Inside GE’s multimillion dollar single-cell test rig, scientists are working on advanced combustion and engine studies for the locomotives of the future. One of the principal programs is development of an engine that can run on both natural gas and diesel fuel. By incorporating natural gas as an engine fuel, the opportunities to reduce emissions and save on fuel costs are tremendous. The estimated fuel savings for dual-fuel locomotives running on diesel piloted NG could be as high as $300,000/year/locomotive—a substantial figure that’s sure to benefit customers in a meaningful way.
Aside from the cost savings, there are the environmental benefits. With LNG, NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions are lower, thus providing an alternate path to attain Tier 4 standards set by the federal government. GE engineers are currently testing a fuel mixture that is 80% LNG, and 20% diesel using existing engine hardware.
GE engineers continue to address several challenges as they work to refine the dual-fuel technology. Knock detection and mitigation strategies will be key to engine implementation, as will the need for enhanced combustion modeling. Different experimental and analytical tools are enabling GE engineers to learn more about how NG and diesel interact in a dual-fuel combustion scenario so advances can be made to optimize engine performance. Taken together, the wealth of information gathered through this phase of the research could enable faster deployment of new systems and expanded use of dual-fuel on new engines. GE’s single-cylinder test cell will be a critical proving ground in this process.
GE is expected to test dual-fuel engines and conduct trial runs through 2015, with full production targeted for 2016.