Natural gas has been widely used in reciprocating engines for various applications such as automobile, electricity generation, and gas compression. It is in the public interest to burn fuels more efficiently and at lower exhaust emissions. Natural gas is very suitable to serve this purpose due to its clean combustion, small carbon footprint, and, with recent breakthroughs in drilling technologies, increased availability and low cost. Natural gas can be used in lean burn spark ignited (LBSI) or stoichiometric EGR spark ignited (SESI) engines. Selection of either LBSI or SESI requires accommodation of requirements such as power output/density, engine efficiency, emissions, knock margin, and cost. The work described in this paper investigated the feasibility of operating an engine originally built as an LBSI under SESI conditions.

Analytical tools and workflow developed by Cummins, Inc. are used in this study. The tools require fundamental combustion properties as inputs, including laminar flame speed (LFS), adiabatic flame temperature (AFT) and autoignition interval (AI). These parameters provide critical information about combustion duration, engine out NOx, and relative knock propensity. An existing LBSI engine operating at its as released lambda was selected as baseline. The amount of EGR for the SESI configuration was selected so that it would have the same combustion duration as that of the LBSI at its reference lambda. One dimensional (1D) cycle simulations were conducted under both SESI and LBSI conditions assuming constant output power, compression ratio, volumetric efficiency, heat release centroid and brake mean effective pressure (BMEP). The 1D cycle simulations provide peak cylinder pressure (PCP) and peak unburned zone temperature (PUZT) under LBSI and SESI conditions. The results show that the SESI configuration has lower PCP but higher peak unburned zone temperature than that of the LBSI for the same output power. Also, for the same combustion duration, SESI has higher AFT than that of LBSI, resulting in higher engine out NOx emissions. The SESI configuration has shorter AI than that of LBSI engine, or smaller relative knock margin. Reduction of output power and emissions aftertreatment in the form of a three way catalyst (TWC) is required to operate under SESI engine conditions.

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