3 factors why you should choose diesel over natural gas generator
Always choose diesel over natural gas generator
Recently a new friend of mine which is a Marketing Guru was asking whether he should buy a natural gas or diesel generator. And I tell him he should choose diesel over natural gas generator. So in case that I am getting old and will forgot some of my experience, let me write it here the 3 factors why you should choose diesel over natural gas generator.
Factor #1 – Availability in Domestic Market.
When you are buying a generator and you are choosing the type of fuel that you want to use, always go with those that is easily available in the domestic market. With fuel that easily available, you don’t have problems to get the stocks from the nearest town if that fuel is not available in your town. So in this case it should be Diesel.
Let me take an example in Malaysia. Fuel that are easily available in Malaysia is Diesel and Petrol. Both of these fuel has a long history in domestic market in Malaysia. So if you buy a diesel generator, you can easily get the supply whenever you need the fuel. But let’s imagine that you take a natural gas generator, you put it in your building, and then suddenly there is a problem with your supply chain, how are you going to refill your gas tank if that happen?
Factor #2 – You only need a tank!
Normal diesel generators only require you to have a main diesel storage tank, secondary diesel buffer tank and then the generator diesel tank. It is a simple composition of tank and you can even make it simpler by removing the secondary diesel buffer tank and pump the diesel directly from the main diesel storage tank to the generator diesel tank but of course I wouldn’t recommend that since in secondary diesel buffer tank you need to have a better filtration system so that the fuel that going to your diesel engine is much more reliable.
As for natural gas generator, from my past experience working with a Palm Oil company who have successfully run their own biogas reactor with biogas engine to generate 4MW electricity which is supplied to the local Grid, it will requires you to install a tank for gas storage and around 100m in length of pipeline for the gas supply which connect the biogas reactor with the gas storage. Plus it have equipment such as Chiller, Desulphurization Tower and some other complicated digital equipment to measure the gas purity before supplying gas to the Gas Generator. And this is the same for a natural gas supply to your generator. You will need a gas storage tank and a long pipeline from the gas producer (who already purify your gas supply) to your gas storage tank and from your gas storage tank to your gas generator. Can you imagine how long it could be? It might be a few miles unless the gas producer is just beside your place, which I hope did not happen since the environment beside a gas producer has very high risk.
Long story short, when you have natural gas, your initial cost for installation will be higher. Believe me it will be higher in long term since you have power supply from grid which is way cheaper and you only use the generators once in a blue moon (unless your grid power supplier is not reliable)
Factor #3 – Fuel Quality
I got no experience from receiving natural gas from a gas producer but I have experience in receiving biogas directly from the biogas reactor. Gas that is generated naturally (natural gas or biogas or other type of gas) contains impurities such as Hydrogen sulfide. This impurities is very corrosive to metal. Thus the general concept is to have this impurities as low as possible. Remember when I said I work in a Palm oil company which has a biogas generator? I was there to overlook the recovery of the biogas reactor and flare, installation and commissioning of biogas generator and then I was transferred to another mill right before the official declaration of smooth running of the biogas generator and supply to the grid (first palm oil successfully completed it), which of course the gas engine has run more or less around 6 months (if I remember correctly). The generator at first is running not really well. Along the period of commissioning we face gas quality problem which causes the generator to suddenly stop a few times and of course we also face some PLC problem along the way. And then finally we are able to work on achieving the standard which then helps the generator to run smoothly. After few years period, after I was transferred to another mill and then resign for a job in my hometown. I heard the news of the generator is broken. I could not remember the details very well but it cause the generator need to be overhaul. Yes overhaul which cost around $50,000 or RM200,000 (as I heard from a third man story). At first I was expecting overload of the generator but thinking on the PLC part, it should be working very well. And I came to the conclusion of the problem with the gas quality which has lots of human factors involves since we are generating our own gas fuel supply.
So from that story, it shows that there is a risk with the gas purity which could cost a fortune. While the production technology is still quite new compare to diesel production technology, it is expected that the gas purity is not fully reliable. Imagine if the gas generator keep receiving dirty natural gas. It will of course stop operating and over time the generator will face some bad consequences itself. On the other hand as for diesel engine, which have more than a century history. It’s advancement is really far ahead thus making it a reliable source of fuel.
So you should choose diesel over natural gas generator
Following the 3 factors, finally the decision making time. It will always be depending on what you think and how the sales engineer were persuading you which fuel to use. But for this time, I would recommend you to choose diesel over natural gas generator. It’s simply because using gas generator is simple.
An additional note for you, take a look on the safety side. Don’t you think it is dangerous to have pipeline either above ground or underground along few miles away?