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Reciprocating engines

A reciprocating engine is an engine that uses one or more pistons in order to

convert pressure into rotational motion. They use the reciprocating (up-and-down) motion of
the pistons to translate this energy. There are many different types, including the internal
combustion engine which is used in most motor vehicles, the Steam engine which is a type
of external combustion engine, and the Stirling engine. These engines share common
characteristics but vary extremely differently in their functioning, providing many different
advantages and disadvantages.

How it works

All types have one or more pistons, which follow the four-stroke cycle visible in Figure 1.
Common engine block configurations include a single row of cylinders (in-line), two rows
converging to a point (V-engine), a double zigzag (W-engine) and two horizontal rows (opposed
engine).[1] The engines mentioned above (internal combustion, steam, Stirling) all use
somewhat different processes to complete the cycle, so the general case will be explored.

1. To begin the cycle, a fuel mixture is introduced inside the cylinder through the intake
port, expanding the piston to the bottom of the cylinder.
2. The piston then gets pushed to the top, compressing the fuel mixture and igniting it via
the spark plug.
3. The ignition pushes the piston downwards providing useful work to the engine.
4. The waste chemicals get output through the exhaust port and the cycle repeats.

Figura 1: Motor reciprocante. El cigüeñal (rojo) convierte movimiento alternativo de los pistones (gris), que a menudo se
combina con un volante (negro).

Fuente: Educación energética, Universidad de Calgary

Gas turbine engines

Both piston (reciprocating) engines and gas turbine engines are internal combustion engines.
They have a similar cycle of operation that consists of induction, compression, combustion,
expansion, and exhaust. In a piston engine, each of these events is a separate distinct
occurrence in each cylinder. Also, in a piston engine an ignition event must occur during each
cycle, in each cylinder. Unlike reciprocating engines, in gas turbine engines these phases of
power occur simultaneously and continuously instead of one cycle at a time. Additionally,
ignition occurs during the starting cycle and is continuous thereafter.
The basic gas turbine engine contains four sections: intake, compression, combustion, and

Figura 2: Componentes básicos del motor de turbina de gas

Fuente: Educación energética, Universidad de Calgary

To start the engine, the compressor section is rotated by an electrical starter on small engines
or an air driven starter on large engines. As compressor r.p.m. accelerates, air is brought in
through the inlet duct, compressed to a high pressure, and delivered to the combustion section
(combustion chambers). Fuel is then injected by a fuel controller through spray nozzles and
ignited by igniter plugs. (Not all of the compressed air is used to support combustion. Some
of the compressed air bypasses the burner section and circulates within the engine to provide
internal cooling.) The fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber is then burned in a
continuous combustion process and produces a very high temperature, typically around
4,000°F, which heats the entire air mass to 1,600 – 2,400°F. The mixture of hot air and gases
expands and is directed to the turbine blades forcing the turbine section to rotate, which in
turn drives the compressor by means of a direct shaft. After powering the turbine section, the
high velocity excess exhaust exits the tail pipe or exhaust section. Once the turbine section is
powered by gases from the burner section, the starter is disengaged, and the igniters are
turned off. Combustion continues until the engine is shut down by turning off the fuel supply.

Technical Parameters Comparison

Tentative Plant Life Cycle Cost

While life cycle costs of any thermal power plant are vastly dependent on fuel cost,
appropriate reflection of the expected load profile need to be incorporated into any
comparison of various technological concepts. The number of full load hours and especially
the increasing amount of part load hours need to be forecasted as precise as possible,
however strictly individually. Conversion to full load equivalent hours tentatively includes the
risk of ignoring the efficiency losses factually occurring under part load operation. Whenever
limited overall operating hours and part load phases or even multiple starts and stops
dominate the load profile, a GT and/or combined cycle option may disqualify. Gas engine
maintenance costs often turn out to be lower than those for turbines, depending on actual
project parameters.
Project Site Ambient Air Temperature
For gas turbines, maximum power is often defined by maximum component temperature in
the turbine, permissible forces to the shaft, or the generator frame size. For gas engines,
maximum cooling water temperature often is the limiting factor. The gas engine output is
hardly affected by increases in ambient air temperature and stays at 100 percent up to around
38OC. When running a gas turbine, however, power output continuously decreases.
Plant Altitude over Sea Level
Figure 3 compares the plant altitude effects on the performance of gas engines versus gas
turbines. Again, the diagram duly takes into account the different "regular" ISO conditions for
gas engines as shown in the diagrams legend. The equipment behavior differs dramatically.
While engines offer full load output at any altitude up to 1,000 meter above sea level, the
industrial gas turbine's output decreases by 10 percent.
Plant Efficiency
Comparing both technologies under the same plant load, in single or combined cycle, helps
to understand the superior efficiency of the gas engines over operating time.
If we add the particular consideration of part load efficiencies for a single machine, we can
clearly see the efficiency difference between the competing technologies where the gas
engines are significantly less affected by reduced load demands.
Power Plant Footprint & Civil Works
Gas Engines are now available in up to 20.2MWe where a power plant of 100MW requires
an area of around 60mx60m. A gas turbine power plant can achieve ~100MW output by
installing 2x50MW units, which will install with a more compact foot print at subsequently
reduced civil works cost.


 Power engineering. (22/5/2015). Turbines vs. Reciprocating Engines.

22/7/2017, de Power engineering Sitio web: http://www.power-
 Universidad de Calgary. (11/5/2016). Reciprocating engine. 22/7/2017,
de Energy Education Sitio web:
 Universidad de Calgary. (5/4/2014). Motor de turbina de gas.
22/7/2017, de Energy Education Sitio web: