Greater efficiency, less maintenance, and much lower emissions. That's how the Gas Research Institute(GRI), Chicago, positions the capabilities of a new generation of natural-gas engines for the distribution-generation market. Those improvements are coming from GRI-sponsored engine-development projects with Caterpillar Inc., Lafayette, Ind.; Cooper Energy Services, Mt. Vernon, Ohio; and Vinyard Engine Systems Inc., San Antonio.
For example, with Caterpillar, the research team is focusing on boosting output by increasing engine speed, significantly reducing dollars per kilowatt and installed cost, and halving nitrogen oxide emissions. Also, tests of ceramic valve inserts have shown the possibility of extending cylinder-head lift to 70,000 hours. GRI predicts gas-fired, small generating capacity will grow to nearly 26 gigawatts in 2015, mainly through growth in distributed generation, compared with only about 2.0 gigawatts in 1996.