Advances in technology have expanded the availability of energy supplies to help meet increasing global demand. Power operators are now actively turning to unconventional sources of energy.
One such source is biomass produced from agricultural waste, which can be treated and converted to energy in many different ways - by burning, through fermentation and distillation, or using a gasifier.
Whilst converting this waste found on farmland to gas marks an important time for the power sector it does raise some challenges for operators.
Is biomass energy viable?
Using this waste to generate power has many advantages. Biomass energy from agricultural waste can help reduce excess waste, as well as reduce the emissions released into the air during the normal breakdown of this waste.
Although there are many advantages of generating energy from agricultural waste, there are several aspects to consider when used in gas engines. Chemical agents are often used to protect crops from disease, pests and weeds and the use of fertilizers can mean there are levels of nitrous oxide present in the gas.
An engine running on gas with nitrous oxide content needs to be burned at a higher rate and can impact the reliability and longevity of an engine. The engine is placed under great stress and can lead to major engine damage, such as cracked or destroyed pistons. These gases can also contain high levels of hydrogen sulphide content, which can also pose major difficulties for engine operators.
When generating power from alternative energy sources, special attention needs to be taken to help maximise productivity and reduce maintenance costs. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) tailor engine components to withstand the corrosion caused by these gases but thought also needs to be taken towards the lubricant selected.
One factor to consider when selecting a lubricant for an engine running on biogas that contains hydrogen sulphide is the lubricant's total base number (TBN). This identifies its acid neutralising capacity and alkaline additives used in higher TBN lubricants can help protect engines by absorbing sulphuric acid and neutralising its corrosive properties. Extending oil drain intervals can prolong engine life, help reduce maintenance costs and improve productivity. However, engines running on biomass waste typically have shorter oil drain intervals when compared to traditional gas.
ExxonMobil's latest gas engine oil, Mobil Pegasus™ 605 Ultra 40, has been designed to help optimise the performance of engines running on gases derived from biomass waste and landfill. Mobil Pegasus 605 Ultra 40 can help double oil drain intervals[i], which results in more reliable power production.
To efficiently generate power from biomass, operators will need to ensure the lubricant they choose can help mitigate against the challenges posed by these gases. With these new challenges, the latest advancements in lubrication will become more important than ever to help operators run reliable and efficient operations.
For more information about ExxonMobil's range of products or other Mobil-branded lubricants and services, please visit www.mobilindustrial.com.