Using Ultrasonic Level Sensors for Fuel Measurement in Rail

From coast-to-coast passenger trains to regional short line freight services, the nation’s railroads rely on diesel power. With ever-growing investments focused on advanced technology diesel engines and the repowering and replacement of current-service engines, railroads are on the brink of achieving greater service and efficiency goals. 

As a trusted and proven technology, Diesel power offers reliability, efficiency, durability, and now near-zero emissions – for a long time, Diesel has been the technology of choice for all types of rail transportation.

According to current data made available by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), at the end of 2018, there were over 26,000 freight locomotives in operation across the U.S., as well as 431 passenger rail locomotives.

With the exception of a few electrified passenger rail lines, Diesel powers the remainder of passenger rail and all of the freight rail across the U.S.

On average, U.S. freight railroads can transport one ton of freight over 470 miles per gallon of diesel fuel, thanks to steel wheels having low rolling resistance in combination with the energy efficiency of the diesel locomotive. The Association of American Railroads stipulates that the nation’s 64 freight railroad networks transit almost 137,000 freight rail miles.

In 2018, U.S. Class I railroads carried 1.2 million carloads of lumber and paper products, 1.5 million carloads of grain and other farm products, 1.5 million carloads of food products, 1.8 million carloads of motor vehicles and parts and 2.4 million carloads of chemicals.

Using Ultrasonic Level Sensors for Fuel Measurement in Rail

Image Credit: TMV Control Systems Inc.

Set up in 2005, TMV Control Systems Inc. was established with the vision to develop and manufacture advanced, next-gen locomotive control systems. Predicated on 22 years of experience in locomotive control systems design, Mr. Derick Vander Klippe’s goal was to supply the rail industry with a state-of-the-art, sturdy control system with extended performance. 

As a result of those goals, the Traction Engine Control Unit (TECU) was developed: an intuitive system that is simple to operate and navigate to get the most out of a vehicle. Situated inside the high voltage Electrical Cabinet, the installed TECU I/O modules receive input from contactors, current sensors, relays, fuel level monitor, oil sensors, pressure sensors and Senix ToughSonic CHEM ultrasonic level sensors.

The TMV Control Fuel Monitoring system is comprised of TMV Control Fuel Level Display and a Senix ToughSonic CHEM 10 Level Sensor.

The TMV Control Fuel Monitoring system is comprised of TMV Control Fuel Level Display and a Senix ToughSonic CHEM 10 Level Sensor. Image Credit: Senix Corporation

Control Stand operations are also transmitted to the TECU, including throttle direction, brake, notch, and many other locomotive operations. This data can be viewed via a nearby display screen, which broadcasts exactly what the vehicle is doing.

TMV utilizes the Senix Ultrasonic CHEM 10 Level Sensor to establish fuel levels in diesel-electric locomotive fuel tanks. TMV Control incorporates expertise in order to calculate fuel level based on the dimensions of the fuel tank, but something extra was needed to accurately measure the level or height of fuel.

Using Ultrasonic Level Sensors for Fuel Measurement in Rail

Image Credit: Senix Corporation

TMV Control investigated its options which included utilizing flow rate to determine fuel level, but complications arose due to the serious and severe conditions of the railroad, including vibration, trouble under movement, fluctuating weather and temperature conditions, and inclines.

However, the Senix ultrasonic sensor can withstand all those and still produce accurate readings. TMV Controls selected the ToughSonic CHEM 10 due to its ruggedness, reliability, and accuracy. The CHEM 10 is constructed using PVDV, and the transducer is protected by a layer of PVDF.

In addition, the PUR jacketed cable and electronics are potted and protected, and all ToughSonic sensors come with an IP68 rating. Flow Rates are notoriously known for being inaccurate due to fuel being pumped out of the tank, but a return line feeds back some of the fuel.

Typically, the temperatures of the incoming and outgoing fuels differ, so flow rate sensors measure more fuel going back in the tank, so even slight errors add up. Therefore, calculating the tank dimensions with the readings from the Senix ToughSonic CHEM 10 ultrasonic sensor is much more reliable due to its accuracy. 

Fuel levels are recorded, measured and displayed using the Senix sensor. Additionally, kilowatt-hours are also quantified. Combining these measurements, railroads can better establish the efficiency of locomotives and their engines.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Senix Corporation.

For more information on this source, please visit Senix Corporation.

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