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By Jeff Anderson
Cummins Power Generation
n late October, 2002, the Institution of
Engineers Australia gave a special
commendation to a 20 MW peaking plant
near Adelaide, Australia, highlighting the
work done by the generator manufacturer
and the engineering consultants in
meeting tough environmental standards.
Specifically, the award for environmental
excellence cited the reduction of the plants ground-
level NOx emissions to below proposed requirements
slated for introduction in Australia in 2008, six years
ahead of schedule.
Not only that, but the plant is also 80% quieter than
current statutory requirements for noise pollution.
The on-site noise level from the plant is as low as
65 dBA less than that of a passing truck or bus.
This new, award-winning peaking plant is not
powered by a gas turbine, gas engine generators or a
bank of fuel cells it is powered by diesel engines.
The new plant is easily the cleanest diesel power
station in Australia and is cleaner than many gas
turbine installations in that country.
This recent example illustrates that todays diesel
generating technology can
deliver clean, environmentally
friendly energy along with its
host of traditional attributes
such as proven reliability, low
life-cycle cost, high efficiency,
ready availability, ease of instal-
lation, operational flexibility,
and high quality electrical
performance. No wonder that
diesel generators remain the
number-one choice for standby and emergency
power systems, and are chosen for a steadily growing
number of utility peaking and distributed generation
applications. As a mature engine technology, diesels
offer these performance advantages over other prime
movers in addition to having a well-established service
and fuel supply infrastructure.
In response to international mandates for reduced
diesel emissions, manufacturers of diesel generator
sets have been developing engines that have lower
emissions and are more fuel-efficient than previous
designs. To meet Tier 1 emissions standards, NOx
emissions from stationary and mobile off-highway
diesel engines have been reduced 54% and PM emis-
sions have been reduced 70% compared to previous
uncontrolled engines.
Cummins diesel generators with
engines in the size range of 302 hp to 751 hp have
already met Tier 2 regulations on schedule, cutting
NOx by an additional 35% and reducing PM another
62% through improved engine design alone. To meet
proposed Tier 3 off-road emissions standards and even
more stringent standards in some locales, a number of
new emissions reduction strategies are being applied
to diesel powered generator sets to keep this highly
effective technology viable. These emissions control
strategies include:
More efficient combustion
Catalytic aftertreatment systems
Ultra-low sulfur fuels
These emissions reduction strategies will ensure that
diesel engine powered generator sets will remain
viable for standby, emergency and utility peaking
power well into the future.
Figure 1 summarizes the EPA emissions regulations for
mobile off-highway diesel engines for Tier 1, 2, 3, and 4
out to the year 2013. Tier 1 and 2 regulations are final,
and for Tier 3 the EPA staff recommended in June 2002
that the levels and timing of implementation remain as
shown in Figure 1. Tier 4 is speculative at this time and
will be under further review by the EPA with industry
and other groups. Cummins has released diesel genera-
tor sets that comply with the current Tier 1 and Tier 2
regulations and intends to continue to provide low-
emissions products on or ahead of the EPA schedule.
While some other generating technologies offer
advantages in the area of reduced emissions of some
pollutants and therefore require less remediation
than diesel diesel powered generator sets remain
popular for a number of compelling reasons.
I Mature Technology Invented and made practical
more than 100 years ago, diesel engine technology
today is a known quantity. With
many sophisticated manufacturers
pursuing parallel lines of develop-
ment, there is a high probability
that future emissions goals will
continue to be met economically.
I Cost At an installed cost of $200 - $300 per kW,
diesel powered generator sets have traditionally been
the lowest-cost solution for standby and emergency
power applications. In peaking or prime power appli-
cations up to several thousand hours per year, diesel
generator sets are also the most economical choice.
Even when the cost of new emissions control strategies
are factored in, diesel power is predicted to still offer
the lowest capital cost.
I Availability No other generating technology can
be ordered, installed and commissioned in as short a
time period as diesel. A mature service and fuel supply
infrastructure means that fuel and service are available
virtually everywhere at competitive prices.
I Efficiency The diesel engine has high thermal effi-
ciency in converting chemical energy into mechanical
energy, typically above 40%. This efficiency translates
into more kilowatt-hours per BTU of fuel input than
other electric generating technologies.
I Reliability Diesel generators provide the reliable
quick-start and load acceptance performance required
for standby and peaking generators, typically being
able to start cold and accept full load in one step.
Due to diesels rugged design, relatively low operating
speed, and fuel lubricity, large diesel engines can often
run 20,000 to 30,000 hours between major overhauls.
In multiple generator set installations, paralleling
enhances overall system reliability.
IFlexibility Diesel powered generator sets are
available in sizes from about 5 kW to several megawatts
in size. They are economically and operationally suited
for standby and emergency power, as well as high-hour
peaking or prime power. Containerized units up to
2 MW in size are portable and can be easily moved
on-site or to other sites to accommodate changes in
power requirements.
I Fuel Price Stability With
relatively stable fuel prices and
supplies, diesel generators provide
better operational and economic
certainty for power producers.
I Safety Having lower volatility
than either gasoline or natural gas, and a much higher
ignition temperature, diesel fuel is a more stable
commodity. In earthquake-prone areas of the world,
diesel is the preferred fuel because of the danger of
natural gas line ruptures or supply curtailments
during emergencies.
Diesel engine efficiency
translates into more
kilowatt-hours per BTU
of fuel input.
Figure 1
I Lower Emissions of Some Pollutants While diesel
engines produce higher amounts of NOx and PM
than some other prime movers and thus require
control strategies, they are also notable for their low
emissions of other pollutants such as carbon
monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC). Diesel
generators produce significantly less carbon dioxide
(CO2) per kilowatt-hour than generators powered
by gasoline, natural gas, or LP.
The real challenge in designing a clean diesel engine
has involved a trade-off between
NOx and PM emissions. Both
are linked by combustion
temperatures. For example, as
in-cylinder temperatures increase,
PM goes down but NOx goes up;
as temperatures decrease, NOx
goes down but PM goes up. The following control
strategies are all being used on the current generation
of clean diesel generator sets, and are primarily
concerned with optimizing the control of NOx and
PM either during combustion or after.
Engine modifications
All engine modification strategies have been aimed at
optimizing the combustion process while producing
the least amounts of both NOx and PM per unit of
power output. Following are the major strategies cur-
rently employed to achieve Tier 2 emissions standards:
I Electronic engine controls The
addition of electronic sensors and
microprocessor-based controls has
greatly improved fuel efficiency and
power output, while decreasing the
production of both NOx and PM.
By controlling fuel quantity, injection
timing, turbocharger boost pressure
and other factors, electronic engine
controls maintain optimum
combustion efficiencies by compensating for load,
temperature, fuel energy content, barometric
pressure and even engine wear.
I Injection systems Injection timing, injection
pressure, nozzle design and electronic injection
systems have all proved significant in controlling both
NOx and PM. Retardation of injection timing along
with increased injection pressure reduces NOx
without significantly increasing hydrocarbons (HC)
or PM. Higher injection pressures improve fuel
atomization and combustion chamber penetration
that simultaneously improve fuel economy while
reducing PM. Nozzle design is critical in controlling
fuel efficiency and HC production, and injectors are
now optimized for the combustion chamber geometry.
Electronic fuel injection systems such as the full
authority fuel injection system
used on Cummins QSK60, 2 MW
generator sets allow more precise
control of all the injection parame-
ters and results in lower emissions
and increased performance.
I Combustion chamber geometry The goal of
combustion chamber design has been to achieve the
optimum compression ratio while providing thorough
mixing of fuel and air prior to combustion. Current
designs that optimize the air swirl and turbulence
provide the best mixing and therefore the lowest
emissions consistent with high power output.
I Turbocharging systems All medium and large
diesel generator sets employ turbocharging to boost
power, improve combustion efficiency and reduce
emissions. The most sophisticated systems use after-
coolers water-cooled or air cooled heat exchangers
that increase the density of the charge air and
therefore increase specific power output.
I Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) EGR is a well-
proven method of reducing NOx in internal combus-
tion engines. By recycling a portion of the inert gasses
of the exhaust gas stream with incoming engine air,
combustion temperatures are reduced and therefore
so is NOx formation. While current emissions regula-
tions are being met without EGR at the present time,
it may be a strategy utilized for compliance with Tier
3 regulations that go into effect in 2006 for medium
sized generator sets. The technique has a dramatic
The real challenge in
designing a clean diesel engine
involves a trade-off between
NOx and PM emissions.
effect on NOx: EGR rates as low as 10% can reduce
NOx by 40% without having a significant effect on
PM formation or power output.
Aftertreatment strategies
Achievement of Tier 3 mobile off-highway levels of
NOx and PM are about the maximum limit for diesel
engine design improvements. To reach lower levels of
NOx and PM, various aftertreatments of exhaust
gasses will be necessary. While a number of emissions
control techniques show experimental promise, the
following strategies have already achieved a practical
level of commercialization in a variety of applications.
Most aftertreatment strategies require the use of
ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel (15 ppm) to prevent
contamination of the various catalysts.
IFurther NOx reduction with SCR Already available
on Cummins generator sets as a factory-integrated
option, SCR systems incorporating aqueous urea
injection into the exhaust stream passing over a suitable
catalyst have been shown to reduce NOx by up to 90%.
Systems consist of a SCR catalyst, urea injection system,
urea tank, pump, and a control system.
I Further Particulate Matter (PM) Reduction While
engine design modifications are helping to minimize
PM emissions, particulate matter (PM) traps are
available for installations operating in some non-
attainment areas. Diesel PM traps are designed to
physically capture visible smoke and soot from the
exhaust stream. They can either be simple mechanical
filters requiring frequent replacement, or they can be
catalytic filters that provide periodic or continuous
oxidation (regeneration) of the trapped particulates.
PM traps with continuous regeneration have already
been commercialized on transit buses and may begin
to be employed on stationary diesel engines in areas
with strict PM emissions regulations. Ultra-low sulfur
diesel fuel is needed to prevent contamination of the
conversion catalysts. However, PM reduction
efficiencies of up to 90% have been demonstrated.
With the technological advances being made in clean
diesel engine design, electronic engine controls and
aftertreatment strategies, it is clear that diesel engines
are not going the way of the dinosaurs anytime soon.
In fact, in the majority of standby, peaking power or
distributed generation applications, diesel will continue
to offer superior cost and performance advantages
over other generating technologies into the foreseeable
future. Diesel generators are already operating in
real-world applications with a minimal adverse impact
on the environment, proving that for clean diesel
generators, the future is indeed here.
1 The power station features 18 1.125 MW containerized diesel generator sets
from Cummins Power Generation with Cummins KTA50-G8 diesel engines and
factory-integrated selective catalytic reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment.
2 Analysis of Tier 3 Strategies, Cummins Power Generation, 2001.
3 DieselNet Technology Guide, Engine Design, August, 2001
Cummins Power Generation
1400 73rd Avenue N.E., Minneapolis, MN 55432
Phone: 763-574-5000, Fax: 763-574-5298
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2002 Cummins Power Generation