Westport and GTI awarded $900,000 to advance natural gas combustion technology; ESI with high frequency corona discharge ignition
Westport Innovations Inc., together with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), has been awarded US$900,000 towards a program to advance state-of-the-art natural gas combustion technology. The work will feature Westport’s enhanced spark ignited (ESI) natural gas engine technology (earlier post) with the integration and demonstration of high frequency corona discharge ignition on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner’s engine. The engine has a displacement of between 1 and 1.5 liters per cylinder and is targeted at medium-duty commercial vehicle applications.
Using 100% dedicated natural gas as fuel, Westport’s ESI technology optimizes the combustion and thermal efficiencies of the engine by taking full advantage of the ultra-high octane performance fuel properties of natural gas. The technology enables a “downsized” natural gas solution that is cost-competitive while providing similar levels of power, torque, and fuel economy to a larger diesel engine.
Unlike conventional systems, which initiate combustion by a spark, high frequency corona discharge ignition generates an extended corona discharge in the combustion chamber; under such conditions, even extremely lean fuel-air mixes are reliably ignited. BorgWarner, for one, is commercializing such a system under the name EcoFlash.
Westport ESI technology allows, for the first time, a spark-ignited natural gas engine to exceed the performance of a comparable state-of-the-art diesel engine. Next generation natural gas engines of this class will be smaller, lighter, lower cost and have even higher performance than modern diesel engines because we can exploit the advantages of natural gas as a high performance fuel with naturally lower emissions challenges.
This new program builds on our ESI foundation by integrating corona discharge ignition technology, which opens a number of new opportunities for even higher engine performance, efficiency and reliability at lower maintenance costs than current spark ignition hardware. We would expect that, if this program is successful, Westport ESI systems integrating corona discharge technology could become commercially available in as soon as four years.—Brad Douville, Vice President Business Development for Westport
Of the total program funding, $750,000 is coming from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and $150,000 is being provided by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas). Westport will contribute approximately $250,000 in additional funds for a total of $1.15 million.
BorgWarner whitepaper: “High-frequency Ignition System Based on Corona Discharge”