The U.S. electric grid continues to evolve from a centralized generation and transmission system to one in which a variety of distributed generation technologies will be utilized. Natural gas generators are projected to increase in usage because they burn cleaner than diesel, use a lower cost fuel, and the fuel is readily available. Distributed generation allows users to produce electricity at the point of consumption and can sometimes take advantage of waste heat for space heating. Distributed electricity generation technologies are, however, currently not efficient enough to be cost competitive across the board. There is therefore an opportunity in developing technologies that increase the efficiency of electricity generation, including in peaker plants, from natural gas-fueled engines.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Cummins Corporate Research & Technology will develop an advanced high efficiency natural gas-fueled internal combustion engine for high-power distributed electricity generation. The team is seeking to achieve 55% brake thermal efficiency while maintaining low exhaust emissions. The enabling technology is wet compression, where fine droplets of water are sprayed directly into the engine cylinders, causing the charge temperature to drop and thereby prevent the onset of damaging engine knock at high compression ratios. Since it takes less energy to compress cooler air, the savings from reduced compression work can be passed on to increase the net engine output. Wet compression is a transformative technology that dramatically improves engine efficiency while still allowing for conventional engine manufacturing methods at existing facilities.
If successful, Cummins Corporate Research & Technology will develop a natural gas-fueled internal combustion engine for distributed electricity generation with the goal of achieving 55% efficiency while maintaining low emissions.
Increased distributed generation has the potential to enhance energy security in the U.S. by limiting grid-scale vulnerabilities, and helping large energy consumers to become more energy self-reliant and less susceptible to outages.
High efficiency NG engines for stationary power generation will reduces emissions leading to better air quality.
Developing this technology within a U.S. company will ensure a technological lead in engine design and manufacturing. Cost-effective NG-fueled power plants could offer consumers lower electricity and heating costs.