Bi-fuel technology—which enables diesel generators to burn both diesel and natural gas—may be the biggest development you are not using yet. This thoroughly tested, simple piece of technology enables generator operators to save up to 50% on overall fuel costs. For the oil and gas (O&G) industry in particular, it has the potential to help operators reduce the amount of noxious emissions caused by the flaring of by-product gas from well heads—while saving even more on fuel costs.
In this article, we’ll help you understand how bi-fuel works and how it benefits you. We’ll be addressing bi-fuel in more detail (such as site considerations for using a bi-fuel generator) in future articles.
How Does the Technology Work?
Bi-fuel systems make it possible to introduce natural gas (CNG) into a diesel engine’s air intake system and burn it as part of the normal ignition process. The air-gas mixture, which the bi-fuel system regulates based upon engine load and other operating conditions (up to 70% CNG), enters the system downstream from the air cleaner and upstream from the turbocharger. The turbocharger compresses the air-gas mixture, which enters the cylinders during the intake stroke.
Near the end of the piston’s compression stroke, a small quantity of diesel fuel from the generator’s existing fuel injection system enters the cylinder. The compressed diesel fuel ignites, which in turn ignites the air-CNG mixture, accelerating the burn of the diesel fuel and producing combustion energy. It’s that simple.
HIPOWER SYSTEMS sells bi-fuel equipped diesel engines that range from 150 kW to 3MW, so we have quite a bit of expertise in this area. We can reassure you that these add-on systems do not change the underlying operating functionality of the OEM equipment, nor do they require removal or addition of any other parts. They also incorporate sophisticated monitoring technology that keeps tabs on engine operation, not only adjusting as necessary the ratio of CNG coming into the air intake but also reverting the generator to 100% diesel operation in the event of an engine fault or other out-of-range condition.
In the past, adopting such a technique would have required substantial, permanent modifications to the diesel engine itself, making solutions expensive and sometimes unreliable. Bi-fuel systems do away with all of that complexity and trouble.
What Are the Benefits to You?
Bi-fuel systems offer a wide array of benefits, with a 50% savings in fuel cost (compared to a standard diesel generator) being the greatest. Others include:
Flare Gas Recapture: Per the World Bank, gas from flaring wastes billions of dollars in fuel per year and creates 400 million tons of greenhouse gases. Every operator that adapts a bi-fuel system to burn flare gas is saving money (beyond the 50% quoted earlier) and the earth.
Resistance to Fuel Fluctuations: Since bi-fuel systems can burn up to 70% CNG or 100% diesel on demand, operators can take advantage of fluctuating prices and enjoy discounts from fuel vendors by being flexible about delivery schedules.
Extended Run Times: Operators with a bi-fuel generator enjoy longer run time for their diesel fuel tanks, which can be an important differentiator during extended power outages, especially for backup generators.
Compared to Natural Gas Generators, bi-fuel offer the added safety of a redundant systems, if for any reason something goes wrong with the natural gas system the generator will keep running as a normal diesel generator ensuring 100% up time.
Have we piqued your interest yet? If so, visit our bi-fuel site or give us a call at 913-495-5557. We’ll be glad to share more great information about bi-fuel systems with you. We can also help you perform an expense recapture calculation to compare the ROI on a bi-fuel model with that of a natural gas generator.
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