Dual-Fuel Technology: Reduce Costs and Maintain Power in Mobile Applications
on 11-24-201408:46 AM - last edited on 03-10-201503:53 PM by Deb_EP
With natural gas production at an all-time high and natural gas prices falling, it would be prudent to consider this fossil fuel as an alternative source to traditional diesel-fueled power generation applications. When it comes to productivity, however, the power and torque generated by diesel engines far surpasses that of similar sized natural gas engines. One increasingly attractive solution that comprises the best of both worlds is dual-fuel technology, which allows one engine to run on two fuels.
In today’s oil and gas industry, expensive fuel can often drive up the cost of doing business, but a record-setting natural gas boom in the United States has led to significantly lower prices. Power systems that traditionally burn diesel can now integrate dual-fuel engines to burn natural gas while maintaining performance. Additionally, most dual-fuel engines are capable of running exclusively on diesel or on a combination of diesel and natural gas, resulting in lower fuel costs. Other major natural gas producing regions, like the Middle East and northern Africa, are especially benefiting from this technology trend.
The two fuels work together to power the engine. First, the engine starts purely on diesel and as the inlet air temperature rises, natural gas is injected into the cylinders through additional intake piping. The diesel acts as an igniter to light the gas inside the combustion chamber, causing the natural gas to burn. Then, as natural gas fills the cylinder, the amount of diesel being consumed is reduced, which extends the engine’s run time, curtails exhaust emissions and reduces the amount of on-site diesel necessary to get the job done.
In applications like land drilling, land production and well service, containerized mobile generator sets may be useful in regions where the natural gas supply is abundant, maybe even free-flowing, making its use extremely cost effective. Whether meeting short or long-term power demands, it’s possible to use natural gas and consistently maintain traditional diesel power and transient performance.
The advantages of dual-fuel technology are pretty remarkable:
Significantly lower fuel costs compared to 100 percent diesel usage
Utilization of a reliable fuel supply strategy, reducing risk and eliminating the need for excessive fuel storage
Ability to maintain diesel power and traditional transient response and torque, even when in substitution mode
Maintains, even improves emissions levels
At the forefront of this trend is Caterpillar Dynamic Gas Blending (DGB) technology. Using existing gas engine hardware to allow Cat® diesel engines to burn natural gas, owners save significantly on fuel costs while maintaining diesel engine performance levels with the security of a warranty from the OEM. Full system integration provides a significant advantage compared to the current aftermarket options. Parameters such as natural gas substitution rate, fuel flexibility range (methane number), and the ability to maintain emissions compliance are uniquely considered.
The mobile/temporary power sector, in particular, can profit from this dual fuel technology as it allows the end user to utilize natural gas while automatically modulating gas substitution based on fuel quality, pressure, type and variety. An automated fuel system, with common protections and controls, achieves optimal performance through continuous monitoring and adjustment. Additionally, retesting, readjusting and re-commissioning from site to site are unnecessary, further amplifying the benefits for mobile and temporary power applications where setup time is key, up-time is “prime-time” and downtime is unacceptable.
Caterpillar offers many resources on the various DGB products across all segments, including field kits for oil and gas. Visit us online for specific power systems product details in mobile, rental and temporary applications.
We’d like to hear about your experience with dual-fuel technology, specifically in the mobile power space. Please leave your questions and comments below.
What are you interested in that is not yet available in the market place or in typical product offerings?
What specific regions of the world and their respective market segments find dual-fuel products particularly attractive for temporary power applications?
Are there power nodes where dual-fuel engines are more or less attractive in a mobile solution?