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Performance evaluation of an advanced air-fuel ratio controller on a stationary, rich-burn natural gas engine




Kochuparampil, Roshan Joseph, author
Olsen, Daniel, advisor
Hagen, Christopher, committee member
Sharvelle, Sybil, committee member

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The advent of an era of abundant natural gas is making it an increasingly economical fuel source against incumbents such as crude oil and coal, in end-use sectors such as power generation, transportation and industrial chemical production, while also offering significant environmental benefits over these incumbents. Equipment manufacturers, in turn, are responding to widespread demand for power plants optimized for operation with natural gas. In several applications such as distributed power generation, gas transmission, and water pumping, stationary, spark-ignited, natural gas fueled internal combustion engines (ICEs) are the power plant of choice (over turbines) owing to their lower equipment and operational costs, higher thermal efficiencies across a wide load range, and the flexibility afforded to end-users when building fine-resolution horsepower topologies: modular size increments ranging from 100 kW - 2 MW per ICE power plant compared to 2 - 5 MW per turbine power plant. Under the U.S. Environment Protection Agency's (EPA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (RICE NESHAP) air quality regulations, these natural gas power plants are required to comply with stringent emission limits, with several states mandating even stricter emissions norms. In the case of rich-burn or stoichiometric natural gas ICEs, very high levels of sustained emissions reduction can be achieved through exhaust after-treatment that utilizes Non Selective Catalyst Reduction (NSCR) systems. The primary operational constraint with these systems is the tight air-fuel ratio (AFR) window of operation that needs to be maintained if the NSCR system is to achieve simultaneous reduction of carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), total hydrocarbons (THC), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and formaldehyde (CH2O). Most commercially available AFR controllers utilizing lambda (oxygen) sensor feedback are unable to maintain engine AFR within the required range owing to drift in sensor output over time. In this thesis, the emissions compliance performance of an AFR controller is evaluated over a 6-month period on an engine driving a gas compressor in an active natural gas production field. This AFR controller differentiates itself from other commercially available products by employing a lambda sensor that has been engineered against sensor drift, making it better suited for natural gas engine applications. Also included in this study are the controller's responses to transient loads, diurnal performance, adaptability to seasonal variations in ambient temperature, fuel quality variations (in wellhead gas), engine health considerations for proper AFR control, and controller calibration sensitivity when replacing lambda sensors. During the first three months of operation and subsequent diurnal tests, the controller's performance as a multi-point AFR control system was consistent, demonstrating appropriate AFR adjustments to variation in engine operation, over a wide range of ambient conditions, despite high consumption rate of engine lubrication oil. For the remainder the test, the high levels of lubrication oil consumption, compromised the ability to verify controller performance.


2013 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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AFR control
three way catalyst
stationary industrial gas engine


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