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California Energy Commission to award up to $2.25M for R&D on advanced ignition systems for Class 3-8 natural gas engines

The California Energy Commission has issued a funding notice (PON-14-501) to support the applied research and development of advanced high-energy ignition systems capable of overcoming the challenges of igniting natural gas fuel under high boost pressures with heavy exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) for spark-ignited Class 3-8 engines.

Ignition characteristics of natural gas fuel represent challenges to engine manufacturers working to satisfy tighter emission standards, achieve lower fuel consumption and higher engine performance, and respond to market demand for extended maintenance options. Funded projects must involve the development and demonstration of one or both of the following concepts for new or existing ignition systems:

  • Advanced functionality of natural gas ignition under high boost pressure and heavy EGR conditions to facilitate the development of engines with lower NOx and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and

  • Advanced durability of ignition components to allow longer maintenance intervals comparable to diesel engine operation.

Eligible projects are encouraged to maximize benefits as follows:

  • Improvements in durability of ignition components to better compete with the longer maintenance intervals of diesel engines in the same application and same duty cycle.
  • Show how the proposed new ignition technology will facilitate improved fuel efficiency to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Show how the proposed new ignition technology will facilitate engine development to exceed California Air Resources Board (CARB) heavy duty on road emission certification requirements.
  • Demonstrate ability to achieve an emission target of 0.02 g/bhp-hr NOx.

Examples of technologies recommended for eligible projects include but are not limited to the following:

  • Development of laser ignition components and systems.
  • Development of pre-chamber ignition system for advanced engines with dedicated EGR.
  • Development of high frequency modulated ignition systems.
  • Development of microwave ignition systems.
  • Development of plasma ignition systems.

Selected projects will be funded under the PIER Natural Gas program, which is funded by a ratepayer surcharge on all natural gas consumed in California. Program funds for Fiscal Year 2013-14 total $24 million, 17% of which will be allocated for natural gas-related transportation research.

There is up to $2,250,000 available for grants awarded under this solicitation. The minimum funding amount for each project is $500,000. The maximum funding amount is $750,000.

Background. One approach to heavy‐duty natural gas engine technology is to use spark‐ignition of a stoichiometric mixture with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to suppress NOx emissions. This design permits the use of a three‐way catalyst (TWC) for after‐treatment as opposed to the more costly selective catalytic reduction (SCR) with urea.

Policy‐driven high‐efficiency goals have forced engine developers to use higher turbo charger boost levels to achieve increased engine performance, but these high boost levels produce increased NOx emissions. Consequently, to suppress the increase in NOx, high rates of EGR are necessary but pose challenges to engine ignition systems.

Although engine manufacturers have developed higher energy ignition systems, these continue to be a barrier to achieving ultra‐low emission levels that exceed current regulated standards, particularly with NOx emissions. Current ignition systems in natural gas engines are also experiencing premature wear, leading to replacement of spark plugs and spark plug wiring in shorter time intervals compared to conventional‐fueled engines.




OK but why with government (tax payers) $$$.


...which is funded by a ratepayer surcharge on all natural gas consumed in California.

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