Someone said they were confused about a term or meaning T. Boone mentioned on his recent appearance on the Smiley show. Maybe it is T. Boone who is confused. I do NOT believe he has involved himself in the COG issue (cars on gas) much. It is a somewhat technically involved and not easily understood. It is this DISCONNECT that I see in his personal approach that worries me. Someone with HIS money and HIS professed interest in the plan (NOT just the wind part) should have a MUCH better command of the issue and the words needed to discuss that issue.
For those in the dark here, there is a term used in the natural gas business concerning the application of NG in the ICE engine. It is called a "Dedicated Natural Gas Engine" The term is used to differentiate a regular gasoline powered engine from one designed (dedicated) to run ONLY on natural gas.
The public has been led to believe, without any counter statement, that their current gasoline powered ICE can be converted to run on natural gas, with only a kit and a special tank. This is technically true, but it is NOT the whole truth. A bit of history or fact is in order;
When we fill up at the local gas station we are confronted with a technical question similar to one we find in the grocery store, "Paper or Plastic" . At the pump, the question is 87, 91, 94. No, these are NOT the call numbers for the Green bay Packers offensive line, but rather, are octane ratings of various gasoline blends at the pump. Most take a quick look at the price and come to a decision of 87. Others, with experience to support them, must go for the high priced spread, the 91 or 94 octane. WHY? It is because of what octane does to a gasoline. The popular belief is that the higher octane rating means a more powerful gasoline. NOT true at all. Octane is NOT a measure of power, but rather a measure of a fuels' RESISTANCE to spontaneously ignite while exposed to heat. Another more accurate term is to "detonate".
More technical information;
As a piston in an engine moves up on the compression stroke, it compresses the air fuel mixture to about a ratio of 8-1 or 9-1. This increases the pressure in the cylinder to somewhere in the area of 125-150 psi. Using standard pressure/heat formula, this increase in pressure will raise the temperature to some 300 degrees. Add to this, the heat surrounding the cylinder walls and other surfaces, and the compressed air temp will go well over 400 degrees. This is enough temperature rise to cause gasoline vapor to self ignite. The problem is that the proper and timely ignition of the fuel is critical to the proper performance and life of the engine components. This "pre-ignition" of the air fuel is damaging to the engine and wastes power and fuel. So, the fuel is "fortified", (kinda like your milk with Vitamin D) with octane boosters to PREVENT this detonation. The higher the octane number, the higher the temp can go before the fuel will detonate, and the higher the price for the fuel.
The simple answer is to just keep the compression ratio low and this "pre-ignition" problem is solved. That would be the CONVENTIONAL wisdom, save for the fact that engineers found out early in the game, that IF you increased the compression ratio to say, 10-1 or 11-1 or even 12-1, you could EXTRACT MORE heat (power) from the gasoline then if you left it at a stodgy old 8-1 or 9-1. Remember, octane boosters do NOT add heat capabilities to the fuel, only a resistance to detonation. All higher octane ratings of gasoline are derived from the SAME gasoline stocks. Gas is Gas.
In the 1950's, this 1930's discovery of higher compression ratios made its debut into the automotive buying publics' hands through the invention of an octane booster called tetraethyl lead. http://www.runet.edu/~wkovarik/ethylwar/quotes.html
This caused the posting of a little white sign on all fueling pumps to proclaim that the product contained "lead". This fuel was used in what were proudly called "high compression engines" of the day. For reasons I don't want to go in here, we can't do that no more. (Thank the EPA) but octane boosters are STILL needed in todays engines and for the same reasons.
Now for the dedicated stuff;
Without adding ANYTHING to the fuel, natural gas is blessed with an exceptionally high octane rating, running to 130. What this means is that IF you were to subject NG to compression pressures in the 300-350 psi range, (these pressures are common in diesel engines) the air temperature can go as high as 1000 degrees or more. Standard gasoline would have crashed a long time back, but NG is still able to resist spontaneous combustion, waiting for a properly timed spark to set it off.
Converting an existing car over to CNG (compressed natural gas) involves the installation of a fuel tank, piping, controls, and various regulators to reduce pressure in the fuel tank from 3600 psi down to a negative pressure for entry into the engines' intake system. Sometimes a timing adjustment is made to "correct" for tuning irregularities. But the engine proper is NEVER touched. The factory produced engine with its stock compression ratio is NOT tinkered with. And for good reason too. It would cost the functional price of an engine overhaul to put the engine into a condition that would permit taking advantage of the higher octane rating of the NG but who wants to add another 4-5 grand onto a 12-15 grand conversion just to get a higher compression ratio?
Different Sides of the Issue
The UP side
Well, there are two sides to the coin here. One is the fact that with the new compression upgrade (and a newer dedicated fuel engine) comes the prospect for a minimum of 15-20% INCREASE in fuel economy and or power from this new higher compression engine.
The DOWN side
The flip side of this coin is the fact that WHEN you run out of CNG fuel and there is NO fueling station for maybe hundreds of miles around, you are the proud owner of a 5,000 lb. 0 mpg Clean, Mean, non-driving machine. It may be nice to be green, but not while you are on the side of the road.
The GOOD Side
But, if you merely convert the fuel system and NOT the engine, to run on CNG, you will not suffer the fate of the NG, NG, vehicle. (the no gas, natural gas, vehicle) All one has to do is to reach over on the dash of the car and “flip a switch” and ‘viola” you are now running on OPEC juice, more commonly known as gasoline. Yep, they don’t call it the OPEC switch for nothing.
But here is the fundamental question for all to answer. And like ALL questions that involve decisions of money and morality and just doing what is right, we as Americans always seem to find a way to skirt the last two items on the list ad end up making a decision on the money end of the issue. As I said in an earlier New Discussion, we came to this party on cheap energy and we’ll leave it on cheap energy.
And NOW the Collection plate is passed to You
This is the question, in the move to buy into the NG fuel for our vehicles, are we going to go for the gold standard and get a Dedicated Engine that will provide us with parity on the current MPG we get from conventional gasoline, OR are we going to pay the freight for the gas part of the conversion and “waste” 20% of the inherent power in the fuel. Americans, alas, will come down on the cheap side of the issue I am afraid. EVEN if it is shown that the extra expense can put MONEY in your pocket.
The maintenance and air pressure crowd are out in droves tongue lashing us daily on the need to “keep those tires aired up”. I understand this very well, but it is ONLY a 1% reality gain in the fuel consumption game. We don’t HAVE a fuel consumption problem. We have a PRICE problem. What would you do to get a 20% increase in fuel efficiency?
Will T. Boone Pickens go from "commited" to "Dedicated" in order to make good on the promise of the "other half" of his solution?