Book review: Numerical Examples in Fuels and Energy

Article by James Watt CEng FIChemE

J Clifford Jones; ISBN: 978-87-403-2724-3;; 2019; £FREE

OH DEAR. Numerical Examples in Fuels and Energy is 614 pages of 400 calculations related to energy and fuel problems. It’s an intriguing approach to a text book, a simple collection of calculations. No theory or context. No useful table of contents just a list, Exercise 1 to Exercise 400. But it’s an e-book, available to download in PDF format, which means it can be searched easily enough. Hence the “oh dear”. It is also deliberate; a novel approach for me and I suspect many readers, but soon I found myself drawn from question to question and from subject to subject, which is the declared intent. In terms of examples for undergraduates and practising engineers it is valuable as a compendium of some simple contextualised problems.

The calculations themselves appear mathematically sound, although I haven’t checked all 400, but sampled a few and run through the numbers. No issues so far, however the context of the questions is sometimes, just sometimes, a bit lacking. For example, one question requires the fuel consumption of a Boeing 777 – always a handy fact to have, because it’s not mentioned in the question itself. There are strings of questions that are interlinked, which make some individual examples momentarily difficult to follow. The format, as stated in the foreword, is to place the questions in the current context, relating to news items, articles, literature or common questions regarding current energy and fuel issues. This is an interesting approach and likeable. Therefore, the book does meet the stated intent. It’s also a really interesting and diverse mix of fields and areas from the application of Betz coefficient through the gasification of glycerol, simple fusion and fission equations.

As a book fan, the e-book format isn’t my favourite, but you can still scribble notes on it or place bookmarks and save it again. At 614 pages it won’t block up shelf space, and at 9 MB, its smaller than Perry’s, so won’t tax most storage drives or e-book readers. But there are issues. Every other page carries an advert, that can be avoided by paying a subscription fee, for a site that carries few similar works. This may be the way forward, free-to-download but with ads, however it’s an unneeded distraction. Format aside, some of the questions also have answers that aren’t really what was asked. The worst kind of exam or tutorial question that we all remember was always where the answer wanted wasn’t really the one asked for. Also the absence of context, of the background theory, clearer workings and information all take away from what is a good collection of examples, because as I read it I found myself reaching for my Eastop and McConkey to look up the theory. That may be the point and in that regard the book is good, but in this modern age I, like many, won’t have that time. That said I found it difficult to put down and happily read pages at a time. It’s a worthy addition to an engineer’s collection. Being able to see clear theory applied well would be the best outcome, although I suspect covering that many questions may have proved impossible. However, the book is worth it for those of us concerned with fuels and energy, or students who still need to learn and see the theory applied and those who are just fascinated by the calculations behind real-world problems.

Article by James Watt CEng FIChemE

Process Engineering Manager at Wood

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