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A dual-fuel system is capable of using two types of fuel at the same time in a mixture. It usually cranks up on one type of fuel, and a governor built into the system gradually adds the secondary fuel source until the optimal mixture of the two fuels is achieved for efficient running.
Like the bi-fuel system, a dual-fuel engine is usually capable of operating on just one of the fuel sources in the absence of the other. However, in many dual-fuel engines, a specific fuel is required to start the engine.
For example, a dual-fuel generator starts by using diesel fuel and gradually adding a mixture of natural gas. The diesel ignites at a mere 500-700 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, the natural gas will not ignite until temperatures reach 1,150-1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. So, once the engine starts it can run on natural gas only or diesel only. But natural gas can’t be used to start the engine because the diesel fuel is necessary to bring temperatures up to the point at which natural gas will ignite.
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Most dual-fuel engines are used in industrial applications and are less common in consumer applications. As with bi-fuel engines, vehicles and generators are the most popular applications:
Dual-fuel vehicles or “flex-fuel” cars are especially popular in the trucking and busing industry, typically combining diesel and natural gas for a dependable, economical solution. Usually, the most efficient use of fuels within this type of engine is a mix of 75 per cent natural gas to 25 per cent diesel fuel. But either a computer system or fumigation system controls the ratio of natural gas to diesel depending on the load to ensure the engine is operating at peak efficiency.
When it comes to non-transportation engines, besides drilling rigs, generators are the most common application. Although many portable generators are marketed to residential consumers as being “dual-fuel,” they’re in fact bi-fuel because the operator must choose whether to use propane or gasoline, for example. But industrial dual-fuel generators work with two fuels simultaneously for the most optimal performance, which can have a huge impact on the bottom line when scaled up in large operations.
Dual-fuel systems cost significantly more than traditional engines to buy, usually carrying a price tag 15-30 per cent higher. But since the engine is capable of running on a single fuel or a mix of fuels, it is less costly to run overtime as it allows you to select whichever fuel is currently the cheapest. Simple storage: Dual-fuel engines eliminate the need for large-scale on-site storage of expensive fuels, such as diesel. They also lower the maintenance costs of diesel storage.
If the source of natural gas is temporarily cut, the engine can continue to operate on diesel alone, insulating it from any fluctuations in the power grid for as long as the diesel supply holds out.
A dual-fuel engine can allow you to make use of alternative fuels such as sewage gas or landfill gas yet pair it with more traditional fuel.
Like bi-fuel systems, dual-fuel models can lower harmful emissions by burning less diesel.