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Volvo launching 13-liter heavy-duty LNG engine with Westport HPDI injection in 2014; CNG and DME potential

Volvo Trucks plans to launch a 13-liter heavy-duty liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine featuring Westport high pressure direct injection (HPDI) technology for the North American market in 2014. (Earlier post.)

The engine’s advanced high pressure diesel ignition technology will provide significant fuel efficiency gains compared with current natural gas products, according to Volvo. Combined with its previously announced offering of compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Volvo VNM and VNL model daycabs, the new engine will provide customers with a range of natural gas-powered transportation solutions for different applications. Volvo is also testing another promising fuel that can be produced from natural gas, DME (dimethyl ether).

Through Westport’s advanced high pressure diesel ignition technology—using trace amounts of diesel to ignite the natural gas—Volvo’s LNG engine will deliver a 30% fuel efficiency improvement compared with spark-ignition (SI) engines, making it a viable alternative for demanding long-haul applications. The Volvo 13-liter LNG engine will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 20% compared with current diesel products.

The engine will accomplish these savings without sacrificing power, torque or fuel efficiency, all of which are critical attributes for on-highway operations.

As previously disclosed, under the terms of the agreement, each partner will contribute significant resources and pay for its own people and costs of the program. Westport will lead the program. When the product is launched, Westport will supply its HD system components for an agreed upon amount per engine, comparable to other such arrangements previously announced.

The Volvo Group was the number one supplier of 13-liter heavy-duty engines to the combined US and Canadian market last year. The company’s proprietary Volvo I-Shift automated mechanical transmission also will be available for customers to specify.

Despite the near-term infrastructure questions regarding widespread adoption of natural gas as a heavy-duty truck fuel, it’s clear this segment will grow over the next several years. We’re already delivering factory-built CNG-powered trucks, and as the long-haul fueling infrastructure develops, the advanced technology in our new LNG engine will provide increased range and improved fuel efficiency in a seamlessly integrated Volvo powertrain.

—Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales & Marketing

CNG for closed-loop and delivery applications. CNG can be an attractive solution for customers operating in localized or closed-loop applications, Volvo said. To meet current demand, Volvo offers the CNG-powered VNM daycab equipped with a factory-installed Cummins ISL G engine.

The company also recently announced that it is operating natural gas-powered VNL demonstrator trucks. The larger, more robust VNL model features a 12-liter Cummins-Westport ISX12 G gas engine. Factory production of the natural gas-powered VNL daycab will begin in conjunction with commercial availability of the 12-liter gas engine in early 2013. These heavy-duty engines feature maintenance-free aftertreatment, requiring only a three-way catalyst to meet EPA 2010 emissions standards.

DME shows promise in customer tests. The Volvo Group has conducted hundreds of thousands of miles of customer field testing of trucks equipped with DME, which can be produced from natural gas. The strong results—from ten vehicles operating in a variety of applications in Europe—indicate DME holds much promise as a heavy-truck fuel, and could become a viable alternative in North America to CNG or LNG when it comes to performance, environmental impact, safety and distribution, according to Volvo.

DME mirrors the performance qualities and energy efficiency of diesel while significantly reducing GHG emissions. It is an excellent compression ignition fuel which, like diesel, requires no separate ignition mechanism. Unlike LNG, it does not require cryogenic temperatures; it is handled like propane, with tank pressures of 75 psi (vs. 3,000 psi for CNG), and it is non-toxic. DME burns with a blue flame and requires no diesel particulate filter. DME packages densely enough to allow long range transports or to allow room for vocational truck equipment on the frame.



The use of diesel fuel for ignition requires a second injection system, adding cost and complexity.

Conventional spark ignition won't do, but one has to wonder about the capabilities of corona ignition as a substitute.  If it can provide the same performance, it would certainly do it at a large improvement in cost and ease of repair.

Nick Lyons

DME from CH4 looks really promising to me as an automotive fuel, especially for long-haul trucks. Energy losses in conversion may be as low as 10%, which with the current low NG prices means a much cheaper, cleaner-burning, domestically sourced fuel. Need to get those fracking regulations tightened up, however...


Losses for DME are a lot higher than that.  Oxidizing methane to MeOH drops the heating value from 889 kJ/mol to 726, and conversion of MeOH to DME is exothermic too.

DME as the ignition fuel with NG as the main fuel avoids most of the energy penalty.


This is too costly and difficult to implement, it won't work. It take and natural gas infrastructure as these truck travel far so they will need diesel too. So in reality this is a mess and an impossible project.

Roger Pham

Actually, only a single injector is used that combines both LNG and diesel fuel. Quite clever, ain't it?

@A D,
Too costly? What is more costly is the continuous use of diesel fuel. NG is much cheaper.
New NG infrastructure can be built to be H2-compatible for future delivery of H2, so that NO new H2 infrastructure will be necessary upon the conversion to the eventual H2 economy. Even more clever, ain't it?


Delivering the same energy as H2 requires about 3x the volume of gas to be delivered, so no, Roger, I don't think your claim of no new infrastructure is realistic.

Roger Pham

So, in constructing an H2-compatible pipeline, you make the pipe bigger than would be required of NG, to accomodate the larger volume of H2 in the future. Most of the cost of pipeline is from labor, planning, right-of-way, while material cost is only a small proportion. Making the pipe bigger would incur only a modest increase in cost. H2 utilization at end-user level is more efficient, for example, home or building CHP FC, and FCV, so it would offset the energy cost in comparison to NG.

Overall cost from future renewable-energy H2 will get lower than NG at a certain point in time given the trend that renewable energy will cost less and less since it is an inexhaustible source, while fossil-fuel will cost more and more being, a finite resource that will be harder and harder to extract.


Even if that's true, you'd still have to (more than) triple the capacity of the existing pipeline network, and come up with the greater pumping power to deal with the increased losses.

HVDC lossess are smaller than NG pipelines, let alone H2.  I don't see H2 happening.  It's far easier to store CO2 than H2, and we can transform CO2 to methane or alcohols and back again with relative ease.  H2 is doing things the hard way.



Is it correct comparison units kJ/mol? On my knowledge the amount of mol depends on chemical reaction formula. Besides DME easy could be produced from coal, methanol or biomass and even blended at some extent with LPG. On other hand I do not have any feeling what LNG losses are related to cryogenic cooling and keeping contained in the fuel tanks. Ofcourse CH4 could be produced from biomass as well but that is very complicated process.
DME issue is very intriguing and it bothers me - why it is so little attention on this site when H2 madness is in circulation every day? Are Sweeden and China seriously considering shifting their heavy duty vehicles to DME? DME vs CNG and DME vs LNG comparison would be of great benefit.

Is it correct comparison units kJ/mol?
If you're producing it from CH4, it is; one mol of CH4 can produce one mol of MeOH, at most.

CH4 can be produced from biomass by anaerobic fermentation.  This also produces CO2 and other things, such as in landfill gas.

I think DME gets short shrift here because it's essentially diesel fuel and thus not big prospect for R&D money.

Roger Pham


"...H2 madness...?"

With global temperature escalating within the latest decade that coincide with escalation in CO2 release from developing economies, GHG's will have to be phased out in the near future, and that include CO2 and methane (NG and biomethane). Significant leakage from NG pipeline system will have serious consequence by causing further global warming.
That means that H2 from renewable energy will be left standing. With all the knowledge about H2 handling and technologies for production of H2 from renewable energy, we will be in good shape.

BTW, compressed H2 can be substituted for LNG in this HPDI technology. Gaseous H2 injector can incorporate about 5% of diesel fuel and released all in one jet at TDC to accomplish diesel-initiated compression ignition of H2 gaseous fuel. Instead of 18:1 compression ratio, the CR can be reduced down to 12-14 because of the introduction of significant volume of H2 (15%-30% of air volume, depending on equivalence ratio) at TDC. This reduces work of compression while allowing the high pressure of compressed H2 to do work on the piston, partially recuperating the work required to compress the H2. With good turbocharging and turbo-compounding system we may see break efficiencies as high as 50-60% tank-to-shaft for heavy-duty application.

With all the talk of global warming, what are we going to do about it, except kept bad-mouthing H2?


And where's this H2 going to come from again, Roger?

Roger Pham

Again, E-P, H2 will come from renewable energy (moments of surplus of solar, wind or even nuclear energy). Use CNG for now, then, when NG will be phased out, use H2 instead. H2-compatible CNG injectors and H2-compatible NG equipments can be used with H2 later. A wisely-planned NG infrastructure that is designed to be H2-compatible will not need to be changed to handle H2 in the future.
However, switching from CNG to H2 will require lowering of engine compression ratio due to the larger volume of H2 injection needed. Therefore, CIDI engine that is designed to be run on both NG or H2 without modification will need a variable compression mechanism. A variable-duration intake valve mechanism can be used to adjust CR, or a more complex VCR mechanism can be used to avoid power loss in the former method.
Truckers driving over remote areas without frequent H2 filling stations may opt to fill up with CNG and pay a price premium (tax), while those who are more price concious can fill up with H2 at lower cost.

It may sound ludicrous now to say that H2 will eventually be less expensive than NG, but one can recall the very high prices of CFC for recharging A/C system after CFC was being phased out due to environmental concern.

H2 will come from renewable energy (moments of surplus of solar, wind or even nuclear energy).
People keep saying this, but I want convincing facts.  For instance, maybe microbial electrolysis can leverage biomass plus modest amounts of electricity to make sufficient hydrogen.  I want to see what the numbers look like.
Use CNG for now, then, when NG will be phased out, use H2 instead.
The problem is if the H2 doesn't pan out, you're stuck with NG.  I want to see the data that makes the case for H2, and mere calculations of how much a given area of land used for RE capture can produce doesn't make it for me.  H2 requires water and other things too, and if it's going to be stored there has to be something about that too.
Roger Pham

There have been articles here in GCC that showed how surplus wind and solar electricity used to make H2 to be stored in the existing NG pipeline system. You can look in topics section and look for H2.

Now, if the entire NG pipeline and underground cavern system is upgraded to make it 100% H2 compatible, then we will just simply replace the NG with H2 gradually. Commercial-grade electrolyzers now exist to produce H2 from grid electricity. The H2 can be produced already compressed to several thousand psi without using mechanical compressor. H2 production requires water, but so do all living things. Where there will be living things, there will be sources of water.

The technical issues involving H2 storage and pipeline have been solved by the petroleum refining industry that requires a lot of H2 in the hydro-cracking of petroleum sludge and petroleum tar (from tar sand) to produce liquid fuels, and in the production of ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuel that is required for modern transportation.

The next logical step is to bypass all these complexities of petroleum refining and just use the ultra-pure, FC-grade raw H2 straight from the electrolyzers. The electrolyzers can be placed anywhere as long as there are electricity. Modern human cannot function without electricity.

There have been articles here in GCC that showed how surplus wind and solar electricity used to make H2 to be stored in the existing NG pipeline system.
Not really applicable, Roger.  It's not "stored", it's more or less dumped there.  It's a one-way operation, going from production to uses without any potential for storage.  It reduces the energy/volume of the gas, and the admixture is limited by the need to keep the bulk gas density high enough for the centrifugal pipeline compressors to function (unless it's purely local).

I can see this being a great way to use byproduct hydrogen from industrial operations like chloralkalai plants, but it bears no resemblance to a piece of an actual RE hydrogen economy.

Commercial-grade electrolyzers now exist to produce H2 from grid electricity.
At what cost?  What's the crossover point where it beats steam-methane reforming?

That's the point, Roger:  hydrogen has been another stalling tactic by the fossil fuel industry (like Cobasys), and a commitment to H2 could be falling for a Trojan horse.

Roger Pham

The H2 can be stored in existing NG well once the NG pipeline will be made 100% H2 compatible.

At what cost for H2 produced from renewable energy? At $.04 per kWh of electricity, H2 will cost around $2 per GGe, including the depreciation cost of the electrolyzer, which does not require precious metal and hence can be made cheaply. To calculate the cost of H2 from fossil fuels, one must add the external costs of environmental and climatic destruction, economic disruption due to energy shortages from geopolitical disruption, and preservation of the world-wide unemployment crises.

Hydrogen from renewable energy is the future of humanity, for at least 3 purposes: Energy security, Job creation, and Environmental preservation.

Roger Pham

I must add Economic Stability as another purpose of moving to H2 from renewable energy.


It would take a heck of a lot more storage than we use now, both because hydrogen stores about 1/3 as much energy as NG per unit volume and you're implying a large increase in consumption as well as substantial seasonal variations in production.

There's also the issue that the geology suitable for such storage is a regional phenomenon, while the use of H2 as the universal vehicle fuel requires that it be distributed everywhere.  This means a lot of pumping losses to and from the storage area, overhead that's exacerbated by the greater pumping work required to move hydrogen compared to NG (as a fraction of its energy).

When you add all of those things up, you've got a really good case for just reforming NG.  That's why I think H2 is the gas industry's trojan horse.

If you really want to get rid of fossil fuels, nuclear power is the way.  There's no economic case for steam-reforming natural gas to electricity.

Roger Pham

Yes, H2 is 3x more bulkier than NG per unit energy. However, an all-renewable energy economy will use direct sun and wind electricity whenever possible, greatly reducing the amount of stored fuel like NG is used now for ~50-60% of electricity generation. Large regional grids will be connected by HVDC lines, so that excess electricity in one region will flow to another, such that stored H2 will be a last resort. Cloudy eastern regions will receive electricity from the sunny west. Grid-size battery storage like LiFePO4 or flow batteries will bridge the gap between day and night and windy vs calm days, such that stored H2 is really reserved only for a long stretch of rainy and calm days, and for winter use.

The pumping loss of H2 can be reduced by the use of large pipes. A pipe of 3x the cross sectional area is needed to ensure no increase in flow velocity. 3x increase in cross sectional area will only have 1.7 the increase in circumferential surface area and hence only 1.7x the frictional drag. Now, if H2 is consumed at much less than 57% the rate of NG utilization, then there will be no increase in pumping loss.

Cost is a better overall deciding factor. As long as it cost less to use H2, then why not? If one add the external cost factors to fossil fuels, then which will be less costly? H2 or fossil fuels?


Using larger pipes means you have to spend the money for larger pipes.  You can't win that one; Nature has the last word.

As for the relative merits of H2 versus molecules containing carbon, I'd like to continue the discussion here.

Mr Red Rose120

this is nice post and having a good status in the market, it is also called a house of knowledge,

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