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News Article

PEMEX Requests Clean Bi-Fuel Generators

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 13:56

“The traditional way that engine manufacturers have been involved in helping companies become more energy efficient has been through the development of more environmentally friendly engines,” explains Francisco Haro, Managing Director of Ottomotores, a Mexican generator manufacturer. “Thanks to our supply base, if Pemex requests clean engines, we can supply them.” Haro explains that the Mexican generator industry closely follows the environmental guidelines supplied by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Mexican tenders often specify generators according to the different tiers of environmental protection outlined by the agency. “If Pemex requests a generator equipped to the EPA’s Tier 2, 3 or 4 emissions standard, we can meet that specification, although the cost of the unit will be higher than the standard models we provide for the Mexican market.”

Haro says that Pemex is increasingly looking to increase its environmental standards for diesel generators, as the company comes under international pressure to operate cleaner projects and reduce its emissions. In the US, non- road diesel generators must be at the Tier 4 level of the EPA’s emissions standards, and many Mexican companies including Pemex are looking to follow this trend.

As well as providing low-consumption diesel engines, Ottomotores is also looking to introduce bi-fuel generators to Mexico. Bi-fuel generators allow engineers to use natural gas as their primary fuel, while operating as diesel generators during peak-shaving and co-generation programmes. Most bi-fuel generators allow for 80% of their fuel requirement to be supplied by natural gas, while reverting fully to diesel power in the event of a gas supply outage with no loss of output.

Bi-fuel systems operate by blending diesel fuel with natural gas in the generator’s combustion chamber. As well as new-build bi-fuel generators, old generators can also be converted to use gas alongside diesel. “The combination reduces diesel fuel consumption and increases efficiency, while at the same time producing the same amount of power. As well as this, costs are lowered because gas is less expensive than diesel,” says Haro.

There is the potential for oil companies to use associated gas from their wells in order to power the generator, but it depends on the chromatography of the gas. It will also require an investment to build a small gas processing unit on-site in order to clean the gas to the extent that it can power a generator efficiently.

Ottomotores has been promoting bi-fuel systems for over two years. Haro explains that the company sees high potential in Mexico across many industries, because of the relatively high price of diesel in comparison to natural gas. However, two challenges stand in the way of bi-fuel systems being adopted in the Mexican market. The first is that gas distribution is not yet countrywide in Mexico, and second is that most of Ottomotores’ clients use generators only for standby, so fuel consumption is not a priority requirement.

Haro explains that the attractiveness of a generator for most clients is determined by the brand names of components used in its manufacture, good after-sale support, availability of stock and fast response to problems on-site. Haro points out that Ottomotores’ sister company in the UK operates in a mature service market at over four times the size as compared to the Mexican market; British generator consumers are more concerned than Mexicans about the quality of service their manufacturer provides.

In the oil and gas industry, generators are used rather differently than in other industries, because they are used to power remote operations in areas not supplied by the grid. So, rather than being used predominantly as backups in case of a power shortage, they run continuous operations. Although Haro would like to supply more generator sets to Pemex, he explains that oilfield service companies comprise most of Ottomotores’ work with the Mexican oil and gas industry. Here, quality of service is an issue for clients because oil and gas wells are often in remote locations, and any downtime in generation means downtime in exploration and production. In order to address this issue, Ottomotores has teams in Poza Rica and Villahermosa that, should any problem arise, can attend their clients in less than two hours. Haro says, “Normally, clients will choose a power generation supplier based on price, but over time, the suppliers and manufacturers that make a difference in the market are the ones that can provide a thoughtful, quality service.”