car engine is 15% efficient, and locomotive is 25% efficient. I know that is tangential to the discussion on whether the efficiency penalty should be in boilers, steam engines or both, but the point is that it can be thought of in terms of "usable energy", as such steam engines are 100% efficient at extracting the effectively usable energy from hot liquid and locomotive engines are 100% efficient at extracting the usable energy from fuel. Non-usable energy (by practical machines) is dropped from the numbers when it becomes unusable by any machine you can build.

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