Computer-aided conversion of an engine from diesel to methane

Teresa Donateo, Federica Tornese, Domenico Laforgia (Università del Salento)

The paper proposes an analytical methodology that uses empirical based models and CFD simulations to efficiently evaluate design alternatives in the conversion of a diesel engine to either CNG dedicated or dual fuel engines.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) has a higher octane number than gasoline, is more economical than traditional fossil fuels due to its low production cost, and reduces air pollution significantly. Moreover, CNG contains neither lead nor benzene and greenhouse gases emission from combustion of CNG is about 25% lower than that of gasoline.

Nomenclature of the combustion chamber and its corresponding computational grid

Two engine configurations have been taken into account in the present investigation to underline the challenge of the conversion process. Engine A is under conversion from directed injection diesel combustion to CNG dedicated to be used for cogeneration purpose. In the present investigation, therefore, it will be simulated to be run at the constant speed of 1500 rpm and at full load conditions. Engine B is a single cylinder optical engine that has been converted from direct injection diesel combustion to dual fuel mode. The main fuel is pure methane injected in the intake manifold.

Experimental validation of the optimization process for a direct injection diesel engine

The procedure is performed in five steps. Firstly, a database of different combustion chambers that can be obtained from the original piston is created. The chambers in the database differ for the shape of the bowl, the value of the compression ratio, the offset of the bowl and the size of the squish region. The second step of the procedure is the selection, from the first database, of the combustion chambers able to resist to the mechanical stresses due to the pressure and temperature distribution at full load. For each combination of suitable combustion chamber shape and engine control parameters (ignition/injection crank angle, EGR, etc.), a CFD simulation is used to evaluate the combustion performance of the engine. Then, a post-processing procedure is used to evaluate the detonation tendency and intensity of each combination. All the tools developed for the application of the method have been linked in the modeFRONTIER optimization environment in order to perform the final choice of the combustion chamber.

The overall process requires not more of a week of computation on the four processor servers considered for the optimization. The selected chambers can be obtained from the original piston of the engine. Therefore, the conversion cost of the engine is quite small compared with the case of a completely new piston.