Dual fuel generators are gaining popularity due to their potential flexibility and reliability. Before investing in a dual fuel generator, or converting your current diesel genset to operate on dual fuels, you should learn more about the technology.
Dual fuel technology has a long history.
Before grid power was a reliable reality, engines using more than one fuel were popular power generation solutions. As early as the 1890s, engineers were experimenting with mixed fuels. Most notably was Rudolph Diesel, who combined his namesake fuel with natural gas for more efficient operation.
Dual fuel and bi-fuel are not the same.
Dual fuel generators use two different types of fuel (most often diesel and natural gas) at the same time. These fuels can be mixed in different proportions or used alone, depending on the engine and the situation. In most cases, a dual fuel generator will need to start on diesel alone, as it has a much lower ignition temperature than natural gas.
In comparison, bi-fuel engines use two different types of fuel interchangeably. Switching between fuels is usually done automatically based on which fuel type will be most efficient at that point in time. The most common example of a bi-fuel engine is a hybrid car, which can run on either electricity or gasoline.
A dual fuel generator can be more eco-friendly.
Natural gas burns cleaner than diesel, so a mixed fuel can offer lower emissions than a generator powered solely by diesel. Without investing in a new genset, you could meet guidelines for non-emergency use. This could qualify your facility for cost-saving peak shaving and other helpful non-emergency use situations.
There are other benefits of a dual fuel generator.
Other potential benefits of a dual fuel generator include the availability of natural gas. Most industrial businesses already have a natural gas supply available nearby. This supply does not need to be stored on site, which eliminates the maintenance and space associated with large diesel fuel tanks. In the case of an emergency situation, this natural gas will likely still be available, helping diesel stores (which can be difficult to replace during emergencies) last longer. Natural gas is also currently less expensive than diesel.
Because natural gas burns cleaner than diesel, less routine maintenance of oil and other generator components is required.
Dual fuel generators have disadvantages too.
Natural gas’ makeup can differ greatly based on your geographic location and the fuel’s source. This can affect the performance of a dual fuel generator. It can also be costly to convert a diesel generator to run off of multiple fuels. Depending on the age of the generator and its usage, this cost may not be recognized over time in fuel savings.