Large natural gas engines are durable and cost-effective generators of power for distributed energy applications. Fuel efficiency is an important aspect of distributed generation since operating costs associated with fuel consumption are the major component of energy cost on a life-cycle basis; furthermore, higher fuel efficiency results in lower CO2 emissions. Leaner operation of natural gas engines can result in improved fuel efficiency; however, engine operation becomes challenging at leaner air-to-fuel ratios due to several factors. One factor in combustion control is ignition. At lean air-fuel mixtures, reliable and repeatable ignition is necessary to maintain consistent power production from the engine, and spark plug quality and durability play an important role in reliability of ignition. Here research of a novel spark plug design for lean natural gas engines is presented. The spark plug is an annular gap spark plug with a permanent magnet that produces a magnetic field that forces the spark to rotate during spark discharge. The rotating arc spark plug (RASP) has the potential to improve ignition system reliability and durability. In the study presented here, the RASP plug was operated in a small natural gas engine, and combustion stability (measured by the coefficient of variation of indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP)) was measured as a function of air-to-fuel ratio to characterize the ignition performance at lean mixtures. Comparisons were made to a standard J-plug spark plug.

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