Clean Backup

Share of natural gas-based gensets expected to grow

Natural gas gensets are quieter and cleaner as compared to diesel-bas­ed gensets. The availability of natu­ral gas in large quantities, relatively lower price of natural gas as well as growing concerns over carbon footprint and emi­s­sions have led to an increase in the de­mand for these gensets. Natural gas provides mu­ch longer runtimes and gensets running on it have 90 per cent fewer emissions compared to diesel generators. They are suitable for both residential and commercial segments and can be dep­loy­ed for both emergency and portability purposes. With the increasing environmental concerns related to diesel generators as well as the rising price of diesel, the share of natural gas-based gensets is ex­pected to grow in the coming years.

Natural gas gensets are increasingly be­ing used in states such as Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra. It has the advantage of being readily available in large cities and is supplied directly through pipe­lines. Indraprastha Gas Limited, which is res­ponsible for the supply of compressed natural gas (CNG) and piped natural gas (PNG) in the National Ca­pi­tal Region, has pla­nn­ed to replace diesel generators with gas gensets in housing complexes and factories, to help address the problem of rising pollution levels. Overall, in­dustry studies suggest that the demand for natural gas gensets has increased ac­ross sec­tors such as commercial, IT, telecom and re­tail, across the emerging econo­mies in the Asia-Pacific region (namely India, China and Ja­pan). Glo­ba­lly, te­chnologies re­­la­ted to natural gas, such as gen­sets, stationary fuel cells (SFCs) and micro­tu­rbines, are witnessing infrastructure de­ve­lopment. Natural gas gen­sets and other technologies are expected to experience ca­pa­city growth at a compound ann­ual gro­w­th rate (CAGR) of 5.5 per cent through 2028, ac­cording to industry reports.

Cost economics

Although the initial one-time cost of a natural gas generator is higher than that of a diesel generator, due to low operational costs, natural gas gensets tend to be more economical over their lifetime. A 100 kW gas generator costs about Rs 1.2 million as compared to Rs 0.65 million for a diesel genset; however, a comparative analysis of the operational cost indicates that the additional cost incurred in purchasing a gas generator can be recovered in about four months (assuming that the genset is used for four hours of power backup and given the fact that gas is cheaper than diesel), according to a re­cent study done by the Centre for Sci­en­ce and Environment.

Furthermore, al­though the specific fuel consumption (SFC) of natural gas (34 standard cubic metres per hour) is higher than that of diesel (28 litres per hour), due to the difference in the market cost of diesel (Rs 80) and natural gas (Rs 35), the operational cost of natural gas gensets is lower vis-à-vis diesel gensets. In addition to this, the maintenance cost associated with natural gas gensets is very low unlike in diesel engines, where conditioning is required annually. There is also no scaling or sooting in gas gen­sets, and this lowers the maintenance cost. Besi­des, PNG does not require any storage tank or storage space since it is supplied through pipelines.

Environmental consideration

Natural gas gensets are a quieter, cleaner and a more efficient alternative to diesel gensets. The ecological benefits of natural gas are many. The burning of natural gas emits lower amounts of sulphur, nitrogen and carbon oxide. In light of the rising concerns for the environment and stricter regulations, natural gas gensets seem to be a better bet. The use of natural gas gensets reduces nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions by about 35-40 per cent. Natural gas gensets do not emit harmful particulate matter (PM) and smoke. Apart from this, natural gas does not produce a pungent odour, which is fa­i­rly common in diesel generators. The noise level of a gas genset is also lower th­an that  produced by a conventional gen­set. Another advantage is that natural gas gensets are being used for off-site fuel re­quirements as they rely on a strong un­dergr­ound pipeline network, which re­mains unaffected by weather.


To conclude, over time with impro­ve­men­ts in the design and efficiency, gas en­gines are able to meet code-driven st­art-time and load acceptance standards. In some applications, gas engines are the best choice due to emission ru­les and fu­el security concerns.  While diesel still ru­les the market in power generation, strict regulations and cost efficiency have en­couraged natural gas-based generation technologies to be further integrated into the market. A clear policy roadmap offering incentives for the up­take of gas ge­nsets and en­su­ring continuous supply of gas are expected to go a long way in pro­moting the deployment of gas gensets.




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