Emissions Device Improves Fuel Economy on Georgia Dredge
Dan Odom, with Advanced Combustion Engineering, rests his hand on the combustion catalyst system he installed on the Turner Concrete dredge in Elberton, Georgia. The engine is running, and no black smoke is visible above the exhaust manifold. The dredge operator reported a 29 percent reduction in fuel consumption within 46 hours of installation.
Dan Odom, left, and Al Biggs, Turner Concrete's dredge operator, talk aboard the dredge. The black box is pictured to the far right, pumping catalysts into the Cummins 400 diesel engine's air intake line.
When fuel costs spike and necessity rises, one can count on free market ingenuity and a healthy dose of skepticism. One such innovation, a fuel device made by Phoenix-based Emissions Technology, Inc., is causing a stir among construction industry veterans who won't be taken around the block.
Among those skeptics was Steve Banks, who answered the phone and listened to a sales pitch from a distributor who promised huge fuel savings and environmental benefits.
"I almost didn't take the call. But I'm glad that I did," said Banks, who is general manager of Turner Concrete in Elberton, Georgia. "We tried it and noticed a return on investment in the first two months."
The aftermarket device, a DC-100 combustion catalyst system, reduced by 29 percent the diesel fuel consumed on Banks' cutterhead dredge. Installed on the Cummins 400 engine at the air intake, the box delivers a timed aerosol mist to enhance the combustion process for a cleaner burn.
A month-long baseline measure prior to the installation of the catalyst indicated that the dredge was burning 11.5 gallons per hour. Al Biggs, Turner Concrete's dredge operator, conducted the measurements. He said that after running 46 hours with the catalyst box, fuel usage tumbled to 8.13 gallons per hour. At $1.20 per gallon, that represents a fuel savings of $1,617.60 after 400 operating hours.
In field tests, other diesel equipment operators have noticed results similar to Turner Concrete's 29 percent reduction.
West Valley Sand and Gravel in Phoenix, Arizona, maintained a six-month log on its 1978 D399 16 cylinder Caterpillar Genset generator. According to test results shared with Emissions Technology, the company noted a 17.9 percent decline in fuel consumption with a $16,000 gross savings over the six-month test period.
More than fuel alone
The distributors highlight improved fuel economy as the predominant selling feature to cost-conscious business owners who demand return on investment. But the environmental results are especially noteworthy, said Dan Odom, a Georgia distributor with Advanced Combustion Engineering.
The Holt Company, of Texas, and Olson-Eco-Logic Engine Testing Lab in Fullerton, California conducted the controlled and timed test with a dynamometer.
He said that in testing, the device reduced particulate emissions up to 80 percent in opacity (black smoke and airborne soot); up to 66 percent in unburned hydrocarbons; up to 60 percent in carbon monoxide; and up to 27 percent in NOx, or nitrous oxide.
Tests also indicated a 16.3 percent increase in horsepower and up to 119 degree reduction in exhaust temperature.
"This is the only technology ever known to reduce nitrous oxide and soot at the same time, and with a net savings of two to three times its cost. It pays for itself in two to six months - or 400 hours - on diesel powered equipment," Odom said.
Emission Technology is concurrently conducting test protocols for retrofit verification among California's Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to Chris Shol, vice president of industrial diesel products, the company seeks Level 2 CARB (California Air Resources Board) verification, which requires a 50 percent reduction in diesel particulate matter from a baseline measured without the aftermarket product. While Shol is uncertain about the timing for a CARB verification, the company anticipates a retrofit verification from the EPA by the end of 2004.
In April, the EPA released its list of 474 counties thrust into non-attainment categories because they failed to meet new clean air standards based on a more stringent eight-hour test. At the same time, the agency created a clean air non-road diesel rule to regulate emissions from construction and other non-road equipment powered by diesel engines.
"Dredging is a pretty static application, and from my experience dredge operators seem to be happy with our product," Shol said. "There will be a time when the permitting issue visits upon this industry. Fortunately, there is technology available and my company is able to offer the most cost effective product for reducing tons of NOx."
While deadlines for attaining the EPA's Clean Air Act standard varies by location and the severity of the pollution in a range from 2007 until 2021, each state with counties in non-attainment has two years to complete an implementation plan.
Emissions Technology is also seeking an EPA verification that its device provides a 15 percent reduction in NOx, for an emission credit that can be sold as a tradable commodity.
"A less appealing alternative that some states are considering is limiting an engine's working hours," Shol said. "Business owners don't seem to like that approach."
How it works
There have been so many claims by companies selling fuel additives and aftermarket engine products, that people equate the remarkable efficiencies that have been reported as snake oil, said Tim Grooms, a distributor in North Carolina and South Carolina.
The combustion catalyst system uses the same principle as a catalytic converter, yet it's placed in the air intake prior to the combustion chamber. Catalytic converters are installed along the exhaust line after combustion.
A box containing a viscous and bubbling liquid solution of vaporized catalysts joins with oxygen in the air intake line. Though this liquid never dissolves, the company says that its catalytic properties are depleted after about 400 hours of engine use.
According to Emissions Technology, the catalytic properties of platinum, when delivered to the right place at the right time, enhance the combustion process by oxidizing carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. The delivery method enables a cleaner hydrocarbon burn. Rhodium prevents the oxidization of nitrogen, which becomes NOx, and rhenium improves the cetane performance of hydrocarbon molecules in the combustion chamber.
An aerosol mist of this platinum, rhodium and rhenium catalyst is injected into the engine's air intake duct, blending with the air-fuel mixture. The aerosol then interacts with the hydrocarbons in the diesel fuel to convert as much fuel as possible into useable energy.
The system sells for $1,250 installed. Additional bottles of catalyst cost $300 and the catalyst must be replaced every 400 engine hours.
Banks appreciates the bottom-line impact on his dredging operation.
"If I had another dredge, I would put one of these boxes on it in a minute," Banks said. "I believe that if the fuel is burning cleaner, then it will have to extend the life of the engine."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carter Langston is a freelance writer focusing on Georgia and the Carolinas. This is his second contribution to International Dredging Review. He can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org