Making Inroads

Gas-based gensets gain traction

Despite significant improvements in the power sector, there is no denying that it is still grappling with the problem of power outages. Unreliable power supply and outages have a significant impact on consumers, especially commercial and industrial. As a result, there is a growing demand for backup power options such as generator sets.

Gensets are available in different configurations, depending on the needs of an organisation. The most commonly used generators are based on diesel, followed by natural gas-based gensets. However, the increasing focus on electricity generation through cleaner sources and environmental concerns associated with diesel generators are expected to increase the share of natural gas-based gensets in the coming years.

Natural gas is cleaner, less costly than other non-renewable fuels, and much more efficient, which are some of the key advantages of gas-based generators. Such generators are compact, have low operating costs and noise levels, and are environment friendly. Greenhouse gas emissions such as sulphur, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are considerably lower in gas-based generation in comparison to oil and coal, since natural gas is one of the cleanest fossil fuels when it burns. Another advantage of gas generators is that natural gas does not produce a pungent odour, which is quite common in generators powered by oil or diesel. In addition, natural gas has the advantage of being readily available in large cities, as it is supplied directly through pipelines. In such cases, the storage of fuel in the form of gas-powered generators becomes redundant.

Market trends

There is a growing demand for gas generators as natural gas can be used to power both emergency and portable generators. Gas-based gensets are gaining uptake in states such as Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where compressed natural gas is easily available.

For instance, Indraprastha Gas Limited, which supplies CNG and piped natural gas (PNG) in the National Capital Region, has planned to replace diesel generators with gas generator sets in housing complexes and factories. It is a cheaper and environmental-friendly option for the region, which is under threat from rising pollution levels due to polluting factories, increasing number of vehicles and large-scale construction activity. It has started pilots where existing diesel-based generators are being run on a mix of PNG and diesel. In the pilot phase, the company has converted diesel generators in institutions using Euro IV technology. Apart from contributing to the environment, these gas-based gensets would reduce the operational cost by around 40 per cent. According to independent estimates, strong growth in emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region such as India, China and Japan  has increased the demand for natural generators across the commercial, IT, telecom and retail sectors. Moreover, stringent government regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by diesel generators are driving the uptake of gas-based generators.

Low-power gas generators are very popular in the residential and commercial segments. These generators accounted for the largest market share in the power rating segment in 2018 with a size of $2,321.7 million. Meanwhile, medium-power generators are projected to grow at the highest CAGR over the next few years. Increasing demand for backup power systems based on clean fuel from emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil is a major driver for the growth of medium-power generators.

Conclusion

The choice between gas generators and diesel generators depends on various underlying factors such as the area of operation and the frequency of usage. In applications where cost is the first priority, gas standby engines have an advantage. Overall, gas-fuelled generation has been widely accepted for some time in electric power applications such as load management and combined heat and power. Today, due to significant improvements in the design and efficiency, gas engines are able to meet code-driven start-time and load acceptance standards. In fact, there are applications where gas gensets have advantages over diesel gensets. In fact, in some applications, emission rules and fuel security concerns make gas engines the best choice. The latest gas engines designed specifically for standby duty can accept load in time spans comparable to diesel engines. The reconfiguration of gas engines, specifically for standby duty, has brought them into mainstream dialogue on electric power security for industrial and commercial facilities.

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