MadSci Network: Engineering

Re: Why is natural gas better than diesel as a fuel for electricity

Date: Wed Jun 28 10:11:15 2006
Posted By: Ves Childs, Staff, inventor, electrochemistry, 3M retired
Area of science: Engineering
ID: 1150906856.Eg

Is the generation of electricity using natural gas as the energy source more efficient than using 
diesel fuel as the energy source?

If the efficiencies are based solely on the heat content of the fuel, current technology diesel engines 
are more efficient at producing electrical power than are current technology natural gas engines.  
New technology natural gas engines that operate at higher pressures promise better efficiencies.

Why is natural gas better than diesel fuel for the generation of electricity?  

In your situation natural gas is better than diesel fuel for the generation of electricity because it is 
cheaper to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity with natural gas than with diesel fuel.  The cost of 
producing electricity would include capital charges (engine, generator, fuel storage, and stored 
fuel), maintenance charges, and the cost of delivered fuel. 

Other factors, such as the reliability of the supporting infrastructure must be considered.  You write 
that mains power is unreliable.  Using diesel fuel stored on-site would be more reliable than natural 
gas delivered through a vulnerable pipeline, but I am sure that school management has taken that 
into consideration.

This is a fairly sophisticated reference.

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