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Title:
SHIP LIFT SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR TRANSPORTATION OF SHIPS WITH RECYCLING WATER SYSTEM IN CANAL
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A process for raising or lowering ships from one elevation to another within a locks chambers and simultaneously recycling the water using a hydraulic storage tank. The hydraulic storage tank is located adjacent to the locks chambers and below the minimum level that the ship is to be lowered to within the locks structures. The hydraulically pressurized water storage tank system fills the locks chambers and raises the ship. The ship is lowered in the locks chambers by water flowing by gravity back into the empty water storage tank. The water flow is directed by an energy system that applies hydraulic power, compressed air or any other device that is capable of moving a stainless steel plate or similar device inside the storage tank. The energy system directs the flow of water from the storage tank to the locks chamber to raise the water level. The empty hydraulic storage tank will then receive the flow of water from the locks chamber by gravity when a ship is lowered. The water-saving ship-lift system represented in this invention is beneficial because it achieves the vertical movement of vessels within a canal lock chamber in a safe and efficient manner while, at the same time, recycling precious fresh water for use over and over again with little or no waste.


Inventors:
Len-rios, Felipe Antonio (Balboa, PA)
Application Number:
09/791645
Publication Date:
08/29/2002
Filing Date:
02/26/2001
Assignee:
LEN-RIOS FELIPE ANTONIO
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02C1/02; E02C1/06; (IPC1-7): E02C1/00
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Liniak, Berenato, Longacre & White (Ste. 240, Bethesda, MD, 20817, US)
Claims:

What is claimed:



1. A water delivery system for vehicle transportation locks chamber, comprising: a series of locks chambers; at least one water storage tank for storing water to be delivered to said locks chambers; a piping system linking said storage tank to said locks chambers, and an energy system for forcing water out of said storage tank through said piping system and into said locks chamber.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein said series of locks chambers are arranged in parallel for vehicle transportation.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein said series of locks chambers are formed by two side-walls and at least one miter gate.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein said water storage tank is located beside and parallel to said locks chambers.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein said water storage tanks uppermost surface is no higher than the minimum water draw down for a transiting ship in the locks chambers.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein said water storage tank comprise a series of modular storage tanks that are internally linked to one another to equalize water disbursement.

7. The system of claim 1, further comprising a piping system in which said pipes are linked to a culvert system that acts to neutralize forces created by said energy system.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein said piping system carries water from the pressurized water storage tanks to the sidewall and headwall culverts simultaneously, through pipes that run along the foundation of the locks chamber.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein said energy system is regulated by a control system that utilizes a computer program or programmable logic control to simultaneously synchronize magnetic system within the locks chambers used to guide the movement of a vessel and the flow of water to and from the water storage tank.

10. The system of claim 1, further comprising an energy system to pressurize said water storage tank that is powered by at least one hydraulic pistons, electromagnetic forces, compressed air, counterweights, floating tanks in shafts, and other means to transfer the mass of water from the storage tank to the locks chambers.

11. The system of claim 1, further comprising a control system for regulating the water intake and water discharge from the storage tank into the locks chamber, thereby regulating the flow rate by which the ships ascend or descend in the locks chamber

12. A method of vehicle transportation, comprising the steps of: providing at least one locks chamber for transiting a vessel through a canal system; actuating an energy system to move stored water from storage tanks to the locks chamber and vice versa; delivering an amount of water to the storage tanks to facilitate vessel transit; providing a control system to synchronize disbursement of stored water to the locks chamber and magnetic positioning of the ship in the locks chamber.

13. The method of claim 11, further comprising the step of isolating a first locks chamber from a second locks chamber via a series of miter gates.

14. The method of claim 11, further comprising the steps of synchronizing water flow and ship position via a control system that utilizes a computer program or programmable logic.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] This invention relates directly to the use of gravity and hydraulic forces to save fresh water, specifically at the Panama Canal, at the time vessels are lowered or raised in the Canal locks chambers.

[0003] 2. Description of Related Art

[0004] Heretofore, ships transiting the Panama Canal have been raised and lowered 85 feet in locks chambers by the gravitational flow of water from Gatun and Miraflores lakes. This practice uses 52 million gallons of fresh water for each vessel transiting the Canal, water that is then lost to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While water is normally abundant at the Panama Canal because of the country's tropical rainfall, nature is not always predictable and there have been periods of shortage. The former Panama Canal Commission, a United States Agency, tried to conserve water through “cross filling” and other methods during critical water shortages, as well as initiating the unsuccessful use of “cloud seeding.”

[0005] Ownership of the Panama Canal was transferred by the United States government on Dec. 31, 1999, to the Republic of Panama. The Panama Canal Authority, an agency of the government of the Republic of Panama, now operates the Canal. The Panama Canal Authority currently faces a serious loss of revenue due to newer ships being built larger than the so-called Panamax size vessels, the largest ships that can transit the Panama Canal locks. The transit of these larger ships will require the construction of larger locks. The Canal administration is considering the construction of a “Third Locks” system that would facilitate post-Panamax vessels, but would also require more water than can be supplied by the existing system, a system that even now at times does not adequately supply the Canal's needs. To augment the existing water storage capacity requires the construction of a multimillion-dollar project consisting of various lakes, dams, tunnels and power stations for watershed development together with the removal of some eight thousand farmers from their land, which will be used as a water storage reservoir (lake). The need exists, therefore, for the design and construction of a new water-saving, ship-lift system, with larger chambers capable of facilitating post-Panamax vessels that will operate with efficiency and safety while, at the same time, conserving water.

[0006] The locks chambers as known today were invented by Chhio Wei-yo in the year 983 for China's Grand Canal. Later, the Dutch (1065), Flemish (1116) and Italians (1198) began building canals with single locks. The present invention completes the locks operation as an integral part of the locks system.

[0007] Several countries have designed water-saving and ship-lift systems. The first twin ship lift system using a counterweight is the Tardebrigge built by England at the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. The first lock to use a water-saving system was the Henrichenburg Float Lift built between 1908 and 1917 by the Federal Republic of Germany. The basins were located at each side of the locks for partial storage. One basin was used to fill the chambers and the other basin to receive water from the chambers. The basins could be opened at the top or closed at different levels, depending on the depth of chamber needed. Other water-saving locks developed in the Federal Republic of Germany are the Niederfinow (1934), a ship lift with counterweight, and the Uelsen. In these locks, the transit of a ship is achieved using vertical and horizontal inclines and water-slope lifts. The lifts are done both dry and wet. The latter three types of lifts described are used for low ship tonnage; however, a longitudinal slope 1:10 lift developed in Russia at Kranotarsk (1985) on the Jenissej Canal obtained a maximum ship lift of 101.0 meters and a 1,500 ton capacity.

[0008] There are a myriad of problems with the previous water saving and ship-lift systems developed in Europe (Germany and Belgium) when applied to the Panama Canal situation. These water-saving basins are only about 50 percent efficient. The ship lifts of this type are also very costly to build and do not have the capacity to handle ships of the Panamax or post-Panamax size. Safety has also posed a problem in systems using a counterweight or flotation devices to elevate ships to rather high altitudes in the open basins, and the counterweight and flotation devices would require high maintenance in the Panama environment. Thus, these systems do not fulfill the needs of the present Panama Canal or a Third Locks.

[0009] The development of a new locks system would be extremely beneficial because it would prevent the loss of 52 million gallons of fresh water for each ship transiting the Panama Canal. The cost of development of a new system of this type could be offset by the production and sale of hydroelectric power produced by the water saved by the use of this system. Any loss of revenue due to draft reduction for vessels transiting during times of dry season water shortage would no longer occur.

[0010] 3. Summary of the Invention

[0011] This invention is a process for raising or lowering ships from one elevation to another within a lock chamber and simultaneously recycling the water using a hydraulic storage tank. It represents innovative design technology that can be applied to ship canals, including the current Panama Canal and any contemplated larger Third Locks construction. The hydraulic storage tank is located adjacent to the lock chamber and below the minimum level to which the ship is to be lowered within the locks structures. The hydraulically pressurized water storage tank system fills the lock chamber and raises the ship. The ship is lowered in the lock chamber by water flowing by gravity back into the empty water storage tank. The water flow is directed by an energy system that applies hydraulic power, compressed air or any other device that is capable of moving a stainless steel plate acting as a piston or similar device inside the storage tank. The energy system directs the flow of water from the storage tank to the lock chamber to raise the water level. The storage tank will be divided into multiple cells (or multiple chambers) that are pressurized evenly and simultaneously. Water from each cell will be directed to specific areas of the lock chamber to provide an even flow, thus ensuring the stability of the vessel in the chamber. The empty hydraulic storage tank will then receive the flow of water from the lock chamber by gravity through the same pipe system when a ship is lowered. This system produces a safe and efficient vertical movement of the ships, while recycling the water with little or no waste.

[0012] Previously developed ship-lift systems were costly to build and maintain in Panama's tropical environment. These ship lifts are also dangerous because they require the ships to be raised to unsafe elevations. The size of vessels these lifts could transit was also limited.

[0013] It is an objective of the invention to permit close control of the water flow rate into the locks chambers to provide for expeditious transit of ships through the locks. Hydraulic power, or other energy system, is used to move a stainless steel plate piston inside the storage tank (or tanks), thereby closely regulating the desired flow rate of the water into the locks chamber producing the safe and efficient vertical movement of a ship. A water level sensor could be used to indicate when the proper water level has been reached. The energy system and water level sensor would, in turn, be closely monitored and regulated by the control system.

[0014] It is an objective of the invention to economize on the 52 million gallons of fresh water currently lost to the sea for each Panama Canal vessel transit. Unlike water-saving basins of prior locks system designs, which were very inefficient, this new system preserves and stores the fresh water and recycles it with little or no waste.

[0015] It is an objective of the invention to protect the ecology and preserve good agricultural land for farming rather than having it lost to a lake storage basin. The implementation of this system would permit farmers to continue to use their productive land, avoiding the possible necessity of purchasing commodities from other countries. Mass migration of the farm population to the cities would be avoided, together with its concomitant impact on city economies and services.

[0016] It is an objective of the invention to free a new generation of Panamanians from having to pay a large and unnecessary debt. The cost of augmenting the existing water storage capacity by current means requires the construction of a complex, multimillion-dollar project. The cost of development for this newly invented system, however, could be offset by the production and sale of hydroelectric power generated by the millions of gallons of saved water. The system would also alleviate the current possibility of reduction in revenue for or from transiting vessels during periods of water shortage, i.e., Panama's dry season.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0017] FIG. 1 is a full plan view of a two-lane locks chamber whereby the single parallel dotted line represents magnets located in the centerline of the chamber (see U.S. Pat. No. 5,915,323). The water saving hydraulic tanks appear on each side of the locks. The magnets accurately center the ships in the chamber, increasing the canal capacity.

[0018] FIG. 2 is an isometric depiction of a lock chamber and the position of the water savings storage tanks, tanks that will be pressurized simultaneously for each section to stabilize the vessel in the locks chamber while recycling essentially 100% of the water.

[0019] FIG. 3 is a full view of a one-lanelocks chamber showing the magnets in the centerline of the chamber and two water savings hydraulic storage tanks, one on either side of the locks.

[0020] FIG. is a cross-section of a lock chamber illustrating the ship-lowering process of emptying the locks by the gravitational flow of water into the water-saving hydraulic tanks.

[0021] FIG. 5 is a cross-section of a lock chamber raising a ship, illustrating the process of moving water from the pressurized water-saving hydraulic storage tanks to fill the locks chamber.

[0022] FIG. 6A shows a typical partial plan view of the existing Panama Canal locks chamber, the locks center wall and sidewall longitudinal culverts, and the lateral culverts running perpendicular to the locks chamber.

[0023] FIG. 6B shows a cross-section of the locks center wall culvert and the lateral culverts running perpendicular to the locks chamber.

[0024] FIG. 6C shows a cross-section of the locks sidewall longitudinal culverts and the lateral culverts running perpendicular to the locks chamber.

[0025] FIG. 7 is a cross-section showing a ship being raised using the pressurized flow of water from the water saving hydraulic storage tank. The water flows from the pressurized water saving hydraulic storage tank to the sidewall and headwall culverts simultaneously, and then, to aid in the stabilization of the ship, through ductile iron or stainless steel pipes that run along the foundation of the chamber.

[0026] FIG. 8 is a longitudinal section of the upper sill of the ocean side chamber showing the location of the compressed air pipes that produce a bubble air curtain to prevent intrusion of saltwater from the ocean into the freshwater lakes.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0027] The essence of this invention is not a storage tank per se, but the utilization of the hydraulic water-storage tank system to fill and empty a canal locks chamber. The water for transiting vessels is held in large, pressurized storage tanks. When a lock chamber needs to be filled to raise a ship, the water is moved from the storage tank to the locks chamber using hydraulic power, compressed air or any other device, to raise the water level in the locks chamber to, in turn, raise the ship. When the ship is lowered in the chamber, the water flows by gravitational force back into the storage tank to be used for the next ship transit. This dual process recycles the water with minimum or no waste.

[0028] The type of storage tanks suggested by current technologies are reinforced concrete tanks lined with stainless steel, or any other material that can withstand the hydraulic pressures and longevity in an adverse setting.

[0029] FIG. 1 Shows the general plan view of the three locks chamber 10,20 side by side and a single row of magnets 5 running at the center of the locks chamber, and located flush with bottom floor surface of the chamber. Refer to U.S. Pat. No. 5,915,323 for further information on the structure and operation of the magnet portion of the lock system. The basic elements of this invention are the water savings hydraulic storage tanks 8, formed by modular tanks that can be pressurized by, for example, hydraulic actuators 50 when filling the chamber through the pipes 9a, 9b 9c, 9d and manifold 7 (see FIG. 7 for detailed design of the piping arrangement). The locks chambers are formed by the center wall 2, sidewall 21 and the miter gates 6. A Control System 12 controls the operations and simultaneous synchronization of both the magnetic system (see U.S. Pat. No. 5,915,323) and the hydraulic storage tanks by using a computer program or a programmable logic control. While the preferred embodiment employs a computer control system, this invention should not be limited in this regard. The power supply, compressors and hydraulics pumps are preferably stored in 14.

[0030] FIG. 2. shows an isometric drawing indicating the hydraulic principles of the invention. The basic elements are modular hydraulic storage tank units 8, with two interconnecting pipes 30 between tanks that act as water level equalizers. The pipes 30 also create a redundant system in the event a tank unit 8 fails. The energy system 50 pressurizes the water stored in the tanks 8, to raise the water level in the locks chamber 10, 20. The position of the tanks should be below the minimum water level draw-down, known as the draft of the ship, known as the draft of the ship, to permit the lowering of the water level in the locks chamber 10, 20 by gravitational forces. When water is being drawn down, it will flow through the pipes 9a, 9b and the manifold 7 into the storage tanks 8.

[0031] Water saving basins previoulsy built in Germany use gravitational flow to fill and empty the locks chamber, achieving only 50% efficiency compared to the substantially 100% efficiency proposed in this invention.

[0032] FIG. 3 shows a single mega locks 10, that could be used for any size ship, including Post-Panamax. The layout is similar to the present locks, but with three chambers and two water savings hydraulic storage tanks 8 at each side. The locks chambers are formed by the sidewalls 4 and 22, and the miter gates 6. The compressed air pipes 18 used for the bubble air curtain 48 (see FIG. 8), and are partially embedded in the upper sill just before the miter gate 6 on the ocean side chamber 32. The pipes will release compressed air into the water forming and a curtain of air bubbles that will prevent approximately 50% saltwater intrusion into the lake.

[0033] The inflow and outflow of water to and from the locks chambers is regulated with a great precision by the energy system 50, which maintains the steady vertical movement of the ships in the locks chamber 10, reducing the overall time require to move ships the locks system. Water level sensors also help control water level and flow. The magnets 5, located along the center floor of the locks chamber, move, stop, start, stabilize and center the ship in the locks chambers with extreme accuracy.

[0034] FIG. 4 shows a cross-section of the locks chamber 10, with a ship 40 being lowered and the water savings storage tanks 8 on the east side 11, and west side 13 of each sidewall 21. The emptying of the water from the locks chamber by gravity will force the water to flow through pipe 9a to the manifold 7 to pipe 9b and into the water savings storage tank 8. Also shown are the magnet 5 and the magnetic field previously mentioned. A check valve 25 controls water flow from the locks chamber to the storage tank and vice versa.

[0035] FIG. 5 shows a cross-section of the locks chamber 10 with a ship being raised to the next chamber level. Here the process is to fill the locks chamber by pressurizing the hydraulic storage tank 8, using the energy system 50 to move a stainless steel plate 16, to force the water to flow through pipe 9b, to the manifold 7, to pipe 9a, and into the locks chamber.

[0036] FIG. 6A shows the partial section view a typical partial plan view and cross-sections of the original layout of the Panama Canal locks chamber. The plan view shows the miter gate 6 location. The culverts for the center wall 54 and sidewall 52 are the principal water supply lines taken directly from the lake. In addition, we can observe the lateral culverts with their round openings connected to the principal line where the water flows out to raise the water level in the locks chambers. The first cross-section shows the center wall 2 with the lateral culverts 55, the other cross-section we see the sidewall 52 the other lateral culverts 53 at the bottom floor of the locks chamber.

[0037] FIG. 7 shows a cross-section of a double locks chamber formed by the sidewall 21 and center wall 2, demonstrating a design method of pressurizing hydraulic storage tank 8, using the energy system 50, to transmit the flow of water directly to the center wall and sidewall culverts 54, 52 through the pipe 9b, to the manifold 7, to pipe 9c, and through the pipeline 9d under the locks chamber floor that connects the center wall culvert. The water flowing through Pipe 9d acts to neutralize the hydraulic forces generated by the sidewall culverts, thereby stabilizing the ship 40.

[0038] FIG. 8 shows a longitudinal section of the transition phase of two locks chambers 10, 20. The compressed air pipes 18 partially embedded in the concrete 17 and located across the upper sill of the ocean side chamber 32, just in front of the miter gate 6. The compressed air pipes 32 are perforated stainless steel pipes that will release compressed air into the water forming an air bubble curtain to partially prevent saltwater intrusion into the fresh water of the storage tank 8. A fresh water locks chamber 15 is shown with its concrete floor 19. The bubble air curtain has been used successfully for many years in Ijmuiden and Terneuzen locks of the Netherlands.

[0039] The empting operation of this invention consists of a modular water saving hydraulic storage tank or tanks to be located below the minimum water level draw-down or ship draft, to store the total water discharge by gravity from the locks chamber. The water filling operation is the modular concept of this invention. Reversing the water emptying process, the water stored in hydraulic tanks is pressurized or forced to flow though the different pipelines and culverts from all the tanks modules in a synchronized and simultaneously way to the locks chamber which neutralize the hydraulic forces against the ship. The operating control system can regulate how fast the ships can be raised. It is estimated that this recycling process will save the 52 million gallons of water or any volume deemed necessary to build a mega locks system.

[0040] The control system, employing a computer program or programmable logic, will also regulate with an extreme accuracy the magnetic system that controls the ship movement in the centerline of locks chamber. The magnetic system eliminates the need for lock towing locomotives or rail tow track they run on, thus saving the millions of dollars previously spent on these items. The magnet system could be compare to a conveyor belt that moves ships smoothly, safely and efficiently thereby increasing Panama Canal capacity and safety.

[0041] While this invention has been shown and described with reference to a preferred design, it will be understood by those of skill in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of this invention.